A Philadelphia rabbi is feeling threatened by the recent “propaganda blitz” with regard to the “homosexual lifestyle” and has begun a bid to enshrine religious bigotry among fundamentalist Jews. According to the Huffington Post, Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky and friends are circulating a “Torah Declaration, Petition, re: The Torah Stance on Homosexuality” that calls repentance and reparative therapy the only options for homosexuals. He wants rabbis and mental-health professionals to sign it. (Good luck with that last one, Rabbi, since all major mental-health organizations have rejected reparative therapy for homosexuality.)
In the declaration we see the same tired old misinformation and fuzzy thinking, including the confusion of sexual orientation with sexual behavior as well as with gender identity; crocodile-tear calls for compassion; and platitudes.
We emphatically reject the notion that a homosexually inclined person cannot overcome his or her inclination and desire. Behaviors are changeable.
It requires tremendous bravery and fortitude for a person to confront and deal with same-sex attraction. For example a sixteen-year-old who is struggling with this issue may be confused and afraid and not know whom to speak to or what steps to take. We must create an atmosphere where this teenager (or anyone) can speak freely to a parent, rabbi, or mentor and be treated with love and compassion. Authority figures can then guide same-sex strugglers towards a path of healing and overcoming their inclinations.
The key point to remember is that these individuals are primarily innocent victims of childhood emotional wounds.
The only viable course of action that is consistent with the Torah is therapy and teshuvah. The therapy consists of reinforcing the natural gender-identity of the individual by helping him or her understand and repair the emotional wounds that led to its disorientation and weakening, thus enabling the resumption and completion of the individual’s emotional development. Teshuvah is a Torah-mandated, self-motivated process of turning away from any transgression or sin and returning to G-d and one’s spiritual essence. This includes refining and reintegrating the personality and allowing it to grow in a healthy and wholesome manner.
In their fear-based refusal to think outside their rigid interpretation of the Bible, homophobic ultra-Orthodox Jews are in between a rock and a hard place. They want to believe God is good. They want to believe the Torah prohibits homosexuality. So they are literally forced to believe, in the face of all reason and decency, that homosexuality is a choice:
The concept that G-d created a human being who is unable to find happiness in a loving relationship unless he violates a biblical prohibition is neither plausible nor acceptable. G-d is loving and merciful. Struggles, and yes, difficult struggles, along with healing and personal growth are part and parcel of this world. Impossible, life long, Torah prohibited situations with no achievable solutions are not.
Assuming that’s true, Rabbi, I suggest re-examining the “prohibited situations” part of your impasse rather than denying the “impossible” part and calling debunked quackery an “achievable solution.”
…The Torah does not forbid something which is impossible to avoid. Abandoning people to lifelong loneliness and despair by denying all hope of overcoming and healing their same-sex attraction is heartlessly cruel.
Heartlessly cruel, Rabbi? You’re projecting. Look in the mirror.
For those wishing to comment on this declaration, the email address it contains is TorahDec@gmail.com.