If I Have Gay Children

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If I have Gay Children by Rabbi Avi Orlow

Sometimes in our fight for equality both as LGBT and Jewish people we can get so caught up in the battle that we don’t hear the voices that are starting to speak up in support of us. So when that voice comes from an orthodox Rabbi, we must take a moment to pause and remember that we are pushing forward and people are beginning to listen. We must never give up our fight.

So, today, the day after Yom Kippur, it is refreshing and uplifting to read this from Orthodox Jewish Rabbi Avi Orlow, who makes a promise to his children, if any of them should be gay.

On behalf of JLGBT people everywhere, we thank you and wish you and your family a wonderful 5775.

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Rabbi Avi Orlow Writes,

As a human being, I feel a need to speak out on this because there are those for whom it is not just their comfort or happiness that are at risk, but their very health, safety, and actual lives. As a Jew, I cannot stomach senseless hatred toward people because of who they are. An integral part of our Jewish identity comes from our experience as victims of the world’s hatred. We cannot stand idly by as other people suffer from bigotry. As a rabbi, I feel a need to speak out for justice.

I feel a visceral need to speak out on this issue, not despite my being an Orthodox Jew, but because of that fact. As it says in the Statement of Principles on the Place of Jews with a Homosexual Orientation in the Orthodox Community, which I feel honored to have signed, “Embarrassing, harassing or demeaning someone with a homosexual orientation or same-sex attraction is a violation of Torah prohibitions that embody the deepest values of Judaism.

 To this end, in the spirit of Yom Kippur, I wanted to make my own promises to my gay children. Amen to Pastor Pavlovitz (1-4 paraphrased from his blog):
 
  • 1. If I have gay children, you’ll all know it. My children won’t be our family’s best kept secret. If my children come out, we’ll be out as a family.
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  • 2. If I have gay children, I’ll pray for them. I won’t pray for them to be made “normal.” I’ve lived long enough to know that if my children are gay, that is their normal. I will pray for them just as I pray for all of my children.
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  • 3. If I have gay children, I’ll love them. I don’t mean some token, distant, tolerant love that stays at a safe arm’s length. It will be an extravagant, open-hearted, unapologetic, lavish, embarrassing-them-in-the-school cafeteria, kind of love.
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  • 4. If I have gay children, most likely; I have gay children. If my kids aregoing to be gay, well they pretty much already are. They are today, simply a younger version of who they will be; and today they’re pretty darn great.
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  • 5. If I have gay children, I expect them to participate in community.Not only are my children a critical part of my family, but they need to know that they are a critical part of the larger Jewish family. We are a kehilah kedosha –sacred community. Bigotry and hatred pose a much bigger risk to this sanctity than the issues that one might profess regarding my children’s orientation. I promise to fight with anyone who would want to limit their involvement in school, camp, synagogue, etc.
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  • 6. If I have gay children, I will learn Torah with them. Learning Torah is a central Jewish practice. Engaging Torah writ large is the life blood of our people. I believe in the Torah. My commitment to my children is to have them join the conversation of our people and to have their voices heard. I promise to learn with my children — not just the nice parts, but also the Torah portion we read traditionally in the Yom Kippur afternoon service. I expect to listen and promise to have their interpretation heard. And when my time comes, I look forward to giving God some feedback. They should have the confidence that I will be waiting there for them when they meet the Judge on high. My commitment to my children is unwavering and eternal.
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  • 7. If I have gay children, I will celebrate their partnership. My wife is my ezer k’negdi–she is my helpmate. She pushes me to make sure I am my best self. The key to sustained happiness and a life of meaning is finding a partner with whom to share your life. Having a healthy partnership is not just the key to surviving in the world; it is the key to thriving. This partnership is the bedrock for a bayit ne’eman b’yisrael, a faithful home in Israel, which is the basic building block for Jewish society. I hope that we were good role models for partnership and my children should expect that we do not just tolerate their life partner, but that we find ways to celebrate that partnership.
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  • 8. If I have gay children, I will celebrate their family. Our children are the greatest joy in my life. While my children might not have children in a “traditional” manner, it does not mean that they should not feel the obligation of Pru uRevu — to procreate and raise another generation of proud Jews. I promise to be a great Zayde to link the next generation back to our past. While my gay children will have taught me about liberation, perhaps being older I have knowledge to share with their children about exodus from Egypt. It is my job to hide the Afikoman; I expect their children to read the four questions. I promise that they will never question their connection to Jewish history and their role in our lustrous future.

 

There is no doubt that some of you may be offended by what I have said here. But as Pastor Pavlovitz wrote, “This isn’t about you. This is a whole lot bigger than you.” It is about my children and the parent I aspire to be. On these issues I could not stay silent. That is how I hope to be judged on Yom Kippur.

This article first appeared in Instinct Magazine.

Follow Rabbi Avi Orlow on Twitter.

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Mr HotSaltBeef, also known as Allan Davis, is the CEO of the HotSaltBeef brand. A self confessed geek, you're more likely to find him behind a computer than in a bar but he's willing to change all that for a nice Jewish man!

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