As a rabbi, I don’t know whether to be ashamed, embarrassed or angry that some of my fellow teachers of Torah have begun encouraging prejudice and bigotry against the Jewish LGBTQI+ community and its allies.
Recently we saw seven Orthodox rabbis call for a boycott of JW3, accusing the cultural centre’s GayW3 week of “promoting behaviours condemned by the Torah”.
The first question to ask is why the storm is brewing now? After all, the festival in question ended some months ago to strong reviews from all parts of the Jewish community.
It’s an obvious cheap crack at publicity and not the first.
As a movement, Liberal Judaism considered not saying anything in response, much like we stayed silent on the Dweck affair. It’s your mess, your house, keep it clean.
However, when words hurt vulnerable Jews as they were here, we have a responsibility to forcefully defend human rights and equality. We are all created in God’s image.
Sadly, it appears extreme elements of the Orthodox community have become borderline obsessed with using passages from Leviticus in a way that is clear incitement to intolerance.
In Liberal Judaism, we want to move past archaic interpretations of often quite opaque verses in the Torah – which were most likely written in response to medieval pagan rituals and have very little relevance in today’s world. Instead, we believe in Progressive revelation of the Torah and the idea that the will of God is constantly unfolding in every age.
Wherever you place yourself on the wide and beautiful sexuality or gender spectrum, the only words you we need to worry about are Hillel’s: “That which is hateful unto you do not do to your neighbour. This is the whole of the Torah. The rest is commentary.”
Rabbi Charley Baginsky is Liberal Judaism’s director of strategy and communications