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Gay Abandon?

The media have been giving plenty of oxygen to comments made by Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi, who suggested that Perth become more “gay friendly”.  Today’s West Australian newspaper included a well worded response from a community member identifying herself in her letter to the editor as Jewish, and going on to say that she supported the stance of the Lord Mayor in the name of a diverse community and freedom of choice (we should all worry about ourselves and not others).


It is always an interesting conversation when it comes to Jewish attitudes and viewpoints in this discussion.  What we cannot do is be homophobic.  What we cannot do is attempt to reconcile the Torah prohibition of homosexuality with changing times to the extent that we justify or sanction the concept of gay marriage. Finally, what we also cannot do, is draw comparisons between gays and Jews under the banner of “minority groups”.  One is a social network based on sexual preference, the other is an ethic-religious identity.  Both groups have interests, but they are not politically comparable in terms of what their representation is designed to accomplish.  



So what can we do?


Firstly, we can acknowledge that all aspects of a persons sexuality are deeply personal, and that in a modest and practical way, we should not put perverse content into the public domain for consumption.  To this extent, I do not support “gay pride” or the flaunting of gay sexuality in such a culturally colourful way that the City of Perth appears to want to encourage. 



Secondly, we can make sure that all people get treated with respect, no matter who they are, and that all people retain the liberty to uphold their private lifestyle so long as others are not harmed. 



It has often disturbed me that sometimes Jewish communities can ostracise and exclude homosexual people from wanting to have a Jewish identity.  I know several gay Orthodox Jews, all of whom struggle with their Jewish identity, yet none of whom seek to create any compatibility or alignment between their sexuality and the Torah’s prohibition of that.  A prominent Australian Rabbi once gave a shiur on this subject and asked the question – many Jews do not keep the laws of Shabbat or the laws of Kashrut, yet we don’t deny them a place in the community or treat them like pariah’s.  Some Jews do not keep the Torah laws relating to sexual conduct.  So what makes them any different?



Homosexuality is not a disease, and it is not a problem for the Jewish community.  It is form of personal attraction, which some people naturally convert into sexual desire.  Judaism cannot sanction homosexuality as it is clearly a biblical prohibition.  Those who seek to live a Torah lifestyle will not practice homosexual conduct, or alternatively always struggle with the fact that their conduct is not in accordance with halacha.  However that does not justify being hateful or discriminatory in conduct towards an openly gay person. 

This comment is endorsed by Rabbi Dovid Freilich, President of the Orthodox Rabbis of Australasia, who notes the principle adopted by the organisation’s recent conference (Res 17) which reads “This conference reaffirms that all Jews, regardless of their level of religious observance or sexual preferences, are part of the Jewish community and Klal Yisrael and are welcome in our synagogues.”   As part of the same conference the organisation resolved that they were unable to entertain the concept of a same-sex committment ceremony as it would be a perversion of Judaism.

In short, all matters sexual should be retained as private.  Our interpersonal relationships, our modesty (sniut), family purity and similar issues have never been matters of open community debate, and protective mechanisms operate within Jewish society to allow for Rabbinic guidance in the most discreet way possible.  It should be no different for a person who is confused or unsure about their own sexuality.  Someone in such a situation will never be able to be fully observant, never be able to establish a Jewish family, will always struggle to find a way to identify with their community.  That cannot be easy.



Congratulations to the Jewish letter writer to the West Australian.  Let’s not bash gays.  But let’s also preserve the sexual morality of our society, both homosexual and heterosexual, from being flaunted in front of us, through the streets, media, and public entertainment in a way that is all too often lewd and distasteful.     

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