Honor, not ban, same-sex unions


To the editor:

(re: “Hebrew Institute instructed to cool it on same-sex unions,” Jan. 4)

To begin, I write this as a Jewish woman.

I read the article about the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, a Jewish Modern Orthodox synagogue, having to change a progressive policy of theirs which welcomes lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender people to their place of worship. While HIR cannot perform same-sex marriages because they are not condoned by Modern Jewish Orthodoxy, congratulations have always been given to LGBT people who have married — both acknowledged in the synagogue’s newsletter, and with personal congratulations.

The Press article states that HIR “has long been known to follow its own path” within the confines of traditional Jewish law, including its policy and practice concerning LGBT Jews. Now an edict has come down from the Orthodox Union, which is the largest association of Orthodox synagogues in America, saying HIR must now not announce same-sex marriages in their newsletter, or offer such congratulations in public.

Your article says HIR will still include LGBT people in their congregation. But how? Will they be treated as second-class citizens who are relegated to the “marriage closet,” not receiving public acknowledgement of their commitment and their love?

HIR has been known to embrace social justice issues. My question is this: How does an institution, or an individual person (rabbis included) stand up to policies that they know are unjust? Will HIR honor this edict, which does not say LGBT people shouldn’t be allowed into the synagogue, but does say that once allowed in, LGBT people cannot engage in the celebration of their marriage just like other Jews do at HIR?

How will this play out regarding fairness, decency and support of all members of the congregation?

Many LGBT Jewish youth contemplate suicide because of the internal conflict of who they are and their treatment by society. I agree with Mr. Mordechai Levovitz, executive director of Jewish Queer Youth, when he “cautioned against an unyielding commitment to laws without considering their impact on people.” 

There is some comparison here with how Jews were slowly and then devastatingly shut out of full participation in other societies throughout history. 

How can we, as Jews, repeat this error?

I strongly urge HIR to consider not following this new rule. It just isn’t right.

Ariana Holback

Ariana Holback,