Gay Parade in Jerusalem: Nuanced or categorical opposition?

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25 bSivan
Why did a prominent writer of over 50 juvenile books in the Orthodox world, whose essays have also been published, write against the upcoming parade this summer in Jerusalem promoting homosexual activity? Yaffa Ganz has taken up the gauntlet and as a concerned mother, grandmother, and Jew has written an acerbic essay against the parade, “Love, Borders, and Civilization” . The parade, scheduled for Aug. 6-12 (12-18 MenahemAv) is sponsored by an international coalition of homosexual and lesbian groups called “worldpride” whose slogan is “love without borders.” Hence the title of Yaffa Ganz’s article in favor of borders and against the parade.

It was published in the Jerusalem Post 24 bSivan (June 20) side-by-side with an op ed essay by Levi Weiman-Kelman, a Reform rabbi who presents arguments in favor of the parade in an op ed titled Why a rabbi will march in Worldpride.

With respect to the essay by Yaffa Ganz, whom I know and highly respect, I felt her arguments might not convince people who favor the parade to change their mind. But she does a good job of reinforcing those who are against it, but cannot articulate why they oppose it. However I feel her style is a little brittle (I mentioned this to her). She writes:

HERE ARE the facts:… Homosexuality is an aberrant biological phenomenon…. Homosexuality is deviant social behavior…. Like any other physiological, biological or emotional problem, homosexuality is a dysfunctional behavior requiring treatment, not legislation or “recognition.”

We are so used to p.c. language that it takes courage to write in this manner. Sometimes a clear-cut black and white style is called for that presents a position in no uncertain terms.

The most powerful of her arguments is :

EVERY SOCIETY has a public and a private sphere. Generally speaking, what people do in the privacy of their homes is their own business, so long as they do not the invade the public arena. This is true of both heterosexuals as well as homosexuals. Our society does not condone parading intimate sexuality in public (despite the media). Why is the desire of homosexuals to go public more compelling than the public’s desire to keep certain areas of life private?

And she has several memorable turns-of-the-phrase:

The gay king is indeed naked. And the gay logo of “World Pride” is a desperate attempt to clothe the movement in legitimacy and recognition.

However, I wonder whether a more nuanced presentation of the arguments against homosexual activity and gay parades would better serve the Halakhic community.
In general, this is a problem I deal with often – which is more persuasive? A sensitive approach that presents many sides of an issue and explores its complexity? Or an unequivocal presentation of the arguments that leaves no room for doubt?

Shira Schmidt

Shira Leibowitz Schmidt was raised in an assimilated Jewish home in New York, and became observant while studying at Stanford University in California. In June 1967 she told her engineering school professor she would miss the final exam because she was going to Israel to volunteer during the Six Day War. “That’s the most original excuse I have ever been offered,” he responded. She arrived during the war and stayed, receiving her BSc in absentia. She subsequently met and married the late Elhanan Leibowitz, and they raised their six children in Beersheba. Mrs. Leibowitz acquired a Masters in Urban & Regional Planning from the Technion, and an MSc in Civil Engineering from University of Waterloo. Today she lives with her husband, Dr. Baruch Schmidt, in Netanya. She is on the board of the Charedi College of Jerusalem. She co-authored, with Nobel prize-winning chemist Roald Hoffmann, Old Wine New Flasks. She has co-translated from Hebrew to English (with Jessica Setbon) From the Depths (the autobiography of Rabbi Israel Meir Lau); The Forgotten Memoirs (memoirs of Rabbis who survved the Shoah, edited by Esther Farbstein); and Rest of the Dove (Parashat Hashavua by Rabbi Haim Sabato). She s available to lecture in Israel and in the US.

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31 Responses

  1. Yaakov Menken says:

    Ari may need to look no further than a mirror to find evidence of ugly bias. “The general Haredi attitude?” The amateurish and anonymous pamphlet is anything but representative of Charedi sentiment, as expressed by Rav Sternbuch in the same article. Rav Sternbuch has a following — anyone with $10 can xerox a piece of A4 paper 500 times and call it a “pamphlet.”

