Responding to “Gay” Parades

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As a basketball player, I was always something of a streak shooter, and I’m afraid that the same will be true of my contributions to this site. Every time I finally summon up the energy to write something I’m reminded of the immense power of the blogsphere and its capacity to generate interesting discussion among many people with something to say, and can hardly wait to write again. The countervailing force, of course, is that no one makes you write for the blog and there are no editors demanding their material by a certain time as with the print publications for which I write. But let’s keep shooting while hot.

I have been thinking for some time about how to fashion an argument against the “Gay Parade” in Jerusalem (and elsewhere) that would resonate with non-religious people and those who do not view homosexual acts as sinful. Citing Leviticus will be inadequate.

My first thought was to express opposition to such parades as a part of a general opposition to any public celebrations of any form of sexual behavior. In other words, I would also be opposed to a parade of heterosexuals who wanted to proclaim the nature of their private activities to the entire world.

There are certainly many laws in the democratic West that attempt to regulate the promulgation of overtly sexual messages to impressionable youth: zoning laws to keep out pornographic stores and moviehouses, anti-soliticitation statutes, even in places where prostitution is legal, etc.

The hypersexualization of the public square and the bombardment of our kids with sexual “information” are acknowledged as serious problems by many. What does it tell us about our society, for instance, that the administration of an elite Jerusalem high school this year gave the best costume prize at the school’s annual costume ball to a couple dressed up as sadomasochists? Kathleen Parker of the Orlando Sentinel wrote recently of school districts in Massachusetts polling 6th graders about their sexual practices.

“Gay” Parades, with their inevitably large component of street theater, are part of the bombardment of sexual messages aimed at our kids and us. The bikini-clad men prancing down the street are not engaged in a traditional civil rights march (homosexuals suffer from no civil disabilities in Israel). Rather they are engaged in recruiting efforts.

The tragedy of private behavior having gone public is that the mystery and power has been removed from one of Hashem’s greatest gifts to mankind. Kol Kevuda Bas Melech Pnima, say Chazal. A great Torah figure once pointed out that the language of Kavod (glory) always implies some aspect of gilui (revelation). The glory of a bas Yisrael is her modesty with respect to the entire world. That is the necessary condition of the glory, of the openness towards her husband.

Once sexual relations were described as intimate relations. They lose their power as soon as they cease to be intimate — something completely private and exclusive, totally hidden from the view of anyone besides husband and wife.

A society that has lost the capacity for intimacy in this sense has also lost the fundamental glue binding husband and wife, and with them, the entire familial structure.

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14 Responses

  1. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Lisa,

    The difference between not doing a homosexual pride parade in Jerusalem and not driving on Shabbat (for example) in Jerusalem seems like it would be just a difference of degree from the observant perspective. In both cases, it involves actions that the Torah states to be capital crimes. If the parade is forbidden, then as a chiloni I’d have difficulty explaining why driving will not be, once the observant population has enough political power. If driving on Shabbat is forbidden, then you can’t really live a chiloni life style in Jerusalem.

    I assume there’s a slipperly slope here – am I wrong? If so, why?

    Yirmeyahu,

    I agree that the parade’s organizers chose Jerusalem because of it’s religious significance to religions that forbid homosexuality. But the fact is will upset every observant person in Jerusalem, regardless of what exactly they observe, does not make much of a difference. The question is still, are they allowed to do something in Jerusalem that would offend the religious communities, as long as they’re not doing it in particular religious neighbourhoods (such as Me’a She’arim or the old city).

    I wonder if you can get the point across better by suggesting a “Charedi Pride” parade in Tel Aviv, one that will involve a parade of Charedim boasting of the advantages of the Charedi lifestyle (such as more stable marriages). Ask if the people in Sheinkin would be offended by such a parade.

  2. Yirmeyahu says:

    Ori-

    I’m not sure that your response sounded too aggressive, and it certainly shed some light on how that approach might be perceived by its intended audience.

