Statement of Principles on the Place of Jews with a
Homosexual Orientation in Our Community
For the last six months a number of Orthodox rabbis and educators have been preparing a statement of principles on the place of our brothers and sisters in our community who have a homosexual orientation.
The original draft was prepared by Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot. It was then commented upon by and revised based on the input from dozens of talmidei chachamim, educators, communal rabbis, mental health professionals and a number of individuals in our community who are homosexual in orientation.
Significant revisions were made based upon the input of Rabbi Aryeh Klapper and Rabbi Yitzchak Blau who were intimately involved in the process of editing and improving the document during the last three months.
The statement below is a consensus document arrived at after hundreds of hours of discussion,debate and editing. At the bottom, is the initial cohort of signators.
If you are an Orthodox rabbi, educator, or mental health professional and would like to add your signature to the current list, please send a short e-mail to:
email@example.com with your name, address, cell phone number, and professional affiliation.
Statement of Principles on the Place of Jews with a
Homosexual Orientation in Our Community
We, the undersigned Orthodox rabbis, rashei yeshiva, ramim, Jewish educators and communal leaders affirm the following principles with regard to the place of Jews with a homosexual orientation in our community:
1. All human beings are created in the image of God and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect (kevod haberiyot). Every Jew is obligated to fulfill the entire range of mitzvot between person and person in relation to persons who are homosexual or have feelings of same sex attraction. Embarrassing, harassing or demeaning someone with a homosexual orientation or same-sex attraction is a violation of Torah prohibitions that embody the deepest values of Judaism.
2. The question of whether sexual orientation is primarily genetic, or rather environmentally generated, is irrelevant to our obligation to treat human beings with same-sex attractions and orientations with dignity and respect.
3. Halakhah sees heterosexual marriage as the ideal model and sole legitimate outlet for human sexual expression. The sensitivity and understanding we properly express for human beings with other sexual orientations does not diminish our commitment to that principle.
4. Halakhic Judaism views all male and female same-sex sexual interactions as prohibited. The question of whether sexual orientation is primarily genetic, or rather environmentally generated, is irrelevant to this prohibition. While halakha categorizes various homosexual acts with different degrees of severity and opprobrium, including toeivah, this does not in any way imply that lesser acts are permitted. But it is critical to emphasize that halakha only prohibits homosexual acts; it does not prohibit orientation or feelings of same-sex attraction, and nothing in the Torah devalues the human beings who struggle with them. (We do not here address the issue of hirhurei aveirah, a halakhic category that goes beyond mere feelings and applies to all forms of sexuality and requires precise halakhic definition.)
5. Whatever the origin or cause of homosexual orientation, many individuals believe that for most people this orientation cannot be changed. Others believe that for most people it is a matter of free will. Similarly, while some mental health professionals and rabbis in the community strongly believe in the efficacy of “change therapies”, most of the mental health community, many rabbis, and most people with a homosexual orientation feel that some of these therapies are either ineffective or potentially damaging psychologically for many patients.
We affirm the religious right of those with a homosexual orientation to reject
therapeutic approaches they reasonably see as useless or dangerous.
6. Jews with a homosexual orientation who live in the Orthodox community confront serious emotional, communal and psychological challenges that cause them and their families great pain and suffering. For example, homosexual orientation may greatly increase the risk of suicide among teenagers in our community. Rabbis and communities need to be sensitive and empathetic to that reality. Rabbis and mental health professionals must provide responsible and ethical assistance to congregants and clients dealing with those human challenges.
7. Jews struggling to live their lives in accordance with halakhic values need and deserve our support. Accordingly, we believe that the decision as to whether to be open about one’s sexual orientation should be left to such individuals, who should consider their own needs and those of the community. We are opposed on ethical and moral grounds to both the “outing” of individuals who want to remain private and to coercing those who desire to be open about their orientation to keep it hidden.
8. Accordingly, Jews with homosexual orientations or same sex-attractions should be welcomed as full members of the synagogue and school community. As appropriate with regard to gender and lineage, they should participate and count ritually, be eligible for ritual synagogue honors, and generally be treated in the same fashion and under the same halakhic and hashkafic framework as any other member of the synagogue they join. Conversely, they must accept and fulfill all the responsibilities of such membership, including those generated by communal norms or broad Jewish principles that go beyond formal halakhah.
We do not here address what synagogues should do about accepting members
who are openly practicing homosexuals and/or living with a same-sex partner.
Each synagogue together with its rabbi must establish its own standard with
regard to membership for open violators of halakha.
Those standards should be applied fairly and objectively.
9. Halakha articulates very exacting criteria and standards of eligibility for particular religious offices, such as officially appointed cantor during the year or baal tefillah on the High Holidays. Among the most important of those criteria is that the entire congregation must be fully comfortable with having that person serve as its representative. This legitimately prevents even the most admirable individuals, who are otherwise perfectly fit halakhically, from serving in those roles. It is the responsibility of the lay and rabbinic leadership in each individual community to determine eligibility for those offices in line with those principles, the importance of maintaining communal harmony, and the unique context of its community culture.