    On the JPost site, Aviva writes: “I have seen this flyer and I have spoken to my relatives in Mea Shearim. No one in the religious community distributed this flyer–it has all the symptoms of a hoax concocted by the gay crowd in order to generate media sympathy and attract more participants to their parade.”

    That theory is just as likely as any of actual Charedi authorship, and certainly far more tenable than any claim that it has actual support.

  2. Ari says:

    Ms. Ganz is free to believe whatever she likes in the religious arena, but to make bold statements about the nature of homosexuality like she has is not only inaccurate, but proves that she is merely engaging in hyperbolic rhetoric without factual basis. The relevant research in today\’s society shows that homosexuality is AT LEAST PART genetic/out of the control of the individual. You can couch your arguments by saying that homosexuality is immoral, and therefore must be a disease or choice, but the fact of the matter is, science says otherwise. Moreover, look at children born with mental disabilities, down syndrome, etc…clearly Hashem DOES create people in a less-than-perfect state.

    Combined with the recent news of a pamphlet offering a bounty to those who kill gays, and the general Haredi attitude in cases like this, I have a hard time respecting these branches of Judaism (even though I am orthodox myself). It is digusting how hypocritically, hatefully, and disgustingly we can act under the guise of being \”pious\”.

    For now, I\’ll have my connection with Hashem, and let him sort all the crazies out.

  3. Bob Miller says:

    Tzvi, you said:
    “Bob: that would be serial monogamy and other societal ills.”

    Including the societal ills promoted by the parade under discussion! Or do you disagree?

    When the serial monogamists plan their parade in our Holy City, we can deal with that, too.

  4. Tzvi says:

    Bob: That would be serial monogamy and other societal ills such as Enron, Worldcom etc. (theft was a large contributor to the mabul)

  5. Bob Miller says:

    At the very least, one would expect Bnai Noach (whether they identify as such or not) not to repeat the actions, including gross immorality, that led to the Mabul.

  6. tzvi says:

    So the only problem with murder is that it destroys the tzelem elokim? I think you are selling the Torah and the Jewish people short.

  7. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Under Mishpatim (for people who don’t have the Torah), is Homosexuality any more sinful than celibacy?

  8. Tal Benschar says:

    Tzvi:

    The concept of Mishpatim does not mean that, had it not been for the giving of the Torah, we would be operating in a fog of atheism and complete moral relativism. Even without the Torah, human kind is expected to understand that there is a Creator of the Universe, who created it with certain norms for nature and society to function.

    Without the Torah we would not be able to intuit ourselves that, say, Sha’tnez should be forbidden, but we would be able to able to understand that murder is a terrible wrong because it destroys the tzelem Elokim (as indeed the possuk in Noach states.)

    That is the case for homosexuality. God created man as a male/female duality. Human sexuality and procreation are a deep part of a person’s psychological and spiritual identity. Homosexuality is deeply destructive of that creation. That is why our tradition views it with such abhorrence.

    Our Torah is more than an arbitrary set of rules to live by. It is the very blueprint of creation — including the creation of man. The parsha in Bereishis 2:18-24 makes clear that who would be man’s partner in life was a crucial step in man’s creation.

    While some mitzvos or issurim are hard to appreciate as other than arbitrary (the Chukim), not all are. When someone is engaged in — indeed is proud of and flaunts — behavior that we understand is destructive of the human psyche and soul, we should not be embarrased to point it out. And as I said before, this is not a Jewish issue, it is a human one, going back to the very creation of man.

  9. Tzvi says:

    Tal:
    You start off with “. . . our tradition has long distinguished between Chukim and Misphatim, the latter being something we would figure out on our own even without a Divine command.” I expected you to show how homosexuality is wrong without using the Torah as a source.

    But you end off with “Call it “gay-bashing” if you want. The Torah clearly considers such activity abhorrent and destructive to the human identity.” That line of reasoning puts us back into square one because you have circled yourself back to the Torah.

    So even according to you, someone who is unaware that the Torah should guide his/her life may decide to adopt a homosexual lifestyle and will expect to be allowed to parade it in public.

  10. HILLEL says:

    Tzvi:

    You wrote “embarrass me.” I was referring to your embarrassment at reading the words of undiluted Torah.