    I don’t think it is easy to persuade people to see thing from one’s own perspective without getting them to adopt your worldview, but I think it is possible. I think that there are already secularists for whom Yerushalayim has no special significance and can be dealt with politically. I think that there are others who recognize its importance and realize that it is our historical capital and that history is forever entwined with our religious heritage.

    I don’t think that its religious significance is lost on the parade organizers.

    But let me offer that my first suggestion was a bit ethnocentric. The fact is that Yerushalyim Ir HaKodesh has religious significance to Islam and Christianity as well. Neither of these groups, at least in their traditional forms and writings, accepts homosexuality either. I believe that the parade’s location in Yerushalayim is just as much targeted against them as Judaism. I believe that someone as articulate as Rabbi Rosenblum could effectively communicate this to the broader Jewish community.

  3. Lisa says:

    Ori,

    I agree with Yirmeyahu. When the parade was in Tel Aviv… well, it wasn’t all that much different than the usual run of things in Tel Aviv. It wasn’t breaking anything that wasn’t already broken. In terms of fairness, the only difference between that parade and, say, the Tel Aviv Adloyada stuff on Purim, is the gay issue. The pritzut is certainly already there.

    I am *strongly* opposed to having these parades in Jerusalem. When I was still living in Israel, there used to be a picnic in Jerusalem the Shabbat afternoon of Pride weekend. Individuals and families would go to the park and have lunch. We’d bring our kids, they’d play, we’d meet new people or see friends we hadn’t seen for a while. No signs, no banners, no “Hey, look at me!” That, I think, is legitimate.

    I didn’t get from Yirmeyahu’s post that secular Israelis should have no part in Jerusalem. On the contrary. If we could clean up Tel Aviv, that’d be great as well. But there’s a basic difference between throwing shmutz where things are clean and throwing shmutz where things are already dirty.

    Lisa

  4. Ori Pomerantz says:

    I owe everybody here an explanation and maybe an apology. I did not mean to sound as aggressive in my response to Yimeyahu as I did. I most certainly did not mean to come off as: “if you don’t shut up, we secular Israelies will give your home to the Palestinians – see how you’d like this”. If anybody got this impression, I apologize.

    However, there was a reason to what I wrote. The way I see it, Israel was based on an alliance between three groups: the secular Jews, the Dati-Leumis, and the Charedim. This alliance was based on a shared identity and common interests, in much the same way that the US was initially founded on an alliance between the mercantile north and the agrarian south.

    There is another similarity. Now that fifty years passed and the existence of the nation is thought to be assured, rather than a fragile thing that needs to be protected at all costs, the alliance is fraying at the seams. Twenty three years ago, people who opposed the war in Lebanon would demonstrate and then go to Miluim. Today, many people who oppose the disengagement declare they won’t go to Miluim for it.

    In the US, that lead eventually to a civil war. I can see the same happening in Israel. Declaring Jerusalem to belong to just one group is a step in that direction.

  5. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Yirmeyahu,

    The chosen location for this parade was not Tel-Aviv, it was Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh. The message it sends to me is clear: we are not concerned with tolerance.

    This is equivalent to saying that Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, is “Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh” and nothing else. That just as a secular Israeli has no business living in Mea She’arim, he or she has no business living anywhere else in Jerusalem either.

    Are you sure you want to make that claim? Israeli politics is dominated by secular Israelies. By telling them Jerusalem isn’t theirs, you’re telling them they shouldn’t be too concerned with it, in the same way that most Israelies are not concerned with Tira or Umm Al Fahm (Arab cities inside Israel’s borders).

    If they become convinced of that, then whether Jerusalem is under Israeli rule or Arab rule becomes a matter of politics, the same way that who rules Kush Katif is currently a matter of politics. Without getting into that argument, you have to acknowledge that such an argument is currently taking place. The equivalent argument about Jerusalem is, currently, unthinkable.

    Edvallance, point taken – you’re right.

