Monday, May 14, 2001

Jewish Rights and Gay Rights

Could it be that Rodef Sholom, the Reform day school on Manhattan’s West Side, has added a twist to the movement’s adoption of patrilineal descent when it banned the pre-Mothers Day practice of students making cards celebrating those who gave birth to them? Or, perhaps, Rodef Sholom has gotten religion, though of course nothing that resembles Judaism. Maybe it now believes in some form of Immaculate Conception.

Whatever school officials believe in or teach, Rodef Sholom bears scant resemblance to Jewish tradition. Like much else in American Jewish life, these folks march to a different drummer, to the false gods of political correctness which they worship with complete faith. The world of our fathers does not mean the shtetl, zaydes, Shabbos or the tenacious devotion to religious practice. It means the world of two fathers for one child.

There are good reasons for schools to be sensitive about activities and language that involve or refer to parents. Nearly everywhere there are children who have lost one or both parents or who in the aftermath of divorce or marital conflict no longer have contact with one or both of their parents. I imagine that there are such children at Rodef Sholom and it is important not to cause gratuitous pain to these students.

Concern for orphans or children whose parents are divorced is not the reason why Rodef Sholom changed its Mothers Day policy. The feelings of these children are apparently not on the political correctness radar screen. But the doubtlessly smaller number who live in homes with same-sex arrangements is a sufficient cause to trigger action. Children and families must suffer because of the imperatives of the Gay Rights movement.

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the key leader of Reform Jews has an opinion about nearly everything in Jewish life. It would be good to have his thoughts on Rodef Sholom.

The question is especially relevant because of other Reform policies that elevate gay rights over Jewish rights. In the Yeshiva University housing case now before New York’s Court of Appeals, the Reform movement has joined in a brief challenging the university’s policy of not permitting unwed couples to live together in its residential halls. The primary impact of this policy is to exclude unwed heterosexual couples, which is a reasonable position for the school to take, especially in view of its orientation. That is not enough for the gay righters and their Reform allies who want to force YU to accept same sex couples.

The Gay Rights movement is using a strategy that is at once simple and disingenuous. It voices to a far greater extent than other groups, including minority groups that are severely disadvantaged, the claim of victimization and powerlessness. This despite it being in the driver’s seat at the New York Times and the constant support for the cause by many other key publications, as well as within all of American’s cultural elites. I believe that societal attention to the continued discrimination against Blacks and other deprivations experienced by this minority group is one of the casualties of the prominence being given to gay rights.

Gay righters regularly invoke the ideals of tolerance and pluralism, ideals that are familiar to Jews here and in Israel. The concept of a pluralistic society inherently means that incompatible attitudes and practices are allowed or even encouraged to exist in a spirit of tolerance. We accept as legitimate for others that which we do not want for ourselves. On the other hand, when people are compelled to act in lockstep, pluralism and tolerance are being traduced.

The Gay Rights movement talks a good game about tolerance and diversity, as do many Jews, but this is belied by the insistence that what gays want for themselves must be accepted by others. When Yeshiva University is sued, a legal club is being used to defeat diversity. At Rodef Sholom, a socio-psychological club is being employed. The common denominator in these and other situations is that it matters not at all who is being hurt and what values are being violated, so long as the Gay Rights movement has its way.

I know that most American Jews strongly reject what I have written here. We have traveled so far down the road away from Jewish tradition. Is it any wonder that according to an American Jewish survey, half of American Jews believe that rabbis have an obligation to officiate at same-sex marriages.

We have thrown overboard nearly all of the religious content of Jewish life, the laws, beliefs and behaviors that enriched us even as we experienced deprivations and degradations. What remains in much of what we continue to call American Jewish life is a nearly empty shell that is labeled “Jewish continuity.” It apparently does not occur to most of us that the wholesale rejection of the Jewish past cannot be called continuity.

The deliberate abandonment of nearly the entire core of Jewish living erodes the notion that we continue to be one people. In one of its frequent forays into the world of fundraising and public relations, a major Orthodox organization proclaims that we are “Am Echad,” one people. I do not believe that we are any longer one people.