U.S. Orthodox Rabbis Urge Community to Accept Gays and Lesbians

Statement of principles issued by rabbis and educators says 'heterosexual marriage is sole legitimate outlet for human sexual expression' but calls for acceptance.

Dozens of Orthodox rabbis and educators have signed what they call a "statement of principles" regarding the acceptance of gays and lesbians within the Orthodox community.

Marchers in Tel Aviv's gay pride parade, June 11, 2010
Moti Kimche

The statement, initially drafted by Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot, was prepared over the last months and can be read in full here.

"Jews with homosexual orientations or same sex-attractions should be welcomed as full members of the synagogue and school community," reads the statement, which goes on to say that Jewish law "sees heterosexual marriage as the ideal model and sole legitimate outlet for human sexual expression. The sensitivity and understanding we properly express for human beings with other sexual orientations does not diminish our commitment to that principle."

The rabbis and educators go on to say that "Embarrassing, harassing or demeaning someone with a homosexual orientation or same-sex attraction is a violation of Torah prohibitions that embody the deepest values of Judaism."

The question or cause of one's sexual orientation is irrelevant "to our obligation to treat human beings with same-sex attractions and orientations with dignity and respect," the signatories said.

The rabbis and educators go on to say they affirm the religious right of gays and lesbians to reject "therapies" intended to change their sexual orientation. Moreover, they say, rabbis and Jewish community leaders must be empathetic to the suffering Orthodox gays and lesbians endure.

And while Jewish law cannot "give its blessing and imprimatur to Jewish religious same-sex commitment ceremonies and weddings," their communities should "display sensitivity, acceptance and full embrace of the adopted or biological children of homosexually active Jews in the synagogue and school setting," the statement said.