Rabbis must learn to be more tolerant of LGBT communities
Following the near sacking this summer of gay-friendly Rabbi Joseph Dweck, above, British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis this week called on a meeting of more than 100 Orthodox rabbis to be more inclusive toward the LGBT+ community.
According to this report, on Tuesday – at his annual pre-High Holidays conference for the rabbinate – Mirvis also called for extra concern for other special groups too.
At the annual conference, this year titled “Every One Counts”, he declared:
Every person is precious. Single parents, women, the unaffiliated, LGBT Jews – let no person feel they have no place in our shuls.
Dweck, Britain’s top Sephardi rabbi, almost lost his job this summer following his comments welcoming the growing acceptance of homosexuality.
But following the ruling of a review process set up by Mirvis, above, in the wake of his comments welcoming the growing acceptance of homosexuality, Dweck, who serves as senior rabbi at London’s S&P Sephardi community, was allowed to stay.
He came under fire after saying at a lecture that societal acceptance of homosexuality is a “fantastic development” because it opens the door to a more loving society.
Following an outcry from many of his colleagues, as well as a request from the Sephardi chief rabbi of Israel, Yitzchak Yosef, Mirvis set up a committee to review Dweck’s statement as well as other teachings and Jewish legal rulings by the rabbi.
In the wake of the ruling, which noted the rabbi’s success in outreach to British Jews, Dweck apologised for speaking in a manner that was “inappropriate and imprudent”, and said he regretted having made disparaging remarks about rabbinic colleagues.
The review committee approved Dweck’s suggestion that his public lectures, particularly on issues of Jewish law, be reviewed with a member of the committee prior to delivery. The committee also recommended that Dweck’s withdrawal as a dayan, or judge, on the Sephardi Beth Din, or rabbinical court, remain in effect.
In a 90-minute lecture at the Ner Yisrael synagogue in Hendon, England, Dweck emphasised that homosexual acts are forbidden by Torah, but that the growing tolerance for feminism and homosexuality had residual benefits for society at large.
[W]e have to see ultimately how it is we deal with it in terms of Torah and society. If we do not hang our prejudices at the door when we deal with it, and don’t look at Torah as it is and what it is saying to us, and stop with the insane bigotry and prejudice we’ve got, we will be on the out and society will move forward because [God] doesn’t wait for anybody. He is taking His world into love.
Referring in part to the Dweck affair Mirvis said:
During the past two or so months I have been appalled by some of the conduct we have witnessed in our community. Orthodoxy has long known significant differences in outlook, but the recent controversy about Rabbi Joseph Dweck’s teachings has brought the polarisation of Orthodox Jewry into sharpest focus.
People are affirming what they stand for by denigrating and insulting those whom they stand against. We have come to define ourselves by that which divides us, rather than that which unites us.
At the end of this week’s conference, he said:
As rabbis, we have now a responsibility to carry the inspiration we have taken from the last two days and use it build ever more engaging and inclusive communities, which would be inclusive of every person.