Monday, April 28, 2008

The Israeli Gay Religious Revolution

It's late and I'm writing this without having taken the time to read carefully through the relevant articles, but I learned today about a new Israeli organization for religious homosexuals — הו"ד — and their campaign to force the religious establishment in Israel to recognize that they exist and deal with them and their issues in a human and compassionate halakhic manner.

Article on YNet about the website

Article on YNet about their conference
From skimming the article it looks like they got about 70 datí homosexuals together in Jerusalem in order to finalize a letter or statement of some kind that they are sending to rabbis all over the country. When it was described to me a few hours ago in person by a rabbi from Israel who has been interacting with them, it sounded like a large number of the men involved came out of the closet now 'en masse' specifically for this purpose of forcing the religious community and its leadership to recognize that they exist and that they have needs and struggles that can't just be solved with abstract platitudes.

17 Comments:

Anonymous sister yonatan said...

That's awesome. Let's see how far they get. The articles are also (poorly) translated into English at YNet's English news site, btw.

4/29/2008 8:42 AM  
Blogger AMSHINOVER said...

read chaim rapport?

4/29/2008 4:00 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

amshinover:

read him, no.
met him, yes. :-)

i found it interesting that everyone on this side of the ocean knows him for his sexuality stuff, and have no idea that back in Britain he's actually respected and famous more for his medical ethics.

4/29/2008 6:25 PM  
Blogger יהוא בן יהושפט בן נמשי said...

I don't know if it's an abstract platitude, but the Torah spells it out pretty clearly. I mean, comon, just because it became fashionable in the last 50 years, everyone has to be on their hands and knees before them? How long till we start catering to all kind of other things? How about pedophiles and people who like dogs? And why doesn't anybody come bowing down to my great suffering every time I smell cheeseburger or want to rob a bank or take my neighbor's house and donkey and wife?

4/29/2008 10:07 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Yeihu’:

real human beings doomed to live without love and companionship in any form is not the same as wanting a cheeseburger or wanting to rob a bank.

this isn't about the איסור of משכב זכר. it's about deep human emotions of intimacy.

it's about a societal prejudice against people whose brain fires chemicals in a certain pattern, whether or not they violate any Torah prohibitions; and about a stigmatization of this one prohibition out of all proportion compared to other prohibitions of similar severity.

there's a reason why homosexuals suffer from depression-impelled suicide at a higher rate than heterosexuals. telling someone "screw you, go put up and shut up and be lonely all your life; and even if you succeed we'll still hate you" doesn't freaking work.

4/30/2008 12:04 AM  
Blogger Abacaxi Mamao said...

Good response, Steg. Thanks for sharing this info.

4/30/2008 10:14 AM  
Blogger The back of the hill said...

Yeihu,

Much as I sympathize with your teiva for a cheeseburger (I weep for your suffering, I really do), there is a major difference in that you, if you really wish it, can have what you desire - whereas a homosexual, even if they really wish it, will not be able to be straight.

The difference between a homosexual and a paedophile is also of a different dimension: society really has no business sticking its nose between two consenting adults in private (they are presumed to be able to make their own decisions, that goes with being an adult), but the paedophile decides for the juvenile in a situation where the juvenile is presumed both incapable of making such a decision and incapable of resisting the adult - a clear moral and legal red flag.

For example, the Catholic priest who in the privacy of his dwelling has consensual sex with a big hairy construction worker is not the problem, but the Catholic priest who has any sex at all with the angelic looking altar boy is definitely the problem. In the first case, whatever issue there is exists between him and the divine. In the second, the issue is a toxic mix of breach of trust, forcing a minor, exploiting someone not in a position to resist, child-rape, and what have you.

Likewise, when you have that cheeseburger you so dearly crave, any problem is between you and your maker.
If, after that, you molest a minor, all of us will have no problem if you are locked up for several years. In lieu of being beaten to death with a baseball bat.

4/30/2008 4:13 PM  
Blogger יהוא בן יהושפט בן נמשי said...

You're pretty much right about what you said, but that wasn't my point.

I talked about someone who **desires** for example a child but **doesn't** touch him. He can easily make the same exact case of having to live W/O love & compassion, and so on with all other illicit desires.