10. Jews with a homosexual orientation or same sex attraction, even if they engage in same sex interactions, should be encouraged to fulfill mitzvot to the best of their ability. All Jews are challenged to fulfill mitzvot to the best of their ability, and the attitude of “all or nothing” was not the traditional approach adopted by the majority of halakhic thinkers and poskim throughout the ages.
11. Halakhic Judaism cannot give its blessing and imprimatur to Jewish religious
same-sex commitment ceremonies and weddings, and halakhic values proscribe individuals and communities from encouraging practices that grant religious legitimacy to gay marriage and couplehood. But communities should display sensitivity, acceptance and full embrace of the adopted or biological children of homosexually active Jews in the synagogue and school setting, and we encourage parents and family of homosexually partnered Jews to make every effort to maintain harmonious family relations and connections.
12. Jews who have an exclusively homosexual orientation should, under most circumstances, not be encouraged to marry someone of the other gender, as
this can lead to great tragedy, unrequited love, shame, dishonesty and ruined
lives. They should be directed to contribute to Jewish and general society in
other meaningful ways. Any such person who is planning to marry someone of
the opposite gender is halakhically and ethically required to fully inform their
potential spouse of their sexual orientation.
We hope and pray that by sharing these thoughts we will help the Orthodox
community to fully live out its commitment to the principles and values of
Torah and Halakha as practiced and cherished by the children of Abraham, who
our sages teach us are recognized by the qualities of being rahamanim
(merciful), bayshanim (modest), and gomelei hasadim
engaging in acts of loving-kindness).
(as of 7/23/10)
Rabbi Yosef Adler
Rabbi Elisha Anscelovits
Rabbi Hayyim Angel
Rabbi Marc Angel
Rabbi Maurice Appelbaum
Mrs. Nechama Goldman Barash
Rabbi Avi Baumol
Rabbi Dr. Shalom Berger
Rabbi Dr. Joshua Berman
Rabbi Todd Berman
Dr. David Bernstein
Rabbi David Bigman
Rabbi Yitzchak Blau
Dr. Erica Brown
Rabbi Yuval Cherlow
Rabbi Mark Dratch
Rabbi Ira Ebbin
Rabbi Rafi Eis
Mrs. Atara Eis
Rabbi Yitzhak Etshalom
Rabbi Dr. Shaul (Seth) Farber
Ms. Rachel Feingold
Rabbi Jeffrey Fox
Rabbi Aaron Frank
Rabbi Aharon Frazier
Rabbi Avidan Freedman
Rabbi Shmuel Goldin
Rabbi Mark Gottlieb
Rabbi Barry Gelman
Rabbi Benjamin Greenberg
Rabbi Zvi Grumet
Rabbi Alan Haber
Dr. Aviad Hacohen
Rabbi Tully Harcsztark
Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot
Rabbi Josh Hess
Dr. Daniel Kahn
Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky
Rabbi Jay Kellman
Rabbi Aryeh Klapper
Mrs. Judy Klitsner
Rabbi Shmuel Klitsner
Rabbi Jeff Kobrin
Dr. Aaron Koller
Rabbi Barry Kornblau
Dr. Meesh Hammer Kossoy
Rabbi Binny Krauss
Mrs. Esther Krauss
Rabbi Dr. Benny Lau
Rabbi Zvi Leshem
Rabbi Dr. Martin Lockshin
Rabbi Dr. Haskel Lookstein
Rabbi Asher Lopatin
Rabbi Chaim Marder
Rabbi Dr. Adam Mintz
Rabbi Jonathan Morgenstern
Rabbi Dr. Yaacov Nagen (Genack)
Mrs. C.B. Neugroschl
Rabbi Yossi Pollak
Dr. Caroline Pyser
Rabbi Daniel Reifman
Rabbi Avi Robinson
Rabii Chaim Sacknovitz
Rabbi Jeremy Savitsky
Rabbi Noam Shapiro
Rabbi Yehuda Seif
Rabbi Adam Schier
Ms. Lisa Schlaff
Rabbi Yehuda Septimus
Rabbi Yair Silverman
Rabbi Adam Starr
Rabbi Chaim Strauchler
Rabbi Yehuda Sussman
Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner
Rabbi Jacob Traub
Rabbi Zach Truboff
Mrs. Dara Unterberg
Rabbi Michael Unterberg
Rabbi Dr. Avie Walfish
Dr. Dina Weiner
Ms. Sara Weinerman
Rabbi David Wolkenfeld
Rabbi Elie Weinstock
Rabbi Alan Yuter
Dr. Yael Ziegler
Rabbi Dr. Stuart Zweiter