Did you hear what happened to Aryeh Ralbag, chief rabbi of Amsterdam? He was suspended from his post by his own Orthodox Jewish community “for cosigning a declaration which said homosexuality was a ‘treatable’ inclination.” Oh the crime!
The declaration, signed to date by 185 rabbis, community leaders, and mental health professionals, states that, “The Torah makes a clear statement that homosexuality is not an acceptable lifestyle or a genuine identity by severely prohibiting its conduct.” It also claims that, “Same-sex attractions can be modified and healed,” that “Behaviors are changeable,” that there is a “process of healing,” and that there is a Jewish commandment of “love and compassion.”
The end of the statement reads, “We need to do everything in our power to lovingly uplift struggling individuals towards a full and healthy life that is filled with love, joy and the wisdom of the Torah.”
Yet for signing this very kosher, Orthodox Jewish statement, the Orthodox Jewish community of Amsterdam suspended their chief rabbi.
They were concerned that, “Rabbi Ralbag’s signature may give the impression the Orthodox Jewish community of Amsterdam shares his view. This is absolutely untrue. Homosexuals are welcome at the Amsterdam Jewish community.” (Presumably this includes sexually active, out and proud, “Orthodox gays.”)
Rabbi Ralbag told The Jerusalem Post he found it “scandalous that a chief rabbi cannot state the Torah viewpoint for his community without being penalized.” And he described his suspension as “intolerant on the part of the Jewish community – it is to deny the community’s rabbi the right to express the halachic [Jewish legal] standpoint. This is unheard of.”
Apparently he was not aware that freedoms of religion and speech are frequently trumped by gay rights and perceived gay sensitivities, even in (or, especially in?) a “tolerant” country like the Netherlands. He has now learned that when it comes to gay issues, “tolerance” is a one-way street, and rather than being “unheard of,” such discriminatory acts are becoming more common, not to mention more egregious.
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.