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.