Enough is Enough  

Posted by inkstainedhands in , , ,

The Jewish Press ran a piece by Elliot Resnick in their June 17th issue in which the author accused gay Jews of being "self-indulgent" and "shameless" for being openly homosexual, referring to the "It Gets Better" video on YouTube that was put together by a group of gay Jews. One of those gay Jews, as Resnick discovered, was a former camper of his, whom he nicknamed "Dovid." The full article can be read here.

In his article, Resnick rhetorically asks, "Why must you publicize your orientation for the whole world to know?" He is insinuating that it would be preferable for gay Jews to keep their sexual orientation a shameful secret rather than remove the miserable shackles of remaining in the closet. The logic here, I'm sure, is lost on Resnick because if he believes that one's sexual orientation isn't something that the world should know, how would he apply that to heterosexual Jews? He says, "Don't tens of thousands of Orthodox teenagers and young adults - to say nothing of older men and women who never married - struggle silently with their attraction to the opposite sex?" But how is that comparable? He is comparing a gay Jew who would keep his sexual orientation a secret to heterosexual Jews who do not talk about their struggles being celibate. But there is a major difference. First of all, heterosexual Jews are not made to feel ashamed of having feelings for the opposite sex. Nobody would chastise a heterosexual Jew for revealing that he/she is attracted to someone, or to a certain type of person, whereas Resnick believes that gay Jews should automatically just not talk about their attractions. Resnick fails to draw the line between attraction and sexual activity. Heterosexual Jews are not keeping it a secret that they are attracted to the opposite sex; why should gay Jews? Last time I checked, it is not a sin to be attracted to someone. It is also not a sin to discuss one's struggles. Why does Resnick think then that gay Jews should be shamed into silence?

And as a reader commenting under the nickname "Another Frum Gay Jew" pointed out, "It is not comparable to the heterosexual attempting to be celibate, because while that may be physically just as difficult- emotionally it's a whole different ballgame- with rejection from the family and the community, and keeping a secret that they can never discuss, feeling like they never fit in because all their friends are talking about marriage and women and who they are and are not attracted to- and the homosexual either has to say quiet, or worse, lie, for their entire lives."

Resnick's approach doesn't solve any problems; it only creates them. It creates an atmosphere of shame and suffering for gay Jews and it makes them feel unwelcome in the Orthodox community, even if they are committed to Judaism. Resnick asks about gay Jews, "Why can't they struggle silently and heroically as do so many others?" But I have a better question. Why should they? The "It Gets Better" video that Resnick was reacting to was done as a response to the bullying and the suffering that gay Jews have experienced. It was a message to other gay Jews that they do not have to despair or take desperate measures as so many others have done. As another reader explained about the video, "There was no mention of sex, or even dating -- no indulgences of any kind. The problem is not struggling with sexual attraction, but rather harassment, discrimination, violence, contempt, condemnation and ridicule and consequent fears of disappointing themselves, their friends, their families and G-d." And yet Resnick wants gay Jews to remain silent. Does he not realize that silence can mean more suffering and even death?

Resnick goes even further by making the following accusation: "But many Orthodox homosexuals seem uninterested in attaining spiritual greatness or in struggling with their feelings like so many of their brethren." He has no idea what gay Orthodox Jews have to go through on a daily basis, and yet he has no problem accusing them of being "uninterested in attaining spiritual greatness"? I know gay Jews who are committed to the Torah and work as hard as they can to reach greater spiritual heights. Why does Resnick assume that one's sexual orientation determines one's spirituality and that if an individual is open about his/her sexual orientation then they are uninterested in growing spiritually? It is an illogical and hateful accusation.

Resnick ends the article by labeling "Dovid" as having "descended down the wrong path" and calling for the community to prevent other individuals from doing the same. The wrong path? If Resnick is referring to the fact that Dovid openly acknowledges that he is gay, then accusing him of going down the wrong path is ridiculous, which should be clear without explaining.

