Jewish leader forced to step down after saying same-sex love is ‘fantastic’ for society
A prominent religious leader who said homosexuality becoming more accepted was “a fantastic development for humanity” has stepped down after facing fierce criticism.
Rabbi Joseph Dweck, the head of the Sephardi movement – one of two main branches of Judaism in the UK – made the comment during an online lecture last month.
Gay sex is forbidden in stricter strands of Judaism like the Sephardi branch, which is Orthodox.
Dweck said that society was “moving in the right direction,” and that this had allowed fathers to show more affection to their sons without feeling that it was socially unacceptable.
However, following a backlash from leaders in Israel and the UK, he announced he had “stepped aside from the day-to-day activity,” according to the Jewish News.
“The continuing activity of our Sephardi Beth Din is of the utmost importance to me, and I will step aside whilst we resolve the matter,” he continued.
Dweck has endured criticism from Israel’s Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef, who condemned his “empty and heretical words”.
The Chief Rabbi, who is an uncle of Dweck’s wife, Margalit, said his remarks were “in opposition to the foundations of our faith in the holy Torah”.
The influential Orthodox Rabbi Shraga Feivel Zimmerman said Dweck was “not fit to serve as a rabbi”.
And they were joined in admonishing Dweck by Sephardi Rabbi Aaron Bassous, who called Dweck’s comments “dangerous” and “poisonous” as well as “twisted, misguided and mistaken”.
British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis called on his colleagues to cease the attacks on Dweck, which he said had been “deeply divisive and damaging” for the community.
Responding to the criticism in a blog post on the Sephardi movement’s site, Rabbi Dweck wrote: “I did not say that homosexual acts were fantastic.
“I said that the development in society had residual benefits, much in the same way that Islam and Christianity did,” he continued.
“These residual effects in my opinion are that it has helped society be more open to the expression of love between men”.
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The rabbi said in his original lecture that though there was “no way” of avoiding the Torah’s ban on gay sex, there was nothing forbidding a “disposition” or “attraction” between men.
The increasing tolerance of homosexuality in society was tackling the taboo of male affection which had stopped fathers from showing love for their sons, he added.
“I genuinely believe that the entire revolution of feminism and even homosexuality in our society…is a fantastic development for humanity.
“You know what homosexuality in society has done? It has forced us to look at how we deal with love between people of the same sex,” he added.
“And it has reduced the taboo of my children, of me, of my grandchildren being able to love another human being, same-sex, genuinely – to show affection to someone else, to hug and kiss someone else, to genuinely express love without worry of being seen as deviant and problematic.”