Rabbi Joseph Dweck, the senior rabbi of the S&P Sephardi Community (SPSC), has gone abroad to meet his critics in an attempt to quell the storm over his views on gay love.
A spokesman for the SPSC said today, “Rabbi Dweck is now abroad, meeting with rabbinical authorities and colleagues in order to resolve outstanding differences.”
The move comes after Israel’s Sephardi Chief Rabbi, Yitzchak Yosef stepped into the row by denouncing Rabbi Dweck's “empty and heretical words”.
In a statement last Friday, Rabbi Dweck sought to clarify remarks he had made in a lecture last month that social acceptance of homosexuality had been a “fantastic development for humanity”.
Chief Rabbi Yosef – who happens to be the uncle of Rabbi Dweck’s wife Margalit – described the comments as “in opposition to the foundations of our faith in the holy Torah”.
His remarks were contained in a letter to a group of American rabbis who had expressed concerns at Rabbi Dweck's views.
An even stronger letter from Rabbi Yosef’s brother David, Chief Rabbi of the Jerusalem suburb of Har Nof, denounced the “complete heresy” and counselled the American rabbis to “do whatever you can to prevent him entering your holy camp, and without question he cannot be allowed to serve in any communal capacity”.
Rabbi Aaron Bassous, head of strictly Orthodox community in Golders Green, who has led the attack on Rabbi Dweck in London, confirmed the authenticity of the two letters, which were posted online over the weekend.
Rabbi Dweck, in his clarification last week, conceded his original use of the word “fantastic” had been “exaggerated” but stood by his belief that a change in social attitudes had brought benefits by helping “society be more open to the expression of love between men”.
He made it clear that sexual activity between men was forbidden by Jewish law.
His lecture drew a distinction between love and sex and argued that while the Torah prohibited the act of male sexual intercourse, it did not prohibit attraction or feelings.