Point is I don't believe it is possible to separate the sexual issue from the societal/psychological one. Even if we were to accept at face value your claim that a homosexual is necessarily doomed to loneliness, how do you thing it’s possible to solve this without corrupting Judaism? How is it possible to make officially recognized amendments to accept something that’s inherently connected to something carrying the death penalty (yes, I know we have no Sanhedrin, and even in the time of the Sanhedrin I doubt they were executing homosexuals (unless maybe if someone was doing/promoting it in public) but still).

I’m also very skeptical of the picturesque image of homosexuals loving each other kindly. According to people who know about gay porn and Greenwich village, it’s very brutal and violent. In fact, every so often you find an article about someone who dies amid “sex games” in one horrible way or another – including suffocation and cannibalism, or a 10 years old kid being raped to death, and the ACLU rushing to defend NAMBLA and the murderers. IMHO there’s a big coverup to make it sound as though this is the exception, not the rule. I truly hope so, but kinda doubt it.

Point is, IMVHO more than anything else, cajoling homosexuals is now a self-serving fad – chesed, but not in the sense of compassion. I’m sure there are people –maybe even many people- who truly suffer as you describe. I believe such people can pour their heart to some normal rav or other wise man who can help them, without stirring black-panther style chaos. Also I don’t know from where you take that these people are always hated and pushed around, unless they wear their homosexuality on their sleeves – which is wrong. I’m also not sure if someone is homosexual he can’t at all be with a woman. As for the non-sexual (read: 99%) of marriage we must put up with for the sake of the other 1% - it’s hard for everyone. We all feel better around guys in a smoky room and empties on the floor. But that’s what oilom habe is for.

BTW – I wrote two articles contra your Passover Hymns, kinda funny and serious at the same time.

BOTH – when you know your way around food, the traifa stuff is a pretty tough temtation, especially if you work in a place where they cook that too. Darn, do I crave a REAL onion soup – from real chicken stock and real cheese – once, just once man…

4/30/2008 10:27 PM  
OpenID daniel-saunders said...

Yeihu,

You have unintentionally proved the point they were trying to make. Read the articles. No one is trying to change halakha. People who say “we accept the stringent demands of Torah law and would gladly sacrifice ourselves on God’s altar” do not have a frivolous attitude to the nature of halakha. They are just asking for empathy in a difficult situation. Yes, ideally they would be able to talk their problems through in private, but there is clearly too much prejudice for that to be possible before wider changes in attitudes.

An analogy: significant mental health issues are currently preventing me looking for a wife, and are going to do so for a significant time in the future – possibly long enough to put me on the shelf permanently. I’m not denying that this is a challenge set me by God. I’m not asking anyone to wave a magic wand and solve my problems. I’m certainly not asking anyone to permit non-marital sex. What I am asking for is understanding about why I’m cut off from a significant part of Jewish life. This is not a problem of halakha, it’s a problem of attitudes to a question of theodicy: why God sets some people harder challenges than others.

5/01/2008 7:01 AM  
Blogger The back of the hill said...

Yeihu, you'll like this one.

Years ago I worked in an Indian restaurant. The owner once had a lovely multi-colour brochure produced that among other things boasted that we could do both halal and kosher banquets.

When I asked him why on earth he claimed that we could do kosher banquets, it became apparent that his concept of kosher was that it was a Jewish version of halal - which itself was merely a Muslim attempt to have food-purity laws of their own so they could thumb their noses at the Hindus.

I explained to him gently that in order to kasher his kitchen he would first have to torch the building....... not a single one of the stainless steel working surfaces could be made kosher without fire, and all the metal pots would have to be made red hot. Might as well napalm the place.
But I didn't bother telling him that he would almost certainly NEVER get any inquiries about kosher banquets anyway, because the very people who would be interested in kosher banquets would automatically strike Indian off their list. Not only a question of actual kashrus, but in this case a question of chezkas kashrus.

A restaurant where the two most popular dishes are butter chicken and lamb in a yoghurt cream sauce can under no circumstances hope for a shomer-mitzvos clientelle.

He's still wondering why no one has asked. "Don't Jews eat Indian food?" 'Yes, Kapoor-sahib, I'm sure they do.'

5/01/2008 1:38 PM  
Blogger יהוא בן יהושפט בן נמשי said...

"No one is trying to change halakha."

You see, that's what bothers me the most. No one is ever asking for mega-reforms immediately. It's always a step-by-step program.

