Nearly 600 rabbis representing Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Jewish communities from across the United States and Canada signed an open letter calls on Orthodox rabbis to retract recent homophobic comments in Israel, and asks the governing coalition of the Knesset to immediately reverse recent anti-LGBTQ surrogacy legislation.
The letter was organized by A Wider Bridge, the North American organization building support for Israel and LGBTQ people in Israel, to respond to an earlier homophobic letter, signed by 200 ultra-Orthodox rabbis, that was published on the eve of the 2018 Jerusalem March for Pride and Tolerance, and the third anniversary of the murder of Shira Banki, killed during the 2015 march. The full text of the A Wider Bridge letter and a list of signatories can be found online here: https://awiderbridge.org/rabbi_lgbtq_letter/
“By calling LGBTQ Jews ‘perverts’ and condemning children to ‘wretched lives,’ these rabbis are endangering lives by laying the groundwork for violence against LGBTQ people in Israel,” said Rabbi Gil Steinlauf, a board member of A Wider Bridge, who drafted the letter. “Their outrageous letter is a sign that they feel emboldened in their quest to roll back protections for LGBTQ people and other Israeli minorities. The democratic principles and values of the founders of the Jewish state must remain non-negotiable.”
Prominent signatories include Rabbi Steve Wernick, CEO of United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Steve Greenberg, executive director of Eshel, Rabbi Jonah Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Rabbi Debra Newman Kamin, president of the Rabbinical Assembly, and Rabbi David Saperstein, former U.S. ambassador-at-large for religious freedom.
“We are humbled and grateful for the outpouring of support from rabbis representing all four major movements of Judaism for LGBTQ communities in Israel,” said Tyler Gregory, executive director of A Wider Bridge. “At a time when our communities are deeply divided on the big issues of the day, these 600 rabbis served up an important reminder that LGBTQ rights is an issue that brings us together. From the record-setting 100,000-person LGBTQ strike, to the largest Jerusalem Pride in history, to the collective voices included in this letter, it’s clear that equality in Israel is a major issue that must remain on the Knesset’s agenda.”