Rabbi Shmuli Yanklowitz, who was chosen by Newsweek as one of the most influential rabbis in the United States, has declared that he is “coming out of the closet,” not as a gay man, but as a “proud ally with those of LGBT orientation.”

Writing for the Jewish Journal under the name ‘Social Justice Rav,’ he said that his decision arose out of an inter-faith leader panel on the subject of LGBT and religion at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles). He was the only heterosexual panellist, and was asked: “When did you come out of the closet or when did you come out as an ally?” To which, he responded: “I’m coming out right now!” — in his words “as an Orthodox rabbi who is a proud ally” of gay and trans people.

In his column he wrote:

The suffering is immense. Interfaith leaders and students on campus shared stories about suicide attempts, being forced into reparative therapy, kicked out of the home, shunned from their faith, and completely alienated from family. Consider these statistics concerning LGBT youth:

  • 26 percent who come out to their families are kicked out of their home, and up to a third are beaten
  • They comprise between 20 to 40 percent of all homeless and runaway youth
  • Those who come from a highly rejecting family are 8 times more likely to commit suicide than those who come from a more supportive family
  • They are up to 4 times as likely to attempt suicide as heterosexual youth, and 30 percent of all whose suicide attempt results in death.

I began to wonder if I was failing at making myself accessible enough to students with this struggle. This is more than just a human dignity issue, it’s a life-and-death issue.

Admitting that Judaism was still grappling with some of the more theological, philosophical and legal issues on LGBT rights, he said that the complications should not allow people to, as he put it, “abandon our most basic moral compass.”

He went on to say: “One of the most crucial roles of faith leaders today is to go beyond our comfort zones and courageously expand the size of the tent of who is included, or at least not harassed, in our communities.”

His comments came a day after Jewish people around the world, including those at UCLA, commemorated Yom HaShoah, or the Remembrance Day for victims of the Holocaust. An estimated six million Jewish people, and around 100,000 homosexual men were murdered by the Nazis as part of their racial ideology.