The reason why vilification of homosexuals exists in the Jewish community

The Jewish Community Council of Victoria has called for submissions “to investigate issues surrounding vilification, discrimination and mental health concerns faced by members of Victoria’s Jewish GLBT community.”

In considering preparing a submission for this investigation I have sought definitions of ‘vilification’ and ‘discrimination’ from the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC).

The VEOHRC defines ‘vilification‘ (in the context of race and religion) as:

Vilification is behaviour that incites or encourages hatred of, serious contempt for, revulsion or severe ridicule of another person or group of people on the grounds of their race or religion.

Further, it defines ‘discrimination‘ (in the context of sexual orientation and gender identity) as:

Discrimination is treating someone unfairly because of a personal characteristic protected by law and causing them to be disadvantaged as a result.

Initially I thought it would be appropriate to prepare a comprehensive list of examples of vilification and discrimination that I have experienced on a personal level and those which I have witnessed through the media in the Jewish community.  My archives over the past decade or so provide me with ample material for this exercise.

However, the time and effort necessary to undertake this task is substantial, and I feel that it would not necessarily convey the best ‘return on investment’.

Instead, what I have decided to do is present the underlying reason that vilification and/or discrimination exists against homosexuals and same-sex attracted people, relevant to the terms of reference for this submission.  This reason unarguably underlies every single instance of attack, hatred and intolerance against homosexuality or same-sex attraction.

What I am presenting is the proscription of homosexuality in the Torah.  I draw from two verses from the Book of Leviticus (Vayikra), specifically Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13.  My source here is my personal copy of The Chumash (Artscroll – Stone Edition, 4th Edn, 1994).  I present the abovementioned verses and any accompanying commentary.

Leviticus Chapter 18 deals with “forbidden relationships”.

Leviticus 18:22

22 You shall not lie with a man as one lies with a woman, it is an abomination.

22-23 Sodomy and bestiality.  The chapter of immorality ends with two forms of sexual perversion: homosexuality and bestiality.  The harshness with which the Torah describes them testifies to the repugnance in which God holds those who engage in these unnatural practices.

22 Toevah – An abomination.  None of the relationships given above are described with this term of disgust, because they involve normal activity, though with prohibited mates.  Homosexuality, however, is unnatural and therefore abominable.

Leviticus Chapter 20 deals with “punishments”.

Leviticus 20:13

13 A man who lies with a man as one lies with a woman, they have both done an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon themselves.

In these two verses from Leviticus, dealing with homosexuality, I encountered the terms ‘abomination’, ‘immorality’, ‘sexual perversion’, ‘repugnance’, ‘unnatural practices’, ‘disgust’, ‘unnatural’ and ‘put to death’.  These are extremely harsh and unambiguous terms, so much so that to me they comprehensively and without a doubt exemplify the definitions of both vilification and discrimination that I supplied earlier.

If the JCCV is looking for the single reason that any vilification and discrimination exists against same-sex attracted people, they need look no further than any Torah or Chumash in the Jewish community of which a literal or absolute observance is expected.  The Orthodox interpretation of these two verses of the Torah, and any associated commentaries, leave no doubt as to the expectations and obligations of same-sex attracted people.

The rabbis and others who teach and those who perpetuate these doctrines, doctrines that are out of touch with modern medical and psychological practices, are all complicit in vilifying and discriminatory behaviour against same-sex attracted people.  Further, these attitudes contribute to the mental-health deterioration of same-sex attracted people, while rigorous and uncompromising adherence is demanded.

I believe this submission offers sufficient evidence to demonstrate vilification and discrimination against homosexual and same-sex attracted people in the context of the Victorian Jewish community.

