Challenging Conversations: Homosexuality within Judaism

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Continuing the theme from last month’s talk on interfaith marriages, Dr. Erica Brown of The Partnership for Jewish Life and Learning met with an adult class at Sixth & I Wednesday night to continue her dialogues on “challenging conversations” within Judaism.

Around thirty people of various ages and experiences attended, including parents of gay children gay people themselves, and I would assume a few heterosexuals. 😛 The conversation was intense, maybe even heated, with a few people trying to steal the show every once in awhile, but for the most part, everyone exuded acceptance of homosexuality, at least personally. Within Judaism was a little bit more of a complex situation.

To get the ball rolling on dialogue, Dr. Brown had us pick a favorite “bumper sticker” political quote from a list (I chose “Protect marriage. Ban heterosexual divorce,”) and then we chose a “category” for how we thought the gay community should fit into Judaism. This process seemed a little bit shallow to me, and I was especially grateful when one young woman explained that she didn’t see her opinion towards “religious homosexuality” portrayed in the simplistic responses of just saying yes or no. She ascertained that although she was personally comfortable with homosexuality, she would not like to impose a set of behavior on the varying religious sects within Judaism. “That was the most mature response I’ve ever heard,” one of the more verbose participants declared loudly.

We ended the evening with a few quotes (including the Reform Movement’s surprising lack of tolerance towards homosexuality from as near back as 1996, and an Orthodox rabbi’s startlingly thoughtful assessment of human sexuality. Perhaps I am more close-minded than I thought!) Also in line with Orthodoxy, we viewed a candid interview with Rabbi Steve Greenberg, one of the subjects from documentary Trembling before Gd who struggles with his homosexuality and his traditional faith.

I especially liked one of Doctor Brown’s ending statements: “Religion isn’t about making life easy; it’s about making life meaningful.” It means that our dialogue isn’t about finding “the answer” about the gay community’s crossroads with Judaism; it’s about struggling with the complex realities. That remains one of my favorite things about my religion.

But on the lighter side, there were some pamphlet’s made available to us from GLOE, the DCJCC’s gay and lesbian outreach program. They’re hosting a same-sex sped dating evening at the end of the month if you want to check it out!

Challenging Conversations will return in February with a talk on Jews and diversity. Find their Facebook page here.