Un-mazel tov

Apparently, the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale (HIR), a prominent liberal Modern Orthodox Synagogue reversed its recent decision to include same-sex wedding announcements at the shul.  According to the Times of Israel Article which wrote about this: 

The Hebrew Institute of Riverdale in the Bronx will no longer announce the weddings of its LGBT members in its newsletters in accordance with a policy dictated by the OU, the largest association of Orthodox synagogues in the United States. The policy was set out this month in response to complaints from other member synagogues, which take a harder line on opposing same-sex marriage.

The article quoted the OU’s position:

“It is the OU’s unequivocal position that support for, or celebration of, halachically proscribed conduct is fundamentally inappropriate,” the OU statement reads, according to the Five Towns Jewish Times. “Accordingly, the institutional endorsement or encouragement (implicit or explicit) of any conduct that is contrary to halacha is activity that no Orthodox synagogue should allow.”  From what I understand the Five Towns Jewish Times went off on this issue and Open Orthodoxy in general as well.

Aside from a discussion about whether saying Mazel Tov constitutes endorsing “conduct contrary to Halacha”, as an Orthodox parent of an LGBT person I have obvious issues with this.  My biggest one is this: “The policy was set out this month in response to complaints from other member synagogues, which take a harder line on opposing same-sex marriage.”  So, you’re telling me that some other guy had an issue with it, tattled to the OU and the OU took a hard stance deciding to call into question one (actually two from my understanding) of its member synagogues???

I am so tired of people or groups who are seemingly unaffected by this issue stirring up problems for those of us who are actually affected by it.  If another shul wants to include LGBT couples, why should the first shul be bothered?  Jewish LGBT people are pretty adept at figuring out which shuls are ones they are accepted at or not, and in the cases where the answer isn’t as clear cut there is an entire project dedicated to this concept.  Trust me when I say that in most cases, LGBT people don’t want to go to the shuls that don’t want them there.  Let alone be wished Mazel Tov to in those places of worship.

A friend of mine told me the following story. She was recently visiting a community where one of the Rabbis addressed the issue others shuls that allow mazel tovs to gay people in his sermon.  She didn’t hear the speech, but it was a hot topic where she was visiting and she said this bothered her mostly because she didn’t feel that the Rabbi needed to get up and address this to his shul.  He can do what he wants with his own shul, but why did he feel the need to drag another synagogue through the mud to his congregants?  Besides the fact that it is almost impossible to assume that there are no LGBT or parents of LGBT people in his shul (that he either knows about or doesn’t), what exactly is the point? Why couldn’t he bring this up with the original Rabbis in question? Have a private dialogue. Include the OU if need be, but don’t drag HIS congregation into it.  All it does is feed the flames of intolerance in his shul.  Maybe that was his point, but why the need to have such a public fight? I’m piecing things together and I realize that his sermon started the conversation going with the OU and the subsequent reversal of the  decision at HIR.

Now, I want to make it clear, at this point I am not faulting HIR.  I don’t know what sort of pressure they are getting from the OU and what the ramifications are as well as big picture issues that I am not aware of.  But I am blaming the OU and these other member synagogues.  It is so easy for people to monday-night quarterback this issue.  If you don’t have to confront the reality of being an LGBT person in the Orthodox world or being Orthodox and having an LGBT loved one. It is so easy for the mainstream Orthodox world to rally against this and Open Orthodoxy when LGBT people are hanging by a thread to Judaism.  Open Orthodoxy has offered LGBT people hope whereas mainstream Orthodoxy has made it clear that there is little to no place for LGBT people there.  Those of us who care about our LGBT loved ones and their connection to Judaism (if that is what they want) are thankful that Open Orthodoxy has a big tent approach that has thus far not completely alienated them.

And here’s the thing, mainstream Orthodoxy laments the OTD phenomenon.  They hate seeing people leave Orthodoxy.  Well, it is very likely that behavior exhibited by its other member shuls will not only alienate LGBT people but their family members as well.  Why should my other children feel comfortable in a religion that excludes their brother? Why should I?

Speaking of my other children, I’ve made a decision.  I belong to an OU shul. It is a relatively liberal one, but thus far announcements about same-sex marriages have not made it to the shul bulletin and I imagine that the OU’s recent proclamation won’t help that in the future.  So, here’s my decision. As long I cannot announce my gay son’s engagement or wedding at our shul (when the time comes), I will not announce my heterosexual children’s engagements or weddings either.  I refuse to even let one person assume that the happiness and joy of one of my children is more appropriate than the other.   This makes me sad because I like to embrace happiness wherever I can find it.  But sometimes a statement must be made.  Even without saying anything.


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