North American Jewish Leaders Urge Adoption Rights for Same-sex Couples in Israel

'Israel and the Jewish people will be better off' if existing discriminatory practices are lifted, assert signatories of letter sent to Israeli ministers

An Israeli man waves a rainbow flag during a demonstration in Tel Aviv against an Israeli government ban on adoptions by same-sex couples, July 20, 2017.

Some 200 North American Jewish leaders and institutions sent a letter on Tuesday to Israeli government representatives, urging them to end discrimination against same-sex couples seeking to adopt children in the country.

“The role of the family in Israel, as in Jewish communities everywhere, is central to the continuity of the Jewish people,” they wrote. “The Israeli ministers defending adoption inequality are creating a ‘crisis of family.’

Last week, the state notified the High Court of Justice that it would not lift existing discriminatory practices against same-sex couples, on the grounds that such couples “load additional baggage” on their children. The state was responding to a petition submitted by the Association of Israeli Gay Fathers, demanding equal treatment in adoption.

The letter from the Jewish leaders and groups was sent to Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Social Affairs Minister Haim Katz, both of whom had signed off on the state’s response to the petition.

Among those who signed the letter – which was initiated by A Wider Bridge, a San Francisco-based organization that fosters ties between the American and Israeli LGBTQ communities – were Hillel International, the leaders of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Union of Reform Judaism, Jewish social justice organizations, Jewish Federations around the country, prominent philanthropies and dozens of Conservative and Reform rabbis and rabbinical students.

“No competent or credible scientific evidence exists that suggests children raised by same-sex families are any way worse off than children raised by heterosexual families,” they wrote. “On the contrary, study after study has shown that children raised by same-sex parents fare at least as well as children raised by mixed-gender parents.”

It is time, the signatories added, for the Israeli ministries that control of adoption policy “to acknowledge this reality, and to treat the country’s same-sex families and would-be parents with the equality they deserve. Israel and the Jewish people will be better off for it.”

Arthur Slepian, the executive director of A Wider Bridge, said this was first time that so many leaders of the North American Jewish community had made their voices heard on the issue of LGBT equality in Israel.

“It’s significant that, even at a time when the community is deeply engaged with Israel on the recent actions related to the Western Wall and conversion policy (two issues that have often stirred deep feelings in the North American community), it took the time to raise this issue as one of major significance,” he said in an email to Haaretz. “I think the letter reflects the extent to which LGBT equality has become a core issue for many (non-Orthodox) Jewish communities in America.”