    Rabbi Feldman has a right to his opinion, but there are other Gedolim who have other opinions.

  11. Shira Schmidt says:

    27 bSivan I received this by email today. It is an approach I had not considered. Prayer:
    Urgent Plea to all Women of Israel!
    Women around the world will be reciting Psalms during the next two days starting Friday through Shabbos for the Admor of Gur (Gerer Rebbe)
    Rabbi Yakov (Yankel) Aryeh Alter, shlita,
    Our intention is to pray to Hashem for Him to bestow upon
    Rabbi Yakov (Yankel) Aryeh Alter, shlita
    the valiant courage & leadership needed to successfully guide us with strength to stop the Parade and Festival celebrating toeva planned to take place this summer in Menachem-Av (August) in our Holy City of Jerusalem.

    The Rebbe has a big following to AND MUST STOP the obscene parade of
    indecency, scheduled for our Holy City!!
    Women worldwide are asked to recite appropriate Psalms for him and to preserve the continued sanctity of our Holy City which is being threatened by this upcoming travesty. Please send this to all the caring women you know. May Hashem bless His people with Peace.
    Because of righteous women we were redeemed from Egypt & because of
    righteous women we will once again be redeemed!!!

  12. tzvi says:

    Hillel: are you saying that R Ahron Feldman is not a gadol in kiruv rechokim? Are you saying that he is ashamed of undiluted Torah? Banish the thought!

    There are just different ways to address things (as Shira noted above) and special thought and sensitivity must be put into public comments.

    (I have heard R Ahron speak in the arba koslei beis hamedrash and its a different ballgame entirely)

  13. Tal Benschar says:

    I find it hard to believe that frum Jews are writing about the issur of homosexuality as though it were a chok like sha’tnez. It is true that, ultimately, the Torah determines what is moral or immoral. But our tradition has long distinguished between Chukim and Misphatim, the latter being something we would figure out on our own even without a Divine command.

    Homosexuality is forbidden not only to Jews, but also to Bnei Noach, along with idolatry, murder, incest, etc., all of which are mishpatim and all of which are subject to universal disdain (as indeed homosexuality was until very recently). So it is a problem not merely to the Jewish condition, but also to the HUMAN condition.

    The prohibition for Bnei Noach to engage in arayos flows directly from the creation of man as a two-gender species. Bereishis 3:21-24, the last possuk being the source of arayos for Bnei Noach. Engaging in arayos is destructive of this aspect of creation — man’s Divinely created gender identity.

    Call it “gay-bashing” if you want. The Torah clearly considers such activity abhorrent and destructive to the human identity.

  14. HILLEL says:

    Tzvi:

    Are you ashamed of undiluted Torah?

    The main reason that baalei teshuva are seeking out Orthodox Judaism, in preference to Conservative or Reform, is that they are attracted to undiluted truth, without apologies.

  15. Tzvi says:

    It seems to me that the article wasn’t about the parade at all, or its location in Jerusalem. Rather, it was just an out-and-out bashing of gay people and gay culture.

    I think that attacking the issue in this non-pc fashion could only be done by someone unaffiliated. Imagine Avi Shafran writing that in the Forward. . . or R Ahron Feldman telling it to Trembling. . .

    Shira: I think a bigger question is this: Does Yaffa’s view represent “us”? Is American Charedi-ism or Yeshiva Orthodoxy proud of Yaffa’s essay or ashamed of what she wrote? Why can she say what none of our leaders are willing to profess in a public forum?

    [Personally, I understand where she is coming from, but as I am a young American Jew I think it was too intolerant and would turn off gay Jews completely. I like Barry Fruendel and R Ahron Feldman’s approach much better. I would prefer if articles like that did not appear in public forums and embarrass me.]

  16. Bob Miller says:

    Hillel (1:10 pm) is right. There is such a thing as too much calculation.

  17. HILLEL says:

    To Bob Miller:

    It’s a good thing that Matisyohu and his Macabee sons didn’t regard the Greek idols as a “done deal.”

