In an effort to make sure that all Orthodox Jews fulfill the Biblical commandment to have children, gay Jewish organization Kamoha and Rabbi Arele Harel of Israel’s West Bank now run a matchmaking service to help gay and lesbian Jews marry–each other. The rabbi tells the folks he’s been setting up that they will learn to love each other once the children arrive. And how are the happy couples doing? None would talk to the media, apparently. But one guy trying the service told the AP he might talk to his future wife about continuing to date men. According to the rabbi, this is okay:
Harel said as long as both parties are aware the other is dating, it would not be adultery in such a union. He said the same would not be true for a straight couple because they are sexually compatible* and have no reason to look elsewhere. Jewish law forbids adultery.
Interestingly, the rabbi’s plan is being criticized by other rabbis because he isn’t encouraging gays and lesbians to change their sexual orientations. Kamoha’s website almost but doesn’t quite take a stand on that strategy:
In order to prevent a situation in which after several years of marriage, one of a couple’s spouses goes through a change in sexual orientation…(those) suitable for this project are those who are not in the process of trying out a new sexual orientation, but rather for those who have accepted themselves as being gay or lesbian….We assist couples, whose desire it is to establish a family, and who have already accepted the fact that they will never be able to alter their orientations. (emphasis in original text)
Not only is a same-sex wedding impossible in Israel, but so are civil weddings. The theocratic Israeli law in this regard requires that all weddings involving Jews be signed off on by Orthodox leaders, so many Israelis go to Cyprus or elsewhere to tie the knot. There are few options for gay couples wanting to raise children, though some, presumably non-Orthodox, choose surrogacy or adoption of a partner’s child.
The kludgy Kamoha-Harel response to the inconvenient truth of Orthodox homosexuality reminds me of the eruv, a ceremonial fence usually consisting of a wire strung between telephone poles that allows observant Orthodox Jews to carry things on their person on Shabbat. By making a public space ritually private, the eruv attempts to reconcile the religious illegality of carrying things in public on Shabbat with the fact that people need to be able to push baby carriages and carry house keys if they want to step outside their homes on Friday nights and Saturdays. There are some social upsides to the eruv–for one thing, it can render a neighborhood cozy when one’s social group has moved to homes inside the boundary–but it can also lead to ridiculous situations, as when people won’t step past it to finish walking home a friend who doesn’t live within it, since completing the stroll would require them to leave their carried belongings. To people with this cast of mind, ditching someone at the boundary is the lesser of two evils, just as to Harel it’s apparently better to commit to a passionless marriage as long as you do as the Torah commands and create children. I wonder how he reconciles this with onah, the Jewish law that requires a husband to sexually satisfy his wife?
* Which would mean this rabbi assumes any straight man and any straight woman are sexually compatible solely by dint of their straightness–a view of human sexuality that’s inaccurate at best. According to the AP, Harel also believes some gays and lesbians can change their sexual orientations.