Every individual is created in God’s image and demands full dignity and respect. And yet, so often, our actions or inactions marginalize, exclude, and push away others. This is particularly true in the case of the LGBTQ+ members of our community. Jews who identify as LGBTQ+ get repeated signals, both implicit and explicit, that they are not wanted in the Orthodox community.
This is intolerable and must change.
Our LGBTQ+ Community Initiatives Project
We at Chovevei Torah have a heightened responsibility to address this urgent issue. Our rabbis are regularly fielding pastoral, communal, and halakhic questions from their community’s gay, trans, and queer members and turning to us for guidance and support. And as an institution, we have had our own challenges in this area and the need to do better pushes us forward in this work.
It is for this reason that in September 2022, YCT launched its LGBTQ+ Community Initiatives project. This project focuses on three areas:
- Running programs and panels in partnering communities to help them become more aware of and sensitive to its LGBTQ+ members and their lived realities;
- Teaching Torah and developing resources for rabbis and their communities, including guidance from Jewish leaders who have made meaningful steps forward;
- Advancing the state of the halakhic discourse in these matters.
David Pernick serves as Director of LGBTQ+ Community Initiatives and oversees and drives these efforts.
To support these efforts, get involved, or find out more, please email David Pernick at firstname.lastname@example.org.
OrganizationsEshel – www.eshelonline.org LGBTQ Chabad – facebook.com/lgbtqchabad/ JQY – www.jqyouth.org Sephardic Mizrahi Q Network – www.smqn.org/ Kesher Families – www.kesherfamilies.org Havruta – havruta.org.il (Hebrew) The Trevor Project – www.thetrevorproject.org
Bat Kol – www.bat-kol.org (Hebrew)
Shoval – www.shovalgroup.org (Hebrew)
Comprehensive list, national and international – https://www.jqyouth.org/lgbtq-jewish-orgs/
- Eshel – www.eshelonline.org – Eshel’s mission is to create a future for Orthodox lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals, and their families. Through its innovative and culturally sensitive programming, Eshel works with each individual, family, and community in creating a place for their LGBTQ members. Eshel envisions a world where Orthodox LGBTQ individuals can live out their lives in the Orthodox communities of their choice.
- JQY – www.jqyouth.org – JQY (Jewish Queer Youth) is a nonprofit organization that supports and empowers LGBTQ Jewish youth with a special focus on teens and young adults from Orthodox, Chassidic, and Sephardi/Mizrahi communities. JQY fights to ensure the emotional and physical health and safety of this population. Their goal is for all these individuals to know: You are a valued member of the Jewish community and you are not alone.
- LGBTQ Chabad – www.facebook.com/lgbtqchabad – A FB page for awareness and conversations about LGBTQ people coming from Chabad (not affiliated with the Chabad Lubavitch movement.)
- Sephardic Mizrahi Q Network – www.smqn.org – an innovative grassroots movement that is committed to building a vibrant, enriching, and supportive community for an often-overlooked segment of the Jewish world: LGBTQ+ Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews.
- Kesher Families – www.kesherfamilies.org – Kesher’s goal is to help families stay connected to each other – parent to child, sibling to sibling, and grandparent to grandchild – by providing support and guidance for family members of individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ in the Orthodox Jewish community
- Havruta – havruta.org.il (Hebrew) – Serving Orthodox and traditional LGBTQ Jews in Israel.
- The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25. Trevor Helpline: 1-866-488-7386
- Bat Kol – www.bat-kol.org (Hebrew) – Bat Kol’s mission is to maintain a supportive home and a framework of mutual responsibility for religious gay women and their family members, and to promote education for tolerance and acceptance of difference in Israel with the aim of enabling religious gay women and their family members a life of partnership and equality in the Torah-observant society in Israel.
- Shoval – www.shovalgroup.org (Hebrew) – Shoval’s mission is to create a dialogue, raise awareness, and foster face-to-face encounters within the religious community in Israel with the goal that religious LGBT youth will feel that their school, community and home are places that embrace and accept them and that they will not have to choose between their sexual and gender identity and their religious faith. Shoval (Hebrew for “That He created everything for His glory”) seeks not to change the Halacha, but to take down the walls and prejudices between Israeli religious society and LGBT people and to provide tools to deal sensitively with those youth who need, above all, emotional support and acceptance.
- Comprehensive list, national and international – www.jqyouth.org/lgbtq-jewish-orgs
Schools & Shuls
- Torah Article: Finding a Home in Our Midst: Engaging & Welcoming Gay and Lesbian Jews Within the Orthodox Community. -Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander
- The Wellbeing of LGBT+ Pupils: A Guide for Orthodox Jewish Schools – Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, produced with LGBT+ Jews, Sept. 2018
- “Shul Policy on Keeping Families Whole” -Congregation B’nai David-Judea, Los Angeles, CA.
- The Eshel Pledge – www.eshelonline.org/pledge-old
- Article: School makes LGBT inclusion official policy, hoping to set an example for Modern Orthodox schools
Torah Resources – Gay Jews
- Torah Article: It is Not Permissible to Decree a Life of Loneliness on a Person –Rav Benny Lau, 2015
- Teshuvah: Single Women and Pru U’rvu –Rav David Bigman, 2018
- Teshuvah: May a Mother Make the Brakha of Li’hakhniso at Her Son’s Bris –Rabbi Dov Linzer, 2021
- Essay: Except for One Thing: Halakhic Considerations for Conversion into Judaism of Gay, Non-Celibate Men –Rabbi Ben Greenfield
- Primary source: Sexual Activity Between Two Men (Hebrew) – Rav Yaakov Adas, Divrei Yaakov (commentary on responsa of Rav Elyashiv), 2012
- Torah Article: Two Women Who Were Sporting with Each Other: A Reexamination of the Halakhic Approaches to Lesbianism –Dr. Admiel Kosman and Dr. Anat Sharbat, 2004
Torah Resources – Trans & Queer Jews
- Book: Dor Ta’hapuchot (Hebrew) –Rav Edan ben Ephraim, 2003. A groundbreaking work on transgender individuals and halakha.
- Source Sheet: Gender and Sex: Does Halakha Recognize a Difference? –Rabbi Dov Linzer, 2020
- Teshuvah: Halakha and the Transgender Person (Hebrew) –Rabbi Ysoscher Katz, 2021
News Articles & Essays
- News Article: Modern Orthodox Rabbi: LGBTQ+ People Can Teach at Yeshivas – Jerusalem Post, March 10, 2023.
- Essay: The Biggest Challenge to Emunah of our Time –Rabbi Ari Segal, Head of School, Shalhevet High School
- News Article: Israeli Orthodox Rabbi – Judaism Doesn’t Ban Same-Sex Couples Building Families
- News Article: Every Orthodox Rabbi Ought To Read This Book About The Lives Of LGBTQ Orthodox Jews