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Shortly after the article came out in The Jewish Press, "Dovid" published a response on FailedMessiah.com under his real name, Chaim Levin. In his response, Chaim addresses the issues raised in Resnick's article and sends a message of hope to other gay Jews who are struggling within their communities. Please read what he has to say here.

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There is so much left to say about this topic (in future blog posts), but for now I will end off by reminding that not a single one of us is perfect or keeps every commandment of the Torah as we should. We all have areas in which we slip and fall, which we find difficult to keep. I know I do. Instead of going around and judging other people for their sexual orientation (which is not a sin in and of itself), we should focus on improving ourselves and doing what we can to be better Jews. Being hateful towards people who are suffering in the Jewish community is not the answer. Making our communities places where gay Jews can feel safe and comfortable is, however, a step in the right direction.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 29, 2011 at Wednesday, June 29, 2011 and is filed under , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

7 comments

Anonymous  

To quote a rabbi, "Gay feelings are not prohibited by the Torah. Gay sex is. Therefore, if a person is gay, and he remains celibate because the Torah prohibits him to do otherwise, he is considered a tzadik and a hero. If he sins, then he has sinned, but I would never judge such a person as being bad or even weak, because considering the expectation - celibacy - it is extremely difficult for him to succeed.

However, what definitely IS outrageous is for gay people to flaunt their gayness by publicly being a "couple" with another man, and similar things. If a person cannot control his temptations we do not judge him, but that he should be proud of his sins -- that is an outrage and may not be tolerated. According to the Torah gay sex is a very wrong act. We hate the sin, not the sinner; but once someone - be he gay or straight or in between - removes from a sin its status as a sin and tries to pass it off as something acceptable -- that we cannot allow."

June 30, 2011 at 3:04 PM
Sofia  

Anonymous put it just right. Sin is not something to be proud of. If you can't help yourself, at least don't go around pretending that what's wrong is right.
Political correctness is not a virtue.

June 30, 2011 at 5:16 PM

What is being discussed isn't sin though. It is one's sexual orientation, not whether or not one acts upon it. The issue here isn't actual sexual activity, so it is not a question of right or wrong. As Anonymous mentioned, "gay feelings are not prohibited by the Torah."

This is also not about being politically correct. It's about treating others as human beings and treating people the same regardless of their sexual orientation.

June 30, 2011 at 6:19 PM
Anonymous  

While feeling and attractions may not be prohibited, when they are directed toward forbidden relationships, they must be shameful for a religious person even if it's not a matter of choice. Would not one be terribly ashamed if he had an attraction to say, an animal? Yet Chaim Levin said he is talking about himself publicly “with zero shame”.

Also, let’s not be naïve: it’s not about merely an “orientation”. The same Levin wrote: “when I tell someone that I am gay, I am NOT telling them about what I do privately behind closed doors”. Is not this an admission of actual engaging in what is branded by the Torah as abomination? If it was just about feelings, he could explicitly state he did not sin. Those who call themselves gay orthodox and who insist it is not a sin to be a gay, somehow fall short of saying they do not engage or committed to not engage in the sinful act.

July 10, 2011 at 2:44 AM
Anonymous  

Inkie, this is kind of out of left field, but my bestie wants to befriend a gay Jewish guy around our age. She wants to avoid girlish cattiness and romance, and actually took my suggestion of the gay guy seriously

<3,

Annie

July 15, 2011 at 2:55 AM

I think what this rabbi meant was not to flaunt sin, like sure, people may slip when it comes to shomer negiah, but to post a picture of you with your arms around someone of the opposite sex on FB for all to see is another matter entirely. And yes, this rabbi takes it too far, though I think one can reasonably infer that he's thinking of the slippery slope, that once they're talking about their attraction toward their own sex in public, they may discuss forbidden acts they've done/are doing as well.

April 5, 2013 at 1:31 AM

Oh, and other thing, it could easily be looked at, in a religious perspective, as discussing gay desires in public the equivalent to discussing desires for a friend's wife in public.

April 5, 2013 at 1:34 AM

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