Religious redemption of the LGBT Community
Following the historic Supreme Court ruling on Friday, Rabbi Heather Miller wrote a column on the Jewish Journal on religion and sexuality: “We hoped to remind anyone who is having a difficult time reconciling their spirituality with their sexuality, to look more broadly within their faith tradition and find one of us clergy who would welcome them as they are with openness,” Heather writes.
When I was in Rabbinical School in New York the early 2000s, I came across a group of women who identified as both Orthodox and Lesbian. They welcomed me into their fold.
Over the years, as I got to know members of this group, I realized the religious pain and shame that each had experienced: from their communities, from their clergy, from their families. Some were shunned from their high school reunions. Some were barred from attending family lifecycle events in shul. Some were told that they could not see their nieces and nephews. One even told me that her parents had said the Jewish prayer for the dead, the mourner’s kaddish, over her. Many had been entirely cut off from their families.
Despite the ostracization they felt in the name of their religious community’s social standards, or in the name of religion itself, instead of abandon their religious heritage, they chose instead to cling tightly to it, as it was then and had always been, a source of their strength, heritage, pride.
As they shared their stories and their resolve to maintain their Jewish spirituality and identity, I became very very sad. How could members of the Jewish community, a group already small enough, ever think to kick someone out of the tribe? Especially those so dedicated to it? Especially when the refrain in the Torah is, “do not oppress a stranger, for you were a stranger in Egypt.”
Sure, I had heard of members of other religious groups all but excommunicating gay and lesbian congregants. I had heard of shock therapy being employed, and hell fire and brimstone type sermons that warned against being gay, and had heard of ice cold family pacts of secrecy. But those were religious denominations with a different approach to relationships and sex– some would say puritanical approaches. Judaism, with our different approach to love and family systems, surely couldn’t be that way… continue reading