The toxic book of Leviticus, the Old Testament’s principal source of homophobia, appears to have been kicked into the long grass by Britain’s Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, who has just published a guidebook for Orthodox Jewish schools to help them provide support for LGBT+ students.
In The Wellbeing of LGBT+ Pupils: a Guide for Orthodox Jewish Schools, the rabbi writes:
We are, of course, aware of the Torah’s issurim (prohibitions) here, including Vayikra/Leviticus 18:22, but when homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying is carried out with “justifications” from Jewish texts, a major chilul Hashem (desecration of God’s name) is caused. We must be ever-mindful of the mitzvato “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Vayikra/Leviticus 19:18), considered by Rabbi Akiva to be the most important principle of the Torah.
The 36-page booklet, which calls for a zero-tolerance approach to bullying, was produced with input from LGBT Jews and the support of KeshetUK, an organisation promoting equality for LGBT members of the Jewish community.
Mirvis said in an op-ed published in the Jewish Chronicle:
Young LGBT+ people in the Jewish community often express feelings of deep isolation, loneliness and a sense that they can never be themselves. Many are living with the fear that if they share their struggles with anyone they will be expelled, ridiculed and even rejected by family and friends. They may even be struggling with a loss of emunah (faith, trust in God) and the fear of losing their place of acceptance and belonging in the Jewish community.
I hope that this document will set a precedent for genuine respect, borne out of love for all people across the Jewish world and mindful of the fact that every person is created betzelem Elokim, in the image of God.
There are many others who endure deep unhappiness and distress due to the mistreatment and hurt they experience. Young LGBT+ people are particularly vulnerable to bullying and harm, as are children of LGBT+ parents.
Mirvis’s booklet will have around 200 Israeli rabbis spitting tacks.
These rabbis recently signed a document that described gay people as perverts who are striving to destroy the notion of family, and also urged the Israeli government to reverse recent legislation that excluded unmarried men from the right to father a child via surrogacy.
They were responding to criticism of Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Aryeh Stern, above, who had said homosexuals were “forbidden” and the children they raised had “very strange and unnatural lives.” The rabbis also accused LGBT rights groups of:
Aggressive terror accompanied by nonstop media brainwashing…[that] destroy the notion of a family and turn the perverts into heroes.
On the other hand, Mirvis will be applauded by some 600 American and Canadian rabbis from across the spectrum of Judaism who have called on the bigots to retract their hateful document.
They said in a letter:
The enshrining of discrimination into law, and harmful words spoken by religious leaders, sow the seeds of hatred and brutality in the land, and put vulnerable members of Israeli society at risk of violence and worse.