In 2001, the documentary film “Trembling Before G-d” introduced the world to Orthodox Jews who struggle to reconcile their religion with their homosexuality. As a minority group that has long felt the sting of exclusion, the film gave this population a voice. In the ten years since, that voice has grown stronger. Numerous movies have been made and books written on the subject and more young Orthodox Jews have come out of the closet. Yeshiva University even hosted a panel discussion (attended by over 800 YU students) featuring gay Orthodox Jews discussing their homosexuality. Does this mean the Orthodox community is ready to accept and welcome gay Jews? Probably not. But writing in Slate, Steven Weiss suggests that young Orthodox Jews “are very much willing to rock the boat on gay inclusion.”
The event at YU and new films such as “Eyes Wide Open” (about a homosexual relationship within an ultra-Orthodox enclave in Israel) seems to demonstrate a newfound willingness to address the issue. There are still an overwhelming majority of detractors (many called the event at YU a Chillul Hashem, a desecration of G-d’s name), but Weiss points out that official acknowledgement of things like the YU panel “suggests a critical mass of Orthodox aren’t going to ignore the problem completely.”
Raising the profile of LGBT Orthodox Jews is a great way to help the organized Jewish community engage this population and better meet their needs. We know that promoting exclusive practices towards any segment of the Jewish community –LGBT, intermarried couples, mixed-heritage Jews, etc – is self-defeating. Judaism won’t survive by pushing people away. We need to focus on creating connections and opening doors for all those in our orbit.
There has been a lot of progress in the ten years since “Trembling Before G-d,” and we know there is still a long way to go. But we hope the growing number of advocates will lead to more extensive discussions on how to best welcome LGBT Jews into the Jewish community.
No comments yet.