  18. tzvee says:

    In my opinion, since Yaffa’s article does address “homosexuals” and is bluntly opposed to them and to their behavior, this is an instance of gay-bashing. While she backs off in her comment above, in fact in her article she does not rise to the morally superior level of Beruriah. Accordingly I ask, where in the Torah, Talmud, Codes and Responsa does it say you are required or permitted to oppose a parade asking for human rights for a class of people?

  19. Bob Miller says:

    Yaffa’s point was not to persuade the marchers to stop, but to persuade us to stop them.

  20. Eliezer Barzilai says:

    If the parade cannot be prevented, the Orthodox community should close their places of business and the schools near the parade, and stay off the streets. Let them march in a ghost town, unable to buy a bottle of water or a falafel.

    We may not be able to influence the courts, but we certainly have the economic and cultural tools to shut the city down.

  21. Perplexed says:

    Gedalia Litke,
    The parade has no place in Yerushalyim regardless if there is no argument that can be convincing against homosexuality. Charedim demonstrate against many things I do not understand why there are no protests going on? Everything now a days is a mattter of money and politics. Too bad we no longer have leaders of the stature of Rav Ahron Soloveichik he was not beholden to money or politics and he was very involved in things that cause major chillul hashem

  22. Tzvi says:

    There is, of course, only one true reason why homosexuality is immoral and that is because the Torah says it is. Comment by Yaffa Ganz

    As I have written on Cross-Currents, IMHO there is no persuasive argument against homosexuality unless you accept Leviticus. . . Comment by Gedalia Litke

    I am a frum jew and I agree with the above comments. This makes me wonder why Yaffa wrote her article in the first place and what difference it makes whether she used a nuanced or strident approach.
    The bottom line is that we are bound by the Torah while they do not consider themselves bound by the Torah. Since they are not bound by Leviticus they practice homosexuality and take ‘pride’ in their culture. As a natural result of which, they would like to exercise their right to hold a parade (after applying for permits etc.) to celebrate and advertise their practice. They are not any different than any other ethnic culture in that sense.
    There are 2 ways to counter them and stop them from holding the parade:
    1) convince them to accept the Torah, in which case the argument is not about the deviancy of homosexuals but rather about God and Heaven and other fundamental Kiruv-essque topics;
    2)persuade them to honor the feelings of the majority of the Holy City’s residents, in which case the argument should be an impassioned plea for sensitivity.
    I don’t understand why Yaffa chose to address Homosexuality at all. That is clearly not the issue for them, nor for us.

  23. HILLEL says:

    To Leonard Oberstein:

    Please allow me to correct a misconception on your part. Rabbi Yehuda Levin is a personal friend of mine, and he has been representing the Agudas Horabonim–Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the Us and Canada, and The Rabbinical alliance of America on this issue for over 20 years.

    Perhaps you’re confusing the Agudas Horabonim with the OU. The names are similar Rabbi does not represent the OU-Orthodox Union.

  24. Bob Miller says:

    Leonard Oberstein referred above to “Rabbi Levin who falsely identified himself as representing the Orthodox Union”,

    but R’ Levin actually speaks for another organization (an old one but seemingly not important anymore) with a similar name. See http://www.orthodoxrabbis.org/index.html . He has been involved in various right-to-life and public morality causes.

    I’m sure he’d get less air time if better-known Orthodox leaders would come forward to present the Torah viewpoint on the planned march. They may holding back because they regard the march as, unfortunately, a “done deal”.

  25. Gedalia Litke says:

    As I have written on Cross-Currents, IMHO there is no persuasive argument against homosexuality unless you accept Leviticus, especially in our society which lives hetero lives of serial monogmay, rather than lifelong marriages.

