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Windows and Doors

With the release of a declaration on homosexuality and the inherent dignity of gay men and lesbians, by more than 100 Orthodox rabbis, educators and mental health professionals in the United States and Israel, a segment of the Orthodox community is now in full agreement with the Roman Catholic Church. The statement, without using the exact phrasing of the Church, supports hating the sin while loving the sinner. I am filled with both dread and hope by this recent development.
The declaration fills me with hope because it publicly states what most of the signers have privately believed for some time. By collectively stepping into the light and staking a claim for what is experienced as a fairly radical approach by most people in the Orthodox community, the men and women who signed this “statement of principles on the place of homosexuals in the Orthodox community” have responded with tremendous courage.
They have also responded with incredible integrity. The statement is bounded by en entirely normative i.e. Orthodox understanding of homosexuality and the limitations imposed on any gay person who actually expresses their sexuality in any way.
While that will be entirely dissatisfying to many people, and leaves me with many questions about my own willingness to add my name to the list of signers, it demonstrates the capacity of people who see few alternatives to push themselves to respond with love to a situation they abhor. That is spiritual heroism.
So why the dread?


Because at the end of the day I remain deeply uncomfortable with the limitations of the statement, the limitations of my own current thinking about the issue and the fact that historically, the position of hating the sin but loving the sinner has worked out about as well as the principle of separate but equal.
The dread is a result of being altogether uncertain who the statement is really for. Will it genuinely benefit gay people in the Orthodox community, or will it just make a bunch of straight Orthodox Jews, including myself, feel better about our current understanding of Jewish law and its implications for thousands of other Jews? Not for one second do I believe that was the authors’ intent, but I fear that it may be the result.
I need to hear what gay Orthodox Jews think about this statement of principles. Does it represent a real step forward which is likely to improve their lives? Do they experience it as a positive evolutionary step toward a fuller acceptance? Could it be that this statement, like all expressions of covenantal love, need not be all that I/they would hope for in order to deserve support and even celebration?
When these issues are addressed, we will all know better if this is Orthodoxy catching up with Catholicism or something more – something of which we will not only be proud in the present, but also in the future.

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