Liberal Judaism's support of gay marriages

By JLCohen
February 25, 2010

Not very much shocks me (my mis-spent youth at rock festivals has seen to that) but some of the responses to Rabbi Aaron Goldstein's blog posts on this website have managed it - some people have told him that Liberal Judaism ought to find another cause because, they say, homosexuality and Torah are incompatible while others have stopped just short of accusing the Rabbi of not being a rabbi at all (in both of these cases, the comments function has since been disabled, presumably to avoid responses becoming overtly offensive). One can only assume that, as a rabbi, Rabbi Goldstein would be able to make a very good counter-argument that homosexuality is compatible with Torah - and he is a rabbi, of course, as a brief Googling of his name will reveal. A well-liked and respected one, too, at that.

Anyway, there's no need for me to defend Rabbi Goldstein as he's doubtless more than capable of doing that for himself, and will no doubt have the support of the members of his popular shul too (which I am not, though I have had the pleasure of some brief e-mail exchanges with him). All I wanted to say was that this reminds me of the famous story about the two Jews who are the only survivors of a shipwreck.

You probably already know it, but in case you don't it goes like this...

Two Jews are the only survivors of a shipwreck (you may have already got that part). They find themselves washed up on an uninhabited island and, as they are Jews and therefore unable to set about the local pig population like the boys in Lord of the Flies, they begin doing what they can in order to make as comfortable and observant a Jewish life as they can while they wait for rescue.

Eventually, after ten long years, a ship sails into view and as quickly as they can the two Jews light the giant menorah they've built for this purpose so that the ship's crew will see the flames and come to their aid. Before long, a small boat containing the ship's captain and various members of the crew pulls up on the beach. The captain is amazed by the men's story and asks for a tour of the island so that he can see all that they have built and is astounded by their resourcefulness. One thing mystifies him, however - why have the men built three synagogues, when there is only two of them to attend the services?

"Well," one of the men explains, "There's one for me, because I don't agree with his synagogue's policies. Then there's one for him, because he doesn't agree with mine - and neither of us would be seen dead going into the third synagogue."

Although obviously intended to raise a chuckle, the story also explains why it is that places with a large Jewish population almost always have more synagogues than at first might seem necessary (the same is true of Starbucks in most towns and cities, but the story doesn't mention them) which, in turn, serves to remind us that no matter what our personal ethical beliefs we are all Jews and Judaism encompasses us all - no matter who are we and what we believe in, there's a niche in which we will feel comfortable. You don't even need to believe in the Divine nowadays, thanks to the Humanistic Jews - but if you do, and prefer to stick to the literal meanings of Torah there's always the more traditional shuls too. For me, that niche is Liberal Judaism because although I'm not gay I believe that G-d loves each and every one of us and that homosexuals deserve the exact same rights as heterosexuals (I believe that women should be treated equally to men too, and should be able to become rabbis, which is another reason Liberal Judaism suits me). If you don't agree then that's your business - I'm not going to tell you you're wrong because you're every bit as entitled to your own beliefs as I am to mine, and so are all people, be they Liberal Jews, Orthodox Jews, Jews of any other persuasion or not Jewish at all.

The one thing that those of us who are Jewish have in common is that we are all Jews, and if there's one thing Judaism has taught me - of course, there are many other things too - it's that there is no right or wrong way to go about being Jewish. If you don't like what Liberal Judaism has to say about homosexuality and gay marriage then you don't have to agree, but please respect our right to our own beliefs. They're not going to be forced upon you - that would be completely incompatible with what Liberal Judaism believes.


Secret Avenger001

Fri, 02/26/2010 - 14:52

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Yes thats all very well .My Question is why there
is not a Civil partnership Act for Heterosexual
Couples in the UK,Why should Gay Couples
be in the Limelight here?Because Co-Habiting
Couples (Straight) are not Properly recognised
in Law,and there is no formalistion of the Relationship entitling each to Certain Rights,
Obligations and Freedoms.Its a case of Winner
takes all ,if the Relationship breaks down ,the
aggrieved Party can lose everything .in alot of cases.
Its a case here of the Minority really enjoying the
Privileges that the Majority should be Benefiting


Fri, 02/26/2010 - 16:16

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Yep, I agree with you on that one. Heterosexual couples should indeed be permitted civil partnerships if they feel that's what they want to do - if they are not, then heterosexuals and homosexuals do not have equal rights.

returning sephardim

Fri, 02/26/2010 - 18:41

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I think my response on the Blog to which you refer said it all but just to reiterate I agree with you entirely. There is plenty within the Torah that suggests diversity and tolerance and celebration of love and plenty plenty plenty to suggest respect for eachother and for those passionate enough about Torah to undergo the intensive study and spiritual opening needed to become a Rabbi.

Rather boringly perhaps I rambled for some length on this in my response and also put a number of extracts of Torah in, to show others where pre-judging this issue can be questioned.

Emanuel Shachor

Mon, 03/01/2010 - 10:21

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(quote)if there's one thing Judaism has taught me - of course, there are many other things too - it's that there is no right or wrong way to go about being Jewish(unquote)

Wrong. There is a defined book of rules - the Shulchan Aruch, backed by an extensive legal system of Responsae from today going back almost 2,000 years. In NONE of them will you find permission for, or acceptance of - homosexuality.

When the Torah prescribes death for one who does such a deed, it is in effect saying that there is no value to this person's life: what he has done, has negated everything else in his life.

(Quote) If you don't like what Liberal Judaism has to say about homosexuality and gay marriage then you don't have to agree, but please respect our right to our own beliefs.(unquote)

No argument there - just don't try to encompass your beliefs within the framework of Judaism.

Even in the recent tragic case in Israel, Rabbi Elon denied accusations, but NEVER tried to claim that they are Judaically acceptable.


Mon, 03/01/2010 - 10:30

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It states clearly in Leviticus Chapter 18 verse 22 " 'Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.

If you want to "be" considered Jewish, this is the rule that we must abide by. There is no choice in the matter - it is crystal clear.

If you do NOT want to be considered Jewish or you want to be "liberal", then the "rules" do not apply and you can do what you like.

This is the Jewish Chronicle web site; compassion, understanding and sypmathy maybe, but please, let's stop with this idea advocating "Gay" as if it is an alternative to normality; it is NOT.
Those who wish to advocate this idea should be blogging on "Gay Pride" web sites NOT the Jewish Chronicle.

Here am I getting upset about the Jewish Chronicle giving publicity to Gay ideas, when it finally dawned on me; it was Purim yesterday; all this Gay nonsense on the Jewish Chronicle web-site has been a "Purim Spiel".
Hasn't it?


Wed, 03/03/2010 - 11:21

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Emanuel Shachor, thanks for a well-reasoned and well-written reply. You are of course entirely correct about the Shulchan Aruch. However, I cannot help but think that an "extensive legal system of Responsae from today going back almost 2,000 years" shows us that the rules contained therein have always been open to discussion and interpretation - two factors that have helped to keep the Jewish faith alive and thriving for thousands of years, so that it is now the oldest monotheistic religion still practiced. While there are accepted rules, not all are set in stone and we are encouraged to examine them, discuss them and - when it seems necessary - alter them. I very much doubt that you will agree, which is exactly how it should be because disagreement is what has fired those thousands of years of examination and discussion. But if you truly have no argument with what I said about respecting Liberal Jewish beliefs, you will also have no argument with Liberal Jews encompassing their beliefs within the framework of Judaism - so let's be thankful that most of us have a choice of synagogues and can pick the one that suits us best.


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