It’s really disheartening to hear of all the negative energy sent in Rabbi Dweck’s direction. As a man of deep integrity and wisdom, it is clear from all of his teachings that he understands the fragility of the human condition and is keen to find ways for people to embrace the love of Torah.
Having spoken to him directly on issues concerning LGBT+ members of the Jewish community here in London, it is abundantly clear to me that Rabbi Dweck is perplexed by the disproportionate actions taken by members of the community to denigrate its LGBT+ members, purportedly in the name of Halachah.
When setting the parameters of his shiur, Rabbi Dweck openly stated that this will be an uncomfortable discussion for many, yet showed great courage in taking such a proactive position. One can hear from the passion in his delivery that he has spent much time exploring these issues and he appears incumbent to share his comprehension. If more people had spoken up like him when I was a youngster, my journey could have been very different – particularly my time with B’nei Akiva.
KeshetUK is the charity striving to ensure that LGBT+ people and their families are present, safe and able to participate fully in Jewish life. Through our work with synagogues, schools, youth movements, university campuses and other community organisations, we know that the silence and passive ignorance of bystanders is both isolating, damaging and a major cause of self-harm.
Whilst it’s beyond KeshetUK’s role to determine Halachah, debating its nuance and seeking ways to navigate such deeply personal issues is exactly the role of courageous people like Rabbi Dweck. He reiterated that the Torah prohibits just one physical act of penetration between two men and confirms its categorisation of this as a ‘toevah’.
Translating ‘toevah’ presents its own challenges. Although often defined as an ‘abomination’, there are several other translations offered. Alternatives include ‘unwelcomed, repellent, off the path or taboo’ and these would inherently soften the rejection encountered by our LGBT+ people and their families. He was also keen to point out that violation of this transgression is equitable to any other ‘toevah’ in the Torah, such as the consumption of shellfish or committing fraud and therefore treating them differently is illegitimate. He highlighted that everyone sins and if we extend the same unwavering rigidity to every micro detail of all of our personal lives, we would end up rejecting the majority of our committed community members.
Rabbi Dweck wants our Jewish community to be a warm caring place with acts of loving-kindness interwoven throughout. He aspires to keep people within the community, being the best, authentic selves. Surely those who do not agree with all of his views must recognise that they come from a place of love?
Despite issuing clarifying statements on some of his more contentious points, his vilification continued to increase, both here and abroad. The real abomination I see here is the abhorrent vitriol and horrific character assassinations of Rabbi Dweck from others who really should know better than facilitate and encourage such brazen acts of hate speech.
I hope this whole sorry incident does not prevent Rabbi Dweck from continuing to engage many people with his inspiration, passion and wisdom for many years to come, for that would be a colossal loss to our community.