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UK Chief Rabbi’s LGBT+ support will ‘draw sinners into our camp,’ Orthodox Jewish leader says

Josh Jackman September 20, 2018

The rabbi reportedly made the comments in his weekly address (בן ציון לוי/wikimedia commons)

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.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 26: Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis speaks at a National Holocaust Memorial Day event at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre on January 26, 2017 in London, England. The commemorative event, attended by religious leaders, heard testimonies from survivors of the Holocaust, in which millions of predominantly Jewish people were killed. National Holocaust Day on February 27 marks the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp by Soviet troops. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
The guidance represnted an unprecedented show of support (Jack Taylor/Getty)

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.

Rabbi Sternbuch called the guide “blasphemy.” (thelakewoodscoop/youtube)

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.”

STOCKPORT, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 07: Pupils of North Cheshire Primary listen to a teacher during a class on December 7, 2006, Stockport, England. The North Cheshire Jewish Primary School came out on top of the BBC News league table this year for Key Stage 2 attainment. The Jewish faith school was one of 209 schools where all the Year 6 children achieved the expected level for their age. Nearly all the pupils also reached the next level, expected of 14-year-olds, and it had the highest average point score this year of 32.8. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Mirvis wrote: “Within our schools there are students whose lives are in danger, both spiritually and physically” (Christopher Furlong/Getty)

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.

Rabbi Sternbuch (2nd-R) leaves after a protest against the removal of ancient tombs in Jaffa, just south of Tel Aviv, on June 14, 2010 where construction is due to take place at the site where religious men say Jewish graves are located. AFP PHOTO/JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Rabbi Sternbuch said gay kids “pose a great danger to other students” (JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty)

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.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 27: Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis gives a speech as he attends a Holocaust Memorial Day Ceremony at Central Hall Westminster on January 27, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Jackson/WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Rabbi Mirvis said that not addressing LGBT+ issues “amounts to an abrogation of our responsibility to the Almighty and to our children” (Chris Jackson/WPA Pool/Getty)

“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.

More: chief rabbi ephraim mirvis, Children, Israel, Israel, Jewish, Judaism, keshetuk, Middle East, Orthodox, Religion, schools, UK

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