Rabbi Joseph Dweck, the senior rabbi of the S & P Sephardi Community, has come under fire over a lecture on male homosexuality.
While making clear that sexual intercourse between men was prohibited in the Torah, he suggested there were ways in which two men could love each other.
But his viewpoint was denounced as “twisted, misguided and mistaken” by Rabbi Aaron Bassous, the head of a Sephardi congregation in Golders Green which belongs to the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations.
Following a meeting with a number of local rabbis, including Rabbi Bassous, Rabbi Dweck removed an online version of the hour-and-a-half lecture he gave earlier this month at the independent Orthodox Ner Israel Synagogue in Hendon.
Rabbi Dweck explained this week it had been part of a weekly series “ in which I give Torah perspectives based on traditional and widely accepted Torah and talmudic sources.
“Nothing was said contrary to Jewish law, nor was it a political statement of any kind. It has only been removed from our website because the study of Torah should not cause needless arguments.”
While stressing in his lecture there was “no way” of getting around the Torah ban on a man having intercourse with another man, it was not prohibiting “disposition” or “attraction”, he observed.
It was also possible, he suggested, for two people to have a “pure” spiritual love that was above sexuality, citing the biblical example of David and Jonathan.
Rabbi Dweck argued that social mores changed over time and whereas it was acceptable now for a woman to say she finds another woman beautiful, the same was not true for a man.
The expression of male affection was so taboo that many fathers could not even bring themselves to show love to their sons, he contended.
“I genuinely believe that the entire revolution of feminism and even homosexuality in our society… is a fantastic development for humanity,” he said.
“You know what homosexuality in society has done? It has forced us to look at how we deal with love between people of the same sex. And it has reduced the taboo of my children, of me, of my grandchildren being able to love another human being, same-sex, genuinely — to show affection to someone else, to hug and kiss someone else, to genuinely express love without worry of being seen as deviant and problematic.”
He said: “We’re moving in the right direction. And so we have to see ultimately how it is we deal with it in terms of Torah and society.”
Rabbi Bassous attacked the lecture in a statement issued from his synagogue, Beth Hamedrash Knesset Yehezkel.
Rabbi Dweck’s words had “no validity… whatsoever,” he said. “It is difficult to believe that such damaging words can be said at all by somebody in an Orthodox rabbinical position.”
Rabbi Bassous is planning to give a lecture in response to Rabbi Dweck at his synagogue on Monday night.
A spokesman for the London Beth Din noted that Rabbi Dweck had “ chosen to remove his shiur from circulation. The matter is one that principally concerns the S & P Community and its dayanim, who have indicated that they are dealing with the issue.”