Avichai Abarbanel, and orthodox gay man, thanks his rabbi, who not only played a role in helping Avicahi’s environment be more accepting towards him coming out, but also was an active partner in the historic document of the Beit Hillel organization. The New document calls for a more welcoming approach towards homosexual Jews.
“Joshua the son of Perachia and Nitai the Arbelite received from them. Joshua the son of Perachia would say: Assume for yourself a master, acquire for yourself a friend, and judge every man on the side of merit.” (Pirkei Avot 1:6)
Nearly four years ago, just before Gay Pride and my birthday, a rumor spreading around the kibbutz I was living in received proof and verification. I won’t bother with how things rolled, and frankly, I admit I’m still not sure about the whole picture, but from there to here in about a week the process of my coming out of the closet in a rather public way ended. I shared my almost forced coming out experience last year as part of the campaign “Our Faces” of Havruta and Bat Kol. There, too, I noted the bright spot of the process and the experience it gave me. This bright spot was Rabbi Yehuda Gilad.
Rabbi Yehuda Gilad serves as the rabbi of Kibbutz Lavi, where I was born, for more than 30 years. He did a variety of wonderful things, like a mission to London, co-founding of Ma’aleh Gilboa Yeshiva and even had a brief tenure as an MK.
After the fuss that my coming out caused at the Kibbutz, Rabbi Gilad had several talks with the Kibbutz members, the young and middle layers at school, about acceptance of the other and different family models (not necessarily from a religious law point of view, but from his view as a public figure in the community). He also agreed to do an interview with Havruta in its gay magazine and talked about responsibility and the significance of public people’s statements.
In that same interview, the Rabbi asked not to comment publicly on the issue because of possible consequences to the kibbutz and the Yeshiva. Now, when the Rabbi is an active partner in the historic document of the Beit Hillel organization, openly, I can publicly say thank you and show appreciation.
“Assume for yourself a master (rabbi)” – Thank you, Rabbi Yehuda Gilad, for the man you are and the courageous public figure you choose to be. I grew up next door to you and I was raised upon your words and for that I owe you quite a lot, for who I am and my perceptions and beliefs about religion and about the world.
“Acquire for yourself a friend” – Thank you, members of Kibbutz Lavi, my friends and friends of my parents’ and grandparents’, for a warm community that respects and accepts who you are. Thank you for more than 30 years that you’ve chosen to assume a courageous and full-of-ideals rabbi like Rabbi Yehuda Gilad. And thank you for your positive reactions throughout my journey in this world, to this day.
“And judge every man on the side of merit” – To those who reject the document, led by the author of the book “Am Ka’Lavi”, who was the rabbi of Kibbutz Lavi in the past, my mercy is upon you. I choose to believe that one day you too will know to judge every person for his good deeds.