What can you do for the LGBT Jew in your community?

A few days ago, as I was on my morning walk, I heard a car honk. I looked over, removed my head phones and saw a frum man roll down his car window. He yelled out, “There are people here who read your blog and support you!” One moment, one act of kindness, that meant so much to me.

But truth be told, reading my blog is just not enough. We need our fellow Jews to take action. We need you to fight for us, fight for frum LGBT Jews everywhere, fight for me and my family; because actions do speak louder than words. So what can you do? Write your rabbi, call your rabbi, organize a shul meeting, circulate a petition for inclusion, and push back against resistance by your shul board or rabbi. Please just do so with the utmost of respect. And I know that there are those reading this who may be angered by my words, but we live in a democratic country and your voice counts.

How do we know that? Just look at the political climate today. Amidst the madness of this current election season, people have been speaking out right and left, holding protests, voicing their opinions loudly and advocating for their positions. I ask that you do the same for us. Convince your board or rabbi that  you want to be part of a shul which believes in Ahavat Yisrael and Kvod Habriyot. Please do what you can to make that a reality. You just have to start somewhere. If not now, when?

Ask yourselves, how is it possible that in 2016 you would want to be part of a shul that discriminates against your child, your sister, your brother, your friend – your fellow Jew? But that is the case in many Modern Orthodox shuls across the world, who are learning of the LGBT community members in their midst. Why not make your shul a safe space for them? Shouldn’t a shul be a safe space to begin with? Shouldn’t every Jew feel welcome to come and pray to Hashem, listen to the Torah and be a part of a frum shul community, if it is the only Judaism they know?

Make your voice heard against those who believe that if one is an LGBT Jew, he or she must forego all else that comes with Orthodox Judaism. In essence, isn’t that what shuls tell us when they do not open their doors to us, or actually shut them in our faces? “You are not welcome here,” means we do not care if you go elsewhere, or keep shabbat or kashrut.

I recently read a Facebook post challenging the Israeli rabbinate’s position on the LGBT community. “I want to tell the rabbanut: You can’t make queer Jews straight, but you can make them secular.” Close your doors to us, and that is what will become of us. Can we as Jews, in this world of assimilation, afford to lose even one frum Jew? Can you really say that it is ok that our children leave frumkite with us? Are we really that expendable in your eyes, simply because we are different than you?

As I write these words, the Nine Days are upon us and we recall the destruction of Jerusalem and our Beit Hamikdash. Have we not learned the lessons of Sina’at Chinam, as we are scattered across the world and praying every day for our return to Israel and for peace in Jerusalem? Have we not lost enough already? I submit that we have, that we can change things from within, all we have to do is try.

If you are willing to make your shul a welcoming place for LGBT Jews who want to remain in the frum world, there are ways to go about it. Here are some suggestions and even some resources. Start with an open house for parents of LGBT children, and LGBT Jews to come and speak to your community. Putting a face on the gay, as they say, makes a huge difference. Invite rabbis, therapists and educators, who advocate for LGBT inclusion within the halachic world, to explain how they have grappled with this issue, and what they are doing to help the Modern Orthodox world become one of inclusion rather than exclusion.

Get in touch with Eshel — an organization dedicated to creating inclusive Orthodox communities. Get information on their “Welcoming Shuls Project.” Assist LGBT youth with finding a safe space by contacting JQY (Jewish Queer Youth), which has a drop in center in New York City. Get in touch with Keshet in the US and Keshet UK in England. Drop by Zion square in Jerusalem on Thursday nights and meet Sarah Weil, the founder of “Women’s Gathering” and a mover and shaker in Bat-Kol. Read blogs written by moms who have LGBT children, such as: Orthodox Mom of Gay Kid or The Story of a Birl.

Please just get informed. Help friends and family struggling with these issues find support, be there for them, build a better community, a better shul wherever you live. Don’t just sit there reading this blog. Do something!

About the Author
Shlomit is a career prosecutor -- one who believes in seeking justice for others. She holds a degree in Judaic Studies from Brooklyn College and a law degree from Hofstra (1998). She is a yeshiva high school graduate (Central/YUHSG,1988). Shlomit recently spoke on a panel at the RCA (Rabbinical Council of America) on the necessity for inclusion of the LGBT community in the Orthodox world and the impact that exclusion has caused to that community.
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