    – Ori

  6. Yirmeyahu says:

    The chosen location for this parade was not Tel-Aviv, it was Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh. The message it sends to me is clear: we are not concerned with tolerance. We are not interested in “live and let live”. We want full and total acceptance for all our behavior and will defeat any nation, people, RELIGION which refuses to do so. I think the location highlights the hypocrisy of those who wish to conform other people and cultures in their own image under the guise of “tolerance.”

    Communicating this to those more favorably inclined wont be easy, but perhaps possible.

  7. Shlomo Dovid Freedman says:

    My rav, Rav Yaakov Rosenberg, Z”L, believed that the way to appeal to a secular Jews is to build on a value that he already holds passionately to be true. For example, if he believes passionately in the value of modesty, you could challenge his acceptance of Gay parades by showing that such parades promote immodesty. Many secular Jews are stirred by this approach because they take personal consistency and hypocracy terribly seriously.

    In your search for an approach that would reverberate with secular Jews you consider making a case that Western societies routinely “[R]egulate the promulgation of overtly sexual messages to impressionable youth,” and there is no reason Gay parades shouldn’t fall under this rubric.

    To resonate with secular Jews I suggest that you would have to press the case strongly that it is truly wrong to “promulgate overtly sexual messages” to youth. Then you would stand a chance of making an impression. Given that the wider societly is replete with such promulgation, however, it is hard to see that this would get much traction.

  8. Shlomo Dovid Freedman says:

    Re: Proclaiming monogomous heterosexuality

    Judaism may be unique in having Kiddushin, a ceremony and state similar to marriage but not allowing sexual relations. Rav Hirsch comments that kiddushin defines the joining of the man and woman as transcending sexual relations. So a wedding, even though it now includes nissuin, is not the kosher equivalent of a Gay parade.

  9. Max says:

    Jonathan Rosenblum:
    I think the attempt to persuade secular public that Gay Parade is not acceptable would be totally futile. If the life in Olam HaZeh is all the person has, and if there is no Judge in Heaven, why not to spend the brief time on Earth engaging in all sorts of things one finds pleasurable. “general opposition to any public celebrations of any form of sexual behavior” is vestige of the old Christian world as the Western world contnues becoming more secularized, displays of sexual behavior are becoming more public (advertisements, entertainments, beaches, fashion, etc. etc.).

    I think the emphasis should be made on the fact that each Jew possesses a Holy Neshoma (soul), whose awesome potential can be activated, and this is where we should concentrate our efforts. First, the moral decadence of the seculars is a reflections of the failings of Torah Jewry. Where these failings lie, I can’t answer, but we should search for them within ourselves and mesaken ourselves. A well-known story goes that R. Salanter chastised his students because Jews in Paris were breaking Shabbos.

    Second, and here, writing from hutz-la-aretz, I do not feel fully adequate to state, the Torah Jews living in Eretz Israel should show more passion for such public affronts to G-d’s glory and Israel’s honor. Of course, such passion must be expressed in measured ways. There is no room for violence against other people, as unfortunatily occurred in Israel. But if people are willing to block traffic because Holy Land is being ceaded to Arabs, there should be willingness to take similar steps when the Land of Israel is used as a staging ground to promote behavior which goes against most basic decrees of the Creator.

    Interestingly, while Gays can demonstrate in Jerusalem, Jews can not pray on the Temple Mount (they shouldn’t, but the point here, is that unfortunatily violence is a hard currency in Israel). We should not immitate Arabs in their violent behavior, but we should find ways to stand publicly for the honor of Creator and Israel. Perhaps proper, controlled but public outpouring of passion on the side of the Torah observant Jewry would light a spark of Holiness in the secular public.

  10. Ilana says:

    You could make the argument that the problem with gay pride parades is immodesty, and not homosexuality per se. But then, how would you argue against a modest, tasteful, same sex wedding? At some point, you probably need to resort to Leviticus.

  11. Edvallace says:

    “Ori: A few years ago, I publicly celebrated my form of sexual behavior. In front of all the friends and family who would come, I proclaimed my monogemous hetrosexuality along with the identity of the woman which whom I will be monogemous. She did the same. Was that also wrong?”

