My Two Shekels: Was Orlando the right time for the Chief to air his views on gay Jews?

My Two Shekels: Was Orlando the right time for the Chief to air his views on gay Jews?

Paul Bloomfield reflects on the Chief Rabbi's response to the Orlando Shootings

Atrocities like the Orlando attack have been happening for generations. But in a world of social media, cheap travel and globalised communities, they now bring devastation into one’s own back yard.

Instead of affecting random people in faraway lands, many of us in the LGBTQI+ community knew someone who lost their life or was injured or present at Pulse on that terrible night
If we didn’t, we probably know someone who did. Regardless, we were profoundly affected.

The world has cried out and, as a British gay man who remembers the nail bomb on Old Compton Street in 1999, I have noticed how society has moved forward.

Back then, the event was met with fear and not reported with nearly as much sympathy. There were no vigils across the globe and not every nation’s leader spoke out in horror.

Fewer people may have died, but the intent was the same – to maim and kill innocent people solely because of their sexuality.

Having grown up within an Orthodox tradition, although now a member of the Liberal movement, I was glad to read Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis speak out against the violence in Orlando and homophobia in general.

At the same time, however, like many LGBTQI+ Jews, I was confused at his need to point out the Torah’s “clear, well-known position on acts of homosexual intimacy”.

It’s great that you condemn mass murder, but I have to ask the Chief Rabbi if this was really the time to discuss your Toraic interpretations on ‘the gay issue’?

This point of view makes it difficult to feel that the United Synagogue wants “a welcoming environment for all Jews, regardless of their level of religious observance, ethnicity or sexuality”.

As I wrote this, I happened to be in Tel Aviv and stumbled across a gay bar called Evita, which was holding a ceremony in honour of those who fell at the club in Florida.

It was a small gathering of men and women, gay and straight, Orthodox, Progressive and secular, Jewish and non-Jewish.

This was not a large vigil in the street where thousands left candles, but a small group who sat and listened to speakers and singers and stood in silence, thinking about those who had lost their lives and the families who grieved.

I just hope that during these dark times, the families of those who were killed in the attack can find some kind of comfort in these thousands of small gatherings, where people show their kindness and support in the only way they can.

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