Current Affairs

Amsterdam’s ‘gay cure’ declaration rabbi reinstated

Stephen Gray February 3, 2012
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The chief rabbi of Amsterdam’s Orthodox Jewish community has been reinstated after reportedly accepting he should not have signed a ‘gay cure’ declaration with the title.

Rabbi Aryeh Ralbag, had been suspended from his position after he signed a document alleging homosexuality could be “modified and healed”.

Now, Dutch news agency ANP reports he has been reinstated after flying from New York to discuss his action with the NIHS (Nederlands-Israelietische HoofdSynagogue) in the Dutch capital.

The Amsterdam community had objected to Rabbi Ralbag using his title on signing up to the Torah Declaration.

In a statement, the NIHS had said: “Rabbi Ralbag’s signature may give the impression the Orthodox Jewish community of Amsterdam shares his view.

“This is absolutely untrue. Homosexuals are welcome at the Amsterdam Jewish community.”

Previously, the chief rabbi reportedly told a Dutch newspaper he felt it would be safer to stay away from the Netherlands, saying: “Why would I risk the life of my wife and me?”

At the time of his suspension, Rabbi Ralbag had said: “I do not believe that I have to apologize to anyone for my Torah-based beliefs; nevertheless, I sincerely regret and apologize to anyone pained by the inaccurate portrayal of my views.”

Discussing wider approaches to homosexuality in Judaism, Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet of London’s Mill Hill United Synagogue writes in today: “Chief Rabbi Ralbag should not be relieved of his position for taking a religious stance on a traditional biblical position. That’s plain ludicrous. However, his sensitivity, and by extension his ability to reach out to his wider constituency, in endorsing a controversial statement regarding homosexuals, must surely be called into question.”

The Declaration in question says the idea that God created “a human being who is unable to find happiness in a loving relationship unless he violates a biblical prohibition is neither plausible nor acceptable”.

It continues: “We must create an atmosphere where this teenager (or anyone) can speak freely to a parent, rabbi, or mentor and be treated with love and compassion. Authority figures can then guide same-sex strugglers towards a path of healing and overcoming their inclinations.

“The key point to remember is that these individuals are primarily innocent victims of childhood emotional wounds. They deserve our full love, support and encouragement in their striving towards healing.”

The Conference of European Rabbis reportedly issued a statement saying: “The Amsterdam kehilla is known the world over for its proud commitment to its traditions.

“We are pleased it has decided to address any issues relating to the articulation by its Chief Rabbi or other officially appointed Rabbinic figures of traditional, halachic positions, in a positive and consultative manner.”

ANP reported that uncertainty remains over having a US-based chief rabbi for the Amsterdam community.

Related topics: Amsterdam, Europe, gay cure, reparative therapy, the Netherlands

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