Second, what seems to be the main concern "acceptance" and "compassion" - as individuals, they 100% my compassion. But this "acceptance" thing sounds a bit strange to me. I don't think I'd all of a sudden start hating someone if I were to learn he's a homosexual. But why immedaitely start with the "hi, I'm such and such, 'm a homosexual. You must accept me "the way I am" and if you dare look at me the wrong way it's the lawsuit blah blah blah".

The people from this organization knew very well how to fing each other and how to voice their concern even under anonymity. And their steadfast declaration that they know for a fact that they can never be straight sounds just a tad bit disingenous to me. And for the sake of honesty, I'd be disgusted by anyone making a big deal and touting his very private issues - I don't like hearing about anyone's excemas and hemorrhoids. They can be my friends, but let them not talk about it.

Daniel - RE your personal situation - I hope you get better. "I’m certainly not asking anyone to permit non-marital sex. " it's 100% permissible. There are technicalitites, but you can get around them, it's right in the gmora. And the same applies here - as long as you don't publicize it, no one will say anything even if they find out. BTW you can be our guest anyday. We do all the regular guy stuff - grill, range, cars, talk trash etc etc :-)

BOTH - that's a good one. Once there was big meeting in the diamond district, the vendors were mostly indians, and the buyers mostly frum & charedi people. The indians were adamant on indian food, and the Jews were adamant on kosher. Anyway, I worked with 8 Indian guys - 2 chefs and 6 workers. They were all from different parts of India, each had a different language and a different religion. So the food was even more restricted than kosher. Anyway, these guys were able to create an array of different things from just lentils, OIL, flour, OIL, potatoes, OIL, onions, OIL, OIL, OIL, OIL, OIL, OIL, indian gourd, OIL, sugar, oil, super-sharp spices, oil, and some more oil. Then for the more liberal religions they had a saffroned rice pudding made with real cream (milk's ferboten for some religions). Anyway, everything they sad was repeated three times, as there was no one language all understood. I could only wonder what semblance the last version had to the first. And boy, do they have a mentality different than ours! By the time they peel a cucumber I could make a bordelaise on the flischig side and an alfredo in the michig! When at the end I timidly asked one if it would be possible to hurry up a bit he looked at me with big surprised eyes "why", I'm like, "um, cos we're here since 6AM and it's now 11PM", he's like, "oh, yea, you're right". I left 12:45. But it was good money.

5/01/2008 2:50 PM  
Blogger debka_notion said...

Yeihu-
I know plenty of gays and lesbians- and their family lives are no more dangerous or outlandish or violent than any other family. Two adults, raising kids in a house in New Jersey, or Massachusetts. Neither sounds violent to me. People are people- and I know straight folks who strike me as much worse to trust with children than my gay peers, colleagues and friends.

5/01/2008 5:42 PM  
Blogger Kylopod said...

Really, what is this group expecting to happen? Yeihu's response is emblematic of the attitude among frummies even in the United States, and if anything it's worse in Israel, a breeding ground for lunacy. Remember when Muslim, Jewish, and Catholic leaders got together to condemn the gay parade? When the one thing that causes Jews and Muslims to put aside their differences is opposition to gays, you know it isn't something likely to inspire dialogue. So, while I sympathize with this group's mission, I think they are really asking for it.

5/01/2008 11:10 PM  
Anonymous Mar Gavriel said...

Yehu wrote:

non-marital sex. " it's 100% permissible. There are technicalitites, but you can get around them, it's right in the gmora.

No, it's forbidden because of ייחוד. Yes, I'm familiar with the phantom Ritva (quoted by the חיד"א) which says that איסור ייחוד does not apply to a man and his pilegesh, but would you please (a) define a pilegesh, (b) classify pilagshuth as truly "non-marital", and (c) establish that we actually pasken like that Ritva?

And stam non-marital sex, with no pretense of pilagshuth, is clearly forbidden according to all opinions. Why do you say this nonsense that "it is 100% permissible"?

5/05/2008 10:40 AM  
Blogger יהוא בן יהושפט בן נמשי said...

Kylopod:

Indeed, ‘bad attitudes’ is what caused the whole issue. If we were all produced on an assembly line, there would be no difference of opinions, no disagreement and no conflict. We’d be all peacefully lining the shelves of Shop-Rite in our cans, but then we wouldn’t be humans – (and frankly I don’t know which is worse).

