Powerful Letter: When Rabbis Fail

I’m sharing this letter that was posted on Facebook. The author wants to publicize it as much as possible and I think her words are too important not to publicize.  It is hard to read at times, even painful. But hopefully it will get to the right people and things will change.

By:  Shlomit Metz-Poolat:
I am reposting from last week for two reasons: 1st and foremost to say thank you – hakarat hatov – to all who reached out or were impacted by my words and spoke up for me. 2nd before it gets buried and disappears in FB, I want as many people to read it and hopefully work on change right here in our community.
My letter is being read this coming shabbos in two shuls in the city and I have also forwarded it to some others. I truly feel this is an issue of pikuach nefesh. May we all have the strength to stand up for what is right! M’chayil el chayil!

“Hopefully this will be read and not deleted – for I truly believe lives are at stake here. Please take the time to read. May you find strength to change our world! And please feel free to SHARE THIS POST – if it effects change, or impacts one person, it was all worth it.

When Rabbis fail – they don’t just fail me or my family – they fail their community as a whole. Some of you reading this know the basis of this; some have heard of it; some have aided in it; some have chosen to disregard it and move on with your lives – and others are new to this. So here it is in a nutshell. Almost two years ago, my membership from Anshei was taken away because my hyphenated name was automatically uploaded to the shul cloud when I was told to update my membership info there. Although the Rabbis told me it was because of a party we had held in our home TWO years earlier. A joint house warming and Lechaim as we were grateful to our friends who supported us and knew why we were seeking legal protections under the law. Not a Jewish marriage, not a halachik anything, just a legal union we sought as an umbrella for equal protection under the law – something to which most people don’t even have to give a second thought.
But the sad reality is, that I had hyphenated my name to protect our family from our own family members who would have had greater legal right to medical and legal decisions for me and my partner – and not because I needed to make a statement, as the misinformed Rabbis accused me of doing. But you know what – here is my statement.
My partner, who had not hyphenated her name was allowed to remain a member because as one Rabbi said – “I am the halachik arbiter of this shul and I can be inconsistent if I want to.” Really? When is halacha ever inconsistent? And when questioned I was told it was because of compassion she could remain. Really? How many of you would attend a shul if your better half was not allowed to be a member? Is your love for your spouse greater than my love for her – even though it may be different for you – or hard for you to understand? Does your child that you are desperately trying to raise and maintain in a frum world say to you, “Why would I want to daven in a shul that won’t have my mother as a member?”
Rabbi B. Lau spoke two weeks ago at the foundational meeting of PORAT (People for Orthodox Renaissance and Torah) – he said that this is an issue of Pikuch Nefesh – saving a life – because when we relegate people into darkness – in essence into obscurity – we relegate them to the closest thing to death. Can we as Jews, who claim we are frum stand idly by while our brother’s or sister’s blood is being spilled? 60-70% of frum LGBT youth are leaving frumkite because of the treatment they are receiving – because they too are relegated into darkness.
Ahavath Yisrael (love of ones fellow Jew) is a platitude – one that is easy to follow when the Jew is like you. The real test of Ahavat Yisrael is in loving those that are different from you. Embracing, the single person, the widow, the orphan, the Aguna, the convert, and even me – the gay.
What is worse, is that all of this came about exactly one year after I had called all 250 or so Anshei members to type up the printed directory. You see, I was that member – the one who gave the tzedaka I could – we could – as a family. The one who volunteered whenever I could, the one who was a chessed team captain. The one who spent 19 years building up Anshei from this little shul – where everyone who walked in was invited to a meal at my home for years, until B”H it had gotten too big for me to do so, and then others stepped in. That was the Anshei I knew – the one that welcomed everyone.
And when diagnosed with breast cancer and going through treatment I had no communal Tehillim said for me, no shul to daven in, no chessed committee to cook for me. What I, we were B”H blessed to have, were amazing friends and you know who you are! May Hashem bless all of you.
But two years have gone by and I wanted to let you into what our world has been like. A world in which while attempting to make sure our daughter was accepted into a Yeshiva High School – I was beside myself – having no longer a shul affiliation which was required on each application. I had to sit in the principal’s office to share with them why I no longer had a shul membership – as if being a gay mom was not enough that I had to discuss. Thank G-d someone did the right thing, someone realized that a frum Jewish child is deserving of a frum education and she now attends an amazing religious high school! That has been the light of these two years.
But the rest of the time we have lived with much darkness. The invites that have ebbed away, the “friends” I no longer see, the communal events we no longer get invited to, or feel welcomed at – or the shul dinner we received an empty envelope to, addressed only to my partner with nothing but another empty envelope inside. Because someone out there felt the need to pour salt in the wounds. What a small, horrible person would do such a thing?
And that is exactly how the Rabbis have failed us, and this community – they have fostered hatred, they have caused derision, when a few pulled their membership, or had family members refuse to ever enter Anshei again. So sad. They have failed me because I cannot stand in a shul with my daughter to hear the Torah being read and “Eitz Chaim Hee” being sung to the heavens – I who am a deeply spiritual person with a deeply rooted connection to Hashem. I am emotionally destroyed by all of this. And the irony is, is that I seek justice every day for those who have so little power – I am a prosecutor who fights the good fight. Yet, I have had to watch my partner – a ba’alat teshuva who finally found a shul to call her own – maintain her frumkite despite all of this.
I ask myself – why me? Why when families lose their home to a fire, the community runs to help – but not for the gay family in this very community who lost so much in a fire – so few stepped forward. Why has Anshei, and every other shul (beside Chabad) become Gay-rein? Each one taking the position that I cannot be a member. Why does no one who steals, or testifies against a fellow Jew in court, or violates Shabbat, or Kashrut suffer the same fate? Why does every male who gets up for an Aliya not get asked about his wife’s mikvah status? Does Taharat Hamishpacha (family purity) not matter? Then why is everyone in my bedroom?
I am not looking for halachik validation of my legal partnership. I personally see no place in halacha for gay marriage – we are nearing the end of Masechet Kiddushin – check it out! Not in there. What I am seeking is close self-examination of what more can be done to include us, rather than exclude us, to be advocates and practitioners of Ahavat Yisrael. To be seekers of justice. To be a light onto the world that finds a place for every Jew. Rabbis who lead a community to light don’t fail. Rabbis who lead their community into darkness do. Which one do you want to be a part of?”


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