    Mazal Tov!
    Ori, I disagree wih you on this point. I imagine the issue of your sexual tendnecies was left unspoken and hte focus was on the fact that you found a partner with which to create a home and family. The fact that there would be an intimate dimension to the relationship was [hopefully] left unspoken. The Talmud in Kesubos points out that “everyone knows why a chassan and kallah go to the chuppah, nevertheless one who sullies his mouth by pointing it out will merit harsh decrees [inexact quote but accurate]”. That is a far cry from the gay parade whose only focus is on one aspect of their lives.

  12. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Jonathan Rosenblum:
    My first thought was to express opposition to such parades as a part of a general opposition to any public celebrations of any form of sexual behavior. In other words, I would also be opposed to a parade of heterosexuals who wanted to proclaim the nature of their private activities to the entire world.

    Ori: A few years ago, I publicly celebrated my form of sexual behavior. In front of all the friends and family who would come, I proclaimed my monogemous hetrosexuality along with the identity of the woman which whom I will be monogemous. She did the same. Was that also wrong?

    If you want to convince a non-religious audience who sees no moral difference between a marriage and a homosexual relationship, this isn’t going to work.

    Jonathan Rosenblum:
    “Gay” Parades, with their inevitably large component of street theater, are part of the bombardment of sexual messages aimed at our kids and us. The bikini-clad men prancing down the street are not engaged in a traditional civil rights march (homosexuals suffer from no civil disabilities in Israel). Rather they are engaged in recruiting efforts.

    Ori: If you say that you object to the indecency, rather than the homosexuality, you might get further.

  13. tzurah says:

    Great post. I have few critiques, though.

    You said – “I have been thinking for some time about how to fashion an argument against the “Gay Parade”” which I think is a great thing to discuss, but then you go ahead and say –

    “(homosexuals suffer from no civil disabilities in Israel). Rather they are engaged in recruiting efforts.”

    at that point, you would have completely lost a secular reader, since both points are wrong, and would immediately brand you as a bigot. There might not be any official discrimination towards homosexuals in Israel, but there is certainly plenty of unofficial revulsion and discrimination. I would think that the major goal of these parades is to increase social acceptance.

    “recuiting”? Is that about homosexual men going around town trolling for new young boys? Bad idea to even mentions the word. My impression is that the Gay community these days, for the most part, views homosexuality as innate and biologically determined (by genes, pre-natal hormonal conditions, etc.) rather than as an opinion that can be acquired. As such, it would be disingenuous to argue that their *intention* is to recruit. Of course, from a practical viewpoint, even increased social acceptance that would result in more people “coming out of the closet” would be tantamount to recruitment, which is just as bad from a frum perspective. Nevertheless, that’s a secondary effect, and not the primary goal, of the parade. You have to discuss these point with finesse, or people will think you’re just another clueless, scared, and bigoted frum Jew.

    I think your main thesis is a good way to go. The Gay parade has never been just about homosexuality. It is a part of a larger cultural orientation that views the inhibition of sexuality to be bad for the psychological well-being of individuals and bad for society. There is a lot of residue from the “Free Love” idea that was prominent in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Remember “Make love not war”? I think many in the Gay community view themselves as the avant-garde that will finally free society of its crushing repressions and inhibitions that is a root cause of so many problems. Of course, this kind of thinking is completely antithetical to Torah values, and should be vigorously countered.

  14. Edvallace says:

    Reb Yonasan,

    First off – Keep on shooting! You’ve got the hand!

    As far as writing something that will resonate with the masses, I’m afraid that there’s nothing you can say that will resonate. For those for whom Leviticus won’t do it, I highly doubt anything else will work. If a person does not recognize why a parade of this nature is unnaceptable, there isn’t anything that you can say or write that’ll help them see straight. Stick to Levitivcus and don’t bother trying to find alternative explanations because I’ve never seen any of the work.