But we have differences of ideas, and sometimes –right or wrong- we even establish human communities based around certain of our principles & ideas. There are democracies, kibbutzim, gated communities, kooky polygamist sects, and yes, backward primitive malevolent frummies too. The prevalent approach, at least from the official powers-that-be and media, is to be sympathetic, understaning and accepting to homosexuals, from Budokan to Bucharest. That’s basically the civilized Western world. So there is one little pocket of resistance – a powerless and insignificant speck of dust in the Human ocean, the frummies, who do not outright accept this set of mind. Come to think of it – we don’t grill homosexuals for breakfast, don’t give them the “Johnny’s got his gun” treatment and don’t stone them. We just don’t educate our children from pre-K to accept and tolerate homosexuals. Those strictly homosexuals who absolutely cannot function in a harsh and cruel, macho, heterosexual dominated world can, if they so wish, leave ultra-orthodoxy and join the more mellow currents of orthodoxy. YU has a gay club, I’m sure YCT is also more tolerant. Oh, someone wants to be Toldos Aharon and openly gay? Sorry, we can’t accommodate a smoke-free area in the cigar club, and no, our steakhouse does not carry a vegan glatt kosher halal menu. Sometimes you just can’t have it all. All I ask is not to call Janet Reno on our kooky frummie sect to snatch our children away and finish us off with flamethrowers. I’m sure she had very noble intentions, but for those who burned alive, I don’t think it was a good solution.

PS,
Actually, I just remembered that the trumpet player in my brother’s band (a frummie cockroach who doesn’t work for a living – he plays!) sounds the shofar on yomim noiriom in the gay shul in Ramat Gan.

PPS - note also that upbeat attention on sexual issues in general, exessive sexual permissiveness and widespread display of sexuality occurs historically at the peak of civilisations' prosperity, decadence and eventual bitter end.

Mar. Gavriel:

That's why I said that there are technicalities. You'd have to cut a corner here or there. I didn't say people should run around doing that lcatchila. But the gmora says when you can't hold it back wear black clothes (chassidim are always ready!) go to a different city and do what you have to do. Also I'm not sure "beilas znus" is outrgiht forbidden.

5/05/2008 11:14 AM  
Blogger יהוא בן יהושפט בן נמשי said...

Just one last point: if at least within Orthodoxy there would be no disting\ct clans, that would make a whole lot more sense.

BTW any of you heard of Danny McClain before? I just discovered him yesterday, and he sure gives BS&T a run for their money!

5/05/2008 1:38 PM  
Blogger Kylopod said...

Yeihu:

You make the frum community sound monolithic in its response to homosexuality. It isn't. I mean, we all pretty much agree that gay relationships are assur, R' Steven Greenberg notwithstanding. But there isn't one idea on what we should do about religious Jews who have gay inclinations.

Why is it that in every discussion about homosexuality, the people opposed to it must bring up pedophilia, bestiality, and so on? Sometimes it takes the form of a reductio ad absurdum argument (if you support A, you might as well support B, C, and D; since we agree that B, C, and D are undesirable, you shouldn't support A). Other times it takes the form of a slippery slope (if we support A, before long we'll be also supporting B, C, and D, and that wouldn't be good, so we shouldn't support A). You have managed to use both of these arguments in the course of this discussion.

Reductio ad absurdum and slippery slope have their place, but the anti-gay crowd resorts to these forms of reasoning so much and so often it gives the impression they have trouble defending their opinion on its merits, since all they're doing is throwing the argument back at their opponents. It's a convenient strategy, because explaining why our society accepts some forms of sexual activity and not others is an extremely complicated question, subject to different answers depending on the topic. So instead of having to explain why you think gay relationships are harmful to society, you put the onus on the other side to explain why we can support homosexuals while opposing those who sleep with kids, siblings, sheep, corpses, and every other imaginable relationship we all agree is wrong. It gives the impression that we can't exercise our minds in determining these things and must inevitably fall back on tradition.

But that simply isn't true. We have all adapted to societal norms to some degree. There are things we all oppose which might be technically permitted by the Torah--like marrying a 12-year-old girl, for example. The argument is also disingenuous, because most people in the anti-gay crowd grudgingly concede that gay relationships shouldn't be outlawed. But we do outlaw incest, bestiality, and so on. So obviously there's a qualitative difference.

5/05/2008 4:38 PM  

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