Orthodox Judaism is facing new movements of dissent on the issue of homosexuality, according to the Jewish Week (Nov. 3).
There is a new openness on the part of Orthodox Jewish gays and lesbians as they find e-mail discussion groups and new support groups catering to their needs forming in the U.S. and Israel, as well as finding a measure of acceptance by some rabbis in their community. While these rabbis still see homosexual practice as sin, they are “more accepting of the sinner than they may have been in the past,” writes Debra Nussbaum Cohen.
Some of these computer discussion groups serve as dialogues between gay and straight Orthodox participants. The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, a modern Orthodox (as opposed to ultra-Orthodox) group has hired a teacher publicly identifying himself as a gay man and Orthodox rabbi.
He is putting forward re-readings of the Torah text which permit homosexual partnerships (though not supporting anal sex, as in accordance with Jewish law) and marriage-like ceremonies. Nussbaum Cohen adds that “Perhaps most stunningly of all,” a Yeshiva College student running for student council last spring declared himself publicly as gay during a speech at the school, an undergraduate school for men at Yeshivah University, leading to turmoil at the institution.
The emergence of Democratic Party vice presidential nominee Joseph Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew and strong promoter of gay rights, has also encouraged Orthodox gays and lesbians. But Cohen notes that the new openness has generated reactions and new opposition. An organization known as JONAH: Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality was founded last year, teaching that gays and lesbians can become heterosexual through reparative therapy.
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