Rabbi in hot water over views on feminism & homosexuality

Rabbi in hot water over views on feminism & homosexuality June 19, 2017

Rabbi Joseph Dweck, above, senior rabbi of the Sephardi community in the UK, has stepped aside from the day-to-day activities of the Beth Din, or religious court, in an attempt to defuse the row that erupted after he gave a lecture in which he said:

The entire revolution of feminism and even homosexuality in our society … is a fantastic development for humanity.

Disagreement over the lecture has, according to the Guardian, led to an intervention by the chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, above, who said he was concerned about:

The public fallout from the dispute … which has been deeply divisive and damaging for our community.

In his 90-minute lecture given at a synagogue in Hendon, north London, Dweck emphasised that sexual intercourse between men was forbidden by the Torah but questioned attitudes towards gay people. There should not be witch-hunts, he said, adding there were:

Plenty of skeletons in everybody’s closet.

Ultra-Orthodox rabbis went into melt-down. Rabbi Aaron Bassous, above, the head of a Sephardi congregation in Golders Green, London, said the speech was:

False and misguided … corrupt from beginning to end.

He described Dweck as “dangerous” and “poisonous”.
Bassous said the London Beth Din should rule on Dweck’s views:

If, in their view, [Dweck] is not an Orthodox rabbi, doesn’t spout Orthodox views … his Orthodox hat should be removed from him.

He argued that Rabbi Dweck’s statement that male homosexuality had been happening throughout human history was false, saying it had

Only been part of depraved societies – ancient Greeks and the ancient Romans. I don’t want to go into too much detail about what sort of depraved debauchery, removed from any sense of humanity.

Dweck was also condemned by Shraga Feival Zimmerman, one of the British ultra-Orthodox community’s most influential figures. According to this report, he did not address Dweck’s comments on homosexuality but said in a message to fellow rabbis that Dweck:

Is not fit to serve as a rabbi.

Zimmerman also said that after listening to recordings of past Dweck lectures
It is clear he is not equipped to rule on halacha, due to his limited knowledge, weak halachic reasoning skills and lack of training.
Dweck, who grew up in Los Angeles, received rabbinic ordination from Ovadia Yosef, the late Sephardi chief rabbi of Israel.
Dweck claimed his words had been “misunderstood and misinterpreted”, adding:

Important subjects that trouble our people should not be used for political positioning.

He also said the word “fantastic” had been an exaggeration.
Sabah Zubaida, the President of the S&P Sephardi community, which comprises Jews of Spanish and Portuguese descent, said much of the criticism was:
Based on misunderstandings, some deliberate and some not.
More than 1,400 British Jews signed a petition supporting him.
Since the lecture, Dweck’s views and teachings on a range of issues have been called into question, with some critics saying he had abandoned orthodoxy for liberalism.
Some within the Orthodox movement fear he is the subject of a political vendetta, although others are genuinely concerned about his views. One source said:

This is not just about what he said regarding homosexuality – it’s much broader and more complex than that.

Although Dweck has stepped aside from a decision-making role at the Sephardic Beth Din, his role as leader of the community continues. A spokesperson for Mirvis said the chief rabbi was working closely with Dweck and the leadership of the Sephardi community to offer guidance.

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  • Vanity Unfair

    “Bassous…argued that Rabbi Dweck’s statement that male homosexuality had been happening throughout human history was false, saying it had ‘Only been part of depraved societies…'”
    Generally, societies only have prohibitory laws to cover existing behaviour.

  • CoastalMaineBird

    Exactly. Why did the Bible mention ‘lying with mankind as with a woman” unless it was happening already?

  • Paul

    So homosexuality came from depraved societies namely the Greeks and the Romans yes that must be true because a religious leader says it’s so. They’ve given the world just homosexuality ?! Umm – ok.
    So these depraved societies gave no logic, no reason, democracy, art, literature, no theology, universities, learnings, writing, no roads, no viaducts, no culture, science, medicine, sea travel, goods, services trade and new foodstuffs.
    I’m glad I’m depraved.

  • barriejohn

    Paul: Well said! You reminded me of one of my favourite poems there:

  • Angela_K

    A person with the reasonable suggestion of treating people equally is dangerous and poisonous; there we have the mind of religious extremists.
    @barriejohn. Thanks for reminding me of that poem. So few people realise Hardy was more prolific as a poet than a novelist.