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8 Responses to The reason why vilification of homosexuals exists in the Jewish community

  1. […] an analysis of this JCCV initiative over on Jew on This.  You can also read my submission to the JCCV.  If you’re similarly motivated, do send a submission of your own […]

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  2. Marc says:

    Not sure I agree with you there Mikey Bear. I believe there is a verse in the Chumash recounting an anecdote of a man being stoned to death for picking up sticks on the Sabbath. We don’t adhere to that practice any more and it certainly doesn’t indicate that the Torah villifies those who don’t keep the Sabbath. In any event, the prohibition against homosexuality in the Torah does not, of itself, amount to vilification or discrimination. As the definitions of those two terms you posted above indicate, vilification and/or discrimination must be perpetrated by “persons”, not by a document.

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    • Mikey Bear says:

      Marc, orthodox Judaism actively endorses the halacha I have presented. That is the vilifying and discriminatory attitude I refer to.

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      • Marc says:

        I’m not trying to be difficulty here Mikey (and i’m not necessarily disagreeing with you) – but what do you mean by “Orthodox Judaism”. Do you mean each and every Orthodox Jewish rabbi and Orthodox Jew (of which i am one), or some unifying amorphous Orthodox Jewish principle which vilifies and discriminate’s against homosexuality. if the latter, again i say that a principle itself can’t discriminate – it is only human beings applying that principle that can discriminate.

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        • Mikey Bear says:

          The explanation of “Orthodox Judaism” given on Wikipedia is what I am referring to:

          Orthodox Judaism is generally understood to refer to an approach to Judaism which adheres to the traditional interpretation and application of the laws and ethics of the Torah as legislated in the Talmudic texts by the Sanhedrin (“Oral Torah”) and subsequently developed and applied by the later authorities known as the Gaonim, Rishonim, and Acharonim.

          I am talking about the people and organisations that steadfastly uphold and perpetuate these principles. Are you one of them?

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  3. Marc says:

    Yes and no. I believe in the traditional approach to Judaism as legislated in the Talmud (so yes). However, i don’t live my life completely in accordance with those principles (e.g. don’t keep Shabbat, half Kosher etc.. – typical Melbourne Jew) (so no). Personally, I have no problem with homosexuality nor with homosexual marriage. I am as likely to condemn homosexuals because it is forbidden in the Torah as i am to condemn someone for eating pork or, to use my earlier example, picking up sticks on Shabbat. Because Judaism bans people working on the Sabbath, or eating pork, does that mean it villifies those who do? I am still not convinced that just because orthodox Judaism bans homosexuality, homosexuals are therefore villified and discriminated against by Orthodox Judasim per se.

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    • Mikey Bear says:

      And what of the rabbis who get up on the bima and deliver a sermon that unambiguously denounces homosexuality as one of the worst sins that any person could possibly perpertrate, alongside murder, adultery, incest or pedophilia?

      Or what of the attitudes that some rabbis perpetuate that homosexuals can be “cured of their illness”, against modern medical and psychological understanding that there is no illness or possiblity of changing the innate sexual orientation?

      I challenge you to show how they are not vilifying expressions of Orthodox Judaism.

      They exist, and they are all too common.

      Just take the statements that the Orthodox rabbinic authorities put out when the Progressive Moetzah called for marriage equality.

      I sincerely hope Marc that in your enlightment you can understand the vilifiying nature of those intolerant attitudes.

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  4. I amazes me no end. In the current era Jews were discriminated, because as a minority without protection in law there was a free
    for all,an open slate for murder and mayhem.
    However there was no lesson of tolerance to the other minorities in
    their mids i.e. gays etc. Suddenly the Tora is brought out and and the repudiation mantra repeated again & again.
    If one reads the Tora & the Talmud and any other of these tomes.
    one sees many of theTalmid Chuhams had their own interpretations and they vary without the reality of actual life outside the chader.
    All other religions that have their roots in judaism have copied the rabid intolerance of some of of the passages. Read history to get a taste what rabid intolerance and prejudice came out from these
    archaic laws. We have been paying with our lives for thousand of years. Haschem has given us a beautifull world so we could destryit with hate and intolerance.

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