UK Chief Rabbi’s LGBT+ support will ‘draw sinners into our camp,’ Orthodox Jewish leader says
A leading Orthodox rabbi has reportedly said that Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis’s unprecedented and progressive LGBT+ guide for religious schools will “draw sinners into our camp.”
Earlier this month, Britain’s Chief Rabbi released “The Wellbeing of LGBT+ Pupils: A Guide for Orthodox Jewish Schools,” a document created with the help of Jewish LGBT+ group KeshetUK, which encouraged authorities to accept queer students.
The Chief Rabbi urged Orthodox synagogues to welcome LGBT+ people into their communities when he took on the prestigious position in 2013, and reiterated this stance in 2016, after the mass shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub.
But the guide saw him go further than any other Chief Rabbi by co-creating guidance for Orthodox schools on how to use language responsibly, prevent bullying, help kids when they come out and educate parents and teachers on queer issues.
Major Jewish schools including JFS, Kantor King Solomon High School and Yavneh College welcomed the document, but Jerusalem-based Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch has reportedly condemned the document as “blasphemy.”
PinkNews understands that Rabbi Sternbuch, who is vice-president of the city’s Rabbinical Court, made the comments during his weekly address to devoted followers.
After one of the attendees asked him about Rabbi Mirvis’s guide, his answer was taken down by another follower and included in the weekly report of his remarks, which is not necessarily endorsed by Rabbi Sternbuch.
According to the Jewish News, the 90-year-old Jerusalem rabbi claimed that Mirvis was “encouraging” homosexuality through the guide.
Sternbuch, who was born in London and has many thousands of followers across the world, accused Mirvis of “using the cloak of lofty principles” in order to “formulate a new theory of drawing sinners into our camp.”
He reportedly added that the British Chief Rabbi “blasphemes our holy Torah and runs counter to the foundations of the holiness of our nation.”
The rabbi added that Jewish law “obligates us to distance such people, not legitimise them, especially since drawing them closer would pose a great danger to other students.”
Mirvis himself pointed out in the guide that this point is incorrect, saying that ignoring queer issues in the Jewish community is a slight to God and students.
He wrote: “I believe that failure to address [this issue] at all amounts to an abrogation of our responsibility to the Almighty and to our children.”
Mirvis added: “We must be ever-mindful of the mitzva (good deed) to “Love your neighbour as yourself.'”
Dave Shaw, a trustee of KeshetUK, told PinkNews that Mirvis’s “incredible step” of creating the guide “will make a huge difference to Jewish LGBT+ people and the Jewish community.”
“But,” he added, “we always knew not everyone would agree with his approach – the Jewish community is diverse with many different traditions, practices and beliefs.
“KeshetUK looks forward to one day working with those who currently reject this guide, so we can work with them to consider how to improve the safety of LGBT+ people in their communities.”
A spokesperson for the Chief Rabbi declined to comment.