  • barriejohn

    Angela: His books seem so depressing, but when you discover his poetry it’s as if a beam of sunlight shines upon the great man.
    Is there ANY item of headgear that the religious have not appropriated to themselves for no apparent reason? When I first saw that photo of Rabbi Dweck, I thought it was actually Simon Callow giving one of his famed Dickens lectures:
    (Sorry – couldn’t find one of him wearing a hat!)

  • remigius

    And what about David and Jonathan – weren’t they ‘acquainted’ with Dorothy. The Old Testament abounds with tales of them mincing round Judea, sipping cosmopolitans, and being really bitchy about Saul.
    “Oooh Goliath! Aren’t yooo a big boy!!!”

  • remigius

    ‘He also said the word “fantastic” had been an exaggeration.’
    I think he really meant ‘Fabulous’.

  • remigius

    ‘(Sorry – couldn’t find one of him wearing a hat!)’
    barriejohn, here’s one of Simon Callow playing the Victorian civil engineer Kenneth Branagh – ’tis a remarkable likeness.

  • StephenJP

    If that’s an orthodox hat, what would an unorthodox one look like? And what’s with the gown and bands? He looks like an Anglican bishop on his way to a Royal Garden Party.

  • Paul

    Thanks. I had not read that. A very clever piece.

  • Robster

    One of these weird, silly hatted blokes said of the “offending” rabbi: “Is not fit to serve as a rabbi”,That would be something to be proud of, I’d suggest.

  • 1859

    When we look back into the far, distant past of prehistory and examine archaeological artifacts and cave paintings from 30,000 + years ago ,there is ample proof that primitive societies experimented with same sex relationships. These rabbis and other ‘knowledgable’ religious talking heads, are practicing tunnel vision that begins and ends with their holy book. The evidence, however, outstrips anything their holy book dictates.

  • Paul

    Oh! he seems to be running two jobs !

  • remigius
  • barriejohn

    Remigius: That’s Isambard Kingdom Branagh. And didn’t he mean “fantabulosa”?
    PS You should have photoshopped the cigar from that pic!

  • remigius

    barriejohn. I am a huge fan of ol’ Isambard. He, and his family, are buried in the cemetery about a 2 minute walk from my house. Next to that is the Grand Union Canal (Paddington Branch).
    On the Grand Union, close to Hanwell Flight, is a unique structure – the Three Bridges. Here the Grand Union Canal passes over the Great Western Railway, and under the main road. It was Brunel’s last project. I’ll be taking my kayak down there again this weekend.

  • barriejohn

    I lived in Swindon (home of God’s Wonderful Railway) from the age of twelve until about ten years ago (when I was over sixty). Say no more!

  • remigius

    OK, back on topic. It appears that some members of the Sephardi Jewish community have set up another petition (though only 25 supporters at present) to oust the Radical Rabbi…
    They have listed 46 examples of where he goes against scripture – although I think he has a valid point. For instance at No. 24 he states ‘Same sex act is exactly the same driving a car on Shabbat’. I’ve driven a car in London on a Saturday, and it is a pain in the arse!
    (And I was relieved when I read No. 26 – I thought I was the only one!)

  • gedediah

    Ha ha they’re gonna take his orthodox hat.

  • Paul

    Thanks. My mentally challenged attempt failed / but you got what I was trying to post as an image!
    On IKB
    Apparently, at Box Tunnel outside Bath, on his birthday, the sun shines all the way through, you can see it illuminating the tunnel. It’s the only day that the sun does this.

  • remigius

    Paul, I’m sorry to ruin a good yarn, it is but an urban myth. The sun does shine through Box Tunnel – but on two days a year around the 6th of April and the 9th of September. (Adding/subtracting a day,or two, according to a leap year, and the time of the equinox).
    Brunel’s birthday is on 9th April. Close – but no cigar (which is what barriejohn wanted earlier!). However, Brunel’s sister, Emma, was born on 6th April – so she gets a birthday lightshow every couple of years.

  • John the Drunkard

    ‘Throughout human history?’
    How about BEFORE human history? The number of other species that show same-sex activity is pretty damn’ impressive.

  • 1859

    Same-sex activity, top hats, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, tunnels, cemetries, rabbis in Boxes in Bath…….I’m lost in the wilderness!!