America’s Orthodox Union has come down hard on New York’s liberal Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, ordering it to stop using its newsletter to congratulate same-sex couples who marry.
To its shame, the Orthodox Riverdale synagogue in the Bronx agreed to halt the practice due to “a barrage of complaints”.
The Orthodox Union, according to this report, is the largest association of Orthodox synagogues in the US and is opposed marriage equality.
The OU said in a statement:
It is the OU’s unequivocal position that support for, or celebration of, halachically [in accordance with Jewish law] proscribed conduct is fundamentally inappropriate. Accordingly, the institutional endorsement or encouragement of any conduct that is contrary to halacha is activity that no Orthodox synagogue should allow.
Same-sex marriage is prohibited in Orthodox Jewish law. However those of the liberal and reform denominations permit same-sex marriage, taking a more open-minded approach.
The Hebrew Institute of Riverdale is well-known for its forward-thinking and liberal approach to the inclusion of women and LGBT Jews into its congregation, and has been described as:
A leader in pushing the bounds of traditional Jewish law.
Last year it hosted a panel named “Building a Jewish Future Outside the Closet”.
Avi Weiss, the founding rabbi of the synagogue, signed a statement of principles by Orthodox leaders in 2010 that stated there was a need:
To treat human beings with same-sex attractions and orientations with dignity and respect.
While the synagogue does not conduct same-sex weddings, it began including “mazel-tov” announcements in its newsletter congratulating gay couple who marry.
Mordechai Levovitz, Executive Director of Jewish Queer Youth, above centre, said:
The Hebrew Institute of Riverdale is a wonderful shul and it treats its LGBT people wonderfully. It’s the OU that’s making a big deal out of this. It’s the OU that’s deciding to focus on congratulatory wording and not on children and teens who are physically and mentally at risk.
Jewish Queer Youth is an organisation that seeks to empower and support Orthodox teenagers who often feel alone or isolated, according to their website. Levovitz added that the OU policy will only inflict further damage on this vulnerable group.
In 2015 JQY members successfully sued JONAH (the Orthodox conversion therapy organisation) for consumer fraud and won a landmark court case, potentially making all gay conversion therapy illegal under New Jersey state consumer fraud law.