Just Nathan

A musical offering, in parts
January 23, 2003
It’s no mitzvah to be homophobic

In last weeks’ Jewish Chronicle, not a regular read for me, there was an article by an Orthodox Rabbi, David Sedley, calling for Jews to be more open-minded towards homosexuals.

Sedley argues the line that same-sex relationships are acceptable if not consummated. He discusses the difference between a Jew’s contract with God and with other people. His core point is that Jews must become more accepting of same-sex relationships. I can’t link to the article, as the JC requires that you pay a subscription, so here are three quotes:

“Yet we must, above all else, be tolerant. It was hatred that destroyed the Second Temple; and intolerance of others is the reason we are still in exile”.

“We can acknowledge homosexuality and same-sex relationships without accepting these as Jewish values. Surely we would do better to encourage stability and long-term commitment than to force people to live a lie…. So I call on everyone to be more open-minded”.

“We must reach out to every Jew in our community and train ourselves to see only that which is positive and good in one another. Let us recognise that homophobia is as destructive as any hatred based on religious or ethnic differences”.

In this week’s JC, Rabbi Daniel Levy writes that Sedley went too far. His argument is that “Judaism must send out the most forthright of messages” based upon biblical law. “Gay relationships are screened long before the 9pm watershed and so viewed by young children, adding to their confusion in a world where it is already difficult for them to learn what makes for a successful relationship. Today… everything goes”.

I was pleased to read this debate in Anglo-Jewry’s most established newspaper. It’s fascinating to contrast Sedley’s approach, based as it is upon the need for inclusiveness and tolerance, with Levy’s response, based upon the rule of law. Neither condones homosexual behaviour, but one responds with love and the other with hate.

Of course Levy will win. His prize will be the death of Judaism.

Posted by nathan at January 23, 2003 11:21 PM


Hi, this is Rabbi Sedley writing. Thank you for reading my article - glad you liked it. I don't agree with you, however, that Rabbi Levy will "win" (as you put it). I have had so much positive feedback on my article, from lesbians and gays, their families and many others that I already feel that I have accomplished what I set out to do in the article. I have changed the general perception of what Judaism says about homosexuality. I have also had many Rabbis contact me to say that they agree with me (and a few who disagree) - everyone is unanimous that the only correct response is one of love and acceptance.
Furthemore I think that British Orthodox Jewry is very slowly heading into the 20th century and that gradually the artificial barriers will be broken down and the Rabbinate will become better at reaching out to all Jews. I think that in the not too distant future the 'intolerance' will become a museum piece only. If not it is Orthodox Judaism that will end up in the museum.
Thanks for reading
Rabbi David

Posted by: David Sedley at May 7, 2003 06:12 PM

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