  26. Yaffa Ganz says:

    From Yaffa Ganz

    I read Shira Schmidt’s response to my article “Love, Borders and Civilization” on your blog. Perhaps your readers would like to read the original article and decide for themselves if it is an “acerbic essay” or a thoughtful – if somewhat impassioned – one. The link is:

    http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1150355527647&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

    There is, of course, only one true reason why homosexuality is immoral and that is because the Torah says it is. But even I, in my “stridency” did not dare give that simple, clear, basic reason, for in today’s relativistic world, where absolutely nothing is “absolute”, who is able to “hear” such a reason unless they already believe it? And so I presented other valid societal, democratic reasons. Shira feels I have spoken with too strident a voice, but when you’re up against a highly aggressive, well funded, well organized and thoroughly immoral phenomenon, perhaps stridency is in order.
    If I had to change anything in the article, I would perhaps have struck out the word “homosexuals” and replaced it with “homosexuality” . Every Jew is and remains a Jew, deserving of love, attention, empathy, assistance. As Beruria, the wife of the famed Talmudic scholar Rabbi Meir, said: Yitamu chata’im min ha’aretz – Let sins (not sinners) cease to be. But that being said….
    1) Homosexuality is a sin and an abomination (toeyva) and is forbidden in the Torah.
    2) A public flaunting of homosexuality in the streets of Jerusalem is a public challenge to G-d, Torah, holiness which we dare not ignore. The Torah clearly spells out a long list of forbidden sexual encounters – including homosexuality – and ends with the warning: Let not the Land vomit you out for having contaminated it, as it vomited out the nations that were before you. [Lev., 18, 28]
    3) The Gay Pride website states: “In these times of intolerance and suspicion, from the home of three of the world´s great religions, we will proclaim that love knows no borders.” No borders? Goodbye morality! Rome, Jerusalem and Mecca were chosen specifically for the honor of this proclamation. Last year, Rome “succumbed”. This year, Jerusalem, its Torah, its G-d, and its people, are on target. Next year…well, next year Mecca is on the agenda, but I wouldn’t count on that!

    This fight is not a vendetta against homosexuals; it is a battle for Torah against immorality. Everywhere – but especially in the Land of Israel and in the streets of Jerusalem. Every battle has varying strategies; every voice finds different listeners. I would like to see Schmidt add her own unique voice to the battle instead of settling for analytical responses to other presentations!
    Yaffa Ganz, Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh

  27. Perplexed says:

    Kol hakovod To Yaffa Ganz for speaking up against the Gay Parade and also due credit has to be given Rabbi Yehuda Levin for coming here to Israel to protest against the parade. I am amazed that nothing is being heard from most of the religous Knesset members. I wish I could do something to fight this I sent a fax to the Honorable Mayor of Jerusalem. I hope and pray that this event does not take place.

  28. HILLEL says:

    Anyone who has gone through sales training has learned that people fall into 4 basic categories, which are variations of the “technician” and the “sensitive.” The “technician is fact-oriented; the “sensitive” is people-oriented. You need a different approach for each of these types.

    But, even before that, you need a receptive audience. If they don’t WANT to hear what you have to say, because they are addicted to their behavior, it doen’t matter how good your presentation is.

    Personally, I don’t think the radical activists who have organized the mass desecration of Jerusalem are interested in your arguments, logical or otherwise.

    They want to change the facts on the ground by forcing religious Jews–in their holiest city–to accept the fact that they are legitimate. To this end, they have applied successfully to the Supreme Court of Israel for an endorsement of their activities, so now they have an official “Hechsher.”

  29. leonard oberstein says:

    Regarding the Gay Parade, all of your readers think it is wrong in Jerusalem of all places. This is an insult to the sensibilities of the vast majority of the residents of the Holy City. Howeveer, we need to follow sensible leadership in picking our tactics.
    I was listening to Arutz 7 news and they had a long interview witha Rabbi Levin who falsely identified himself as representing the Orthodox Union. He was nasty to all the gedolim, all the rabbonim and all the religious polticians. If we are to win the war, not just fight the battle, we must listen to those who have wisdom and discernment.
    What are they saying we should do?

  30. Steve Brizel says:

    R N Lamm wrote many years ago that we should be able to condemn the actions but not the actor in this arena. IOW, despite the fact that we condemn the “gay lifestyle”, Halacha would mandate that a frum doctor treat an AIDS patient, participate in research to find a cure for AIDS and provide someone who died from AIDS a taharah, hesped, levayah and kvurah as any other Jew-regardless of their moral caliber or lack thereof.

  31. Bob Miller says:

    Stand up for Judaism. No clever nuances about this offense to decency will sway anyone; at worst these can blur important distinctions and falsify the Torah. A straight story can command more respect.