Sunday, June 23, 2024

Of Kleinbaums and Bricks

On left - Reconstructionist Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum (Forward)
I stand second to no one when it comes to respecting the dignity of the human spirit. The idea that man was created in the image of God means something to me. It is for that reasons that I do not judge people who are LGBTQ. I do not look down at them. They cannot help who they are attracted to or how they feel about the gender of the body they inhabit. My heart goes out to the suffering they must go through from people who persecute them. They do not deserve that. We are a people of kindness and mercy. It is in our genes. And it is immoral to in any way attack them even verbally.

This is not the first time I have expressed these views. Which I firmly believe are core values of the Torah. But as I have also said many times, understanding and expressing empathy for their gender identity or their same sex attraction does not mean endorsing a lifestyle that caters to their issues. Nor does it permit changing one’s sex in order to become the sex one identifies with. How they can function and lead happy lives is beyond the scope of this post. But they are certainly entitled to lead happy lives no less that those of us that do not have to face those issues.

To the extent that some of them may succumb to their desires does not mean they should be rejected. Not anymore than any non LGBTQ people that may succumb to other sinful desires should be. It is how we treat the sinful behavior that matters.

The Torah is my unalterable guideline for life. To the best of my ability. I try to follow its dictates. Although I sometimes fail, I realize I am failing. and do not try and whitewash behavior that is explicitly forbidden by the Torah.

This is where LGBTQ activism comes in. If it were only about understanding, compassion, and treating them with the human dignity thy deserve, I would be with them. But what has happened in this country (an in the entire civilized world) is LGBTQ lifestyles are being normalized with a passion by the newly progressively enlightened. 

To be LGBTQ today is to be completely normal. And as American as apple pie. When a man says he has a husband, no one blinks. When someone who was once a a man presents as a woman they are  celebrated  for their courage to live who they are.

The biblical values upon which American culture has was developed has been trashed in favor of a new morality of ‘if it feels good, do it. As long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else. Whether it damages the fabric of society as a whole is never given a thought. Why would it be? So what is the population decline is accelerated because of an increase in sex changes and gay marriages. So what it it bothers religious people? It’s none of their business anyway. 

As an observant Jew the most egregious aspect of this societal phenomenon is when there are Jewish clergy that promote normalizing LGBTQ lifestyles as a Jewish ideal. 

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum is a case in point. Although she became Orthodox while attending the Frisch, a Modern Orthodox high school she hardly absorbed all the values they taught. She is progressive (no surprise there), gay, and was ordained by the Reconstructionist movement. And became the rabbi of a synagogue that caters to Jewish LGBTQ people of all denomination. What shocked me, however, is the following as reported in the Forward: 

After meeting him in the back of a police van in Washington, when both were arrested in 2018 at a demonstration to support young immigrants, Kleinbaum hired a straight Haredi rabbi as the synagogue’s scholar in residence.

Rabbi Mike Moskowitz, who earned three Orthodox rabbinic ordinations at Jerusalem’s Mir yeshiva and at Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, New Jersey, has focused much of his writing and work on trans rights. At CBST, he counsels LGBTQ+ people coming from Orthodox homes and their families, who often struggle to embrace openly gay relatives. 

That a Charedi Rabbi with those kind of credentials is involved with a woman whose life work was to normalize LGBTQ lifestyles needs to be explained to me. I just don’t get it.

But it does show just how far askew America has gone form the biblical values upon which it was founded. As well as how far this mentality has infiltrated the Orthodox community. 

Orthodox Rabbi Shua Brick (Forward)
On the other hand there is Rabbi Shua Brick. He is a Musmach (ordainee) of Yeshiva University and the first openly gay rabbi of an Orthodox Shul. And he is someone that ought to be celebrated. 

Why, would I celebrate an openly gay Orthodox rabbi. Because as reported in another article in the Forward, he exemplifies the correct approach to this issue and is a role model for other LGBTQ Jews. Here is what I mean: 

Brick does not officiate at weddings or witness conversions, for fear their validity could be challenged in other Orthodox spaces. He said he has made those sacrifices to keep the peace.

He is also single, and declined to say whether he plans to date — or whether he thinks people can pursue same-sex relationships within the bounds of halacha. That silence may be helping him win — for now — tolerance among his colleagues.

After all, a 2022 white paper on welcoming queer Orthodox Jews begins its second paragraph, “Our starting point as Orthodox Jews is clear: Sexual relations between people of the same sex is forbidden.” 

We need more Jews with courage like his to come out and tell the truth about himself and what Judaism really says about LGBTQ issues. I have been trying to do that for years. But I am not gay and my voice in relatively tiny in comparison to the current progressive discourse on the subject dominating American culture. But when a gay person says it, it means a lot more.

Right now the Sharon Kleinabums of the world are winning the day. My hope is that somehow the Shua Bricks of the world will arise and impress upon our culture that the values of old are not to be discarded. 

Hats off to Rabbi Brick.