Over a hundred Orthodox Jewish rabbis have signed a statement calling on Orthodox Jews to accept “active homosexuals” and their children as full members of their faith communities.

The statement, written by an influential group of American rabbis, has mostly been signed by rabbis from North American Orthodox communities, but a significant number of Israeli rabbis have also signed.

“Jews with homosexual orientations or same sex-attractions should be welcomed as full members of the synagogue and school community,” the statement reads.

“They should participate and count ritually, be eligible for ritual synagogue honours, and generally be treated in the same fashion and under the same [religious legal] framework as any other member of the synagogue they join.

“Communities should display sensitivity, acceptance and full embrace of the adopted or biological children of homosexually active Jews … and we encourage parents and family of homosexually partnered Jews to make every effort to maintain harmonious family relations and connections.”

The statement also counsels against gay Jews being pushed into heterosexual marriages or so-called conversion therapies.

“Jews who have an exclusively homosexual orientation should, under most circumstances, not be encouraged to marry someone of the other gender, as this can lead to great tragedy, unrequited love, shame, dishonesty and ruined lives … We affirm the religious right of those with a homosexual orientation to reject therapeutic approaches they reasonably see as useless or dangerous.”

The statement notes that religious laws prohibit homosexual acts, not homosexual attraction, and calls on sexually active homosexuals to fulfil religious commandments to the best of their ability.

Coordinator of Aleph, Melbourne’s GLBT Jewish group, Michael Barnett told Southern Star he welcomed any discussion that increased the acceptance of GLBT people in society.

“This document gives a visibility to the issue of same-sex attraction to a degree that has never previously existed with the Orthodox Jewish world,” Barnett said.

“I feel this document will build a momentum in the Orthodox Jewish world that will be hard to escape. With respected rabbis ratifying the document it will be hard to ignore and will carry an authority with it.”

However, Barnett said he was concerned that language used in the statement showed a lack of understanding of GLBT issues, particularly the statement: “homosexual orientation may greatly increase the risk of suicide among teenagers”.
“Homosexual orientation does not increase risk of suicide — it is the intolerance and lack of acceptance of people with a homosexual orientation that elevates the risk of suicide,” he said.

Barnett encouraged Orthodox communities to engage with the GLBT community and mental health experts to gain a better understanding of the issue.

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