On Oct. 5, in response to a recent spate of suicides, Keshet issued the Jewish Community Pledge to Save Lives, which calls on all Jewish community members, youth and adults, to take a stand against homophobic bullying and intolerance. Since then, more than 3,600 people have signed on to the pledge.
It is in this context that Rabbi Steven Greenberg writes an article in the Jewish Week in which he poignantly declares his disappointment in how few Orthodox institutions have signed on to the pledge and outlines three steps that his colleagues in the Orthodox rabbinate, and leaders of Orthodox organizations, can and should take at this time to show that they too will not stand idly by in the face of bullying.
Rabbi Greenberg writes:
“To my colleagues, I say this: it is not possible to abstain from choosing. Either stand with the more than 170 Orthodox rabbis who have openly and proudly condemned homophobia and bigotry, while at the same time maintaining a traditionalist reading of the halacha regarding homosexuality, or stand with the Rosh Yeshiva who told me that teenage suicide is a mitzvah. Either we give a teen hope that a good life as a gay person is possible, in whatever religious community he or she lives, or we confirm his or her worst nightmares—and ours.
Now, it is fair to worry, as many Orthodox leaders do, that taking a stand against homophobia might be interpreted as approving of all homosexual behavior. It surely need not be, but more importantly, is the fear of misinterpretation worth risking the very lives of our kids?
Nor is it enough simply to decry bullying. Religious communities of all sorts need to make it possible for a 13-year-old to expect that life will be good. We have a duty to make it clear that if a teenager discovers herself to be gay, she can still dream of a happy future. Depriving young people of hope for the future is a deadly game.”