by Ursula Hay
The Manchester Group looked forward last month to a talk entitled ‘Gayness in God’, because it was given by David, an orthodox Jew; and we were not disappointed. The speaker began by pointing out that there were differences of approach within Judaism towards homosexuality, as among Christians. The synagogues in the Liberal and Reformed Tradition (who differ also from others by having women as Rabbis) by and large saw no problem. The well known gay Rabbi, Lionel Blue, was from the Liberal tradition, but another Rabbi, David Sedley, had been forced to resign from and Orthodox synagogue, for his sympathetic attitude and the Chief Rabbi had been condemnatory.
As the speaker came from the traditional Orthodox grouping of synagogues (the largest group in the UK) he had found his position difficult. First of all there was the pressure put upon him to marry, for many from the Orthodox wing felt it their duty to have large families so as to reverse the decimation of the Jewish population by the holocaust. Second, there was the fundamentalist interpretation of scripture which saw homosexuality as demeaning to man. But his personal experience had been one of acceptance by family and conviction that he was being true to his nature as God willed.
The speaker concluded with a description of the situation in the modern state of Israel, where the law did not discriminate against homosexuality. Socially, Jerusalem was still conservative in its attitude, but Tel Aviv was liberal and supportive of an ‘open house’ for gays in the main thoroughfare of the city, which has been very welcoming.