Jewish leaders are right to say there is far more that unites the Jewish people than divides us. Of course, there are things that do divide – but serious disagreements are few and far between. It has to be something seismically important for one element to issue what one Jewish News columnist this week calls ‘a fatwa.’
This is why it was so perplexing to hear that seven Orthodox rabbis have told their respective flocks to boycott JW3 because it had celebrated Jews who love people of their own sex, or who identify as being another sex. Like JW3, we take no sides in this. Still, it seems salient to make a few points.
First, JW3 is a cultural centre. Not a religious centre. Not a school. Not a place of worship. It is a building that hosts celebrations of Jewish culture, and LGBT+ Jews are as much a part of that great mosaic we call Anglo-Jewry as any other. To not celebrate LGBT+ Jews would be to censor on the whims of the righteous.
Second, showcasing Jews of different sexual stripes does not amount to “promoting” non-heterosexuality, as the rabbis seem to suggest. Showing that Jews differ in their sexual identification isn’t the same as recommending it.
Third, this one-way moral traffic is beginning to grate. Can you imagine gay Jews writing an open letter of disgust to JW3 for celebrating the religious life of the strictly-Orthodox on an anniversary of great importance? Can you imagine LGBT+ Jews boycotting the Finchley Road hub because “a red line had been crossed” following its “promotion” of a certain (strictly-Orthodox) lifestyle? We can’t. Just as we can’t imagine these seven rabbis telling Ofsted inspectors that they teach their children anything other than tolerance and respect for others.
Enough is enough. We’re a broad synagogue and JW3 celebrates all. Let’s leave the boycotting to politics, and welcome everyone.