Shavuot is a celebration of the revelation of knowledge.
I experienced a revelation this Shavuot by attending a forum held by the Young Jewish Professionals at the home of Rabbi Moshe Kahn, director of Chabad Youth. To find members of the Orthodox Community constructively discussing the issue of homosexuality in our community was indeed a refreshing revelation.
More than 100 mainly young and Orthodox members of the community listened intently and respectfully to the three man panel discussing the issue of being Jewish and homosexual.
Philip Searle discussed his experience of coming out in the Jewish community. His gratitude to his family, friends, and Rabbi for their support and concern was strongly evident in the moving words of this eloquent young communal leader.
Former JCCV president and family law expert Michael Lipshutz highlighted the legal changes that have transpired in Australia, and felt that he has seen the attitudes of the Jewish community mature in parallel. As an example, he felt that the barriers that once prevented a Jewish gay support group from joining the JCCV probably no longer exist.
Rabbi Yaakov Glasman, the Vice President of Orthodox Rabbis Australia, talked of his practice of offering Aliyot to the Torah to gay people, and of his fervent defence of this practice when challenged by congregants who are less tolerant of diversity. He highlighted his inability to reconcile God’s love for His people, with the plight of Jewish gay people who are forbidden by the Torah from acting on their biological inclinations. When pushed, however, he conceded that it is often said that “where there is a Rabbinic will, there is a Halachic way”, and that he could not rule out the possibility that in the future rabbinic leaders might find a way to overcome the problem of such prohibitions, whilst still maintaining the paramount integrity of the Torah as they see it.
As a board member of Keshet Australia, working to build sensitivity, acceptance and care in all sectors of our community, it was extremely gratifying for me to see the leadership that Rabbis Kahn, Glasman have taken in facilitating such a forums. All involved are to be congratulated.
Future discussions may gain additional perspectives by including mental health professionals who might give insights into the serious risks including youth suicide that GLBTI Jews still face due to family and communal attitudes.
As a community we are taking steps in the right direction, but there is still much to be done.
Keshet is committed to educating the Australian Jewish community about GLBTIQ Jews. We look forward to seeing more events promoting the Jewish value of Ve’ahvta L’riecha Kamocha in the future.
Mark Cherny, Keshet Treasurer