Posts Tagged ‘judaism’

Faith and Fear, A Community Apart: Orthodox Jews and Homosexuality

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

This might end up being one of my shorter posts.  I don’t claim any thorough understanding of Judaism, particularly as it is practiced in our day and country.  That said, I was upset and moved by many of the stories from “Trembling Before G-d.”  Whether you believe homosexual activity is right or wrong, it certainly is wrong to treat another person without respect and without any appreciation for the life and potential of another human being.  You might find their behavior vile, loathsome, and vulgar and I suppose that can’t always be helped (it often goes both ways) but to actively abuse that other person is inhumane.  The story of the man whose father was 94 (or 98, I can’t quite remember) and hadn’t spoken with him in 30 years was particularly tragic.  When the father cited his not wanting his son in his home because of the diseases, apparently contagious, that his son would spread because of his being gay I was somewhat shocked.  My feelings aside, this really does speak to a fundamental lack of knowledge and understanding that, if I may, seems fair to generalize and say a lack of understanding that pervades many groups within American society even today.  I don’t mean this as a judgement call but merely a fact.

Fear is certainly bred by such ignorance.  Curiously, however, one of those interviewed for

Would you really want to know?

the video equated this unknowing as a mystery, and positively so, which was in a way more holy than the normal alternative of heterosexuality (pleasure and/or procreation, I’m not sure).  This, I suppose, is what I find most fascinating about Judaism is this dynamism in which one can clearly disagree with an another person or group and still consider himself a Jew.  You might call Protestantism dynamic given its multiplicity of expression, often confusing and confounding, but it doesn’t seem quite the same and I’m not sure I can put a reason on that.  For many, being gay and being Orthodox simply isn’t a viable option.  A choice must be made and the road and end are not often happy.

What if one of Tevye’s daughters had been gay?

Monday, April 1st, 2013

In the musical Fiddler on the Roof, a devoutly Jewish man named Tevye raises five daughters in early 20th century Russia.  Tevye works hard to stay true to God, often having “conversations” with God throughout the show.  One of the main conflicts of the show is the battle between Tevye’s traditional views on a Jewish marriage and the wishes of his three eldest daughters, who want to choose their own husbands.  One daughter chooses a poor tailor to marry, another chooses a radical stranger, and a third chooses a Christian.  Each concession that Tevye makes takes him further from his traditional values.

But what if one of his daughters had been a lesbian?  Throughout the musical, Tevye asks God where the line is drawn.  After watching Trembling Beofre G-D, it seems that a hard line gets drawn against homosexuality.

The main question of the film Trembling Before G-d seems to be that of how to be gay while remaining faithful to Judaism.  The idea of the family acting as a building block to the community as a whole leaves no place for a homosexual couple.  Like we read earlier in “Theology of the Body” and in many other texts this semester, procreation is the ultimate goal of a marriage.  The family binds the community together, not just social, but in a religious sense.  There is a solidarity to be found in a community of Jewish families.  This can be said for any religion.  Therefore, theoretically,  a gay couple who cannot procreate would not be working towards the good of the community, and by extension the religion.

Again, we find the idea of family and having many children as the center of a marriage.  As one young Jewish man relayed in the film, “I have to accept that I will not have children through a marriage.”  This statement nearly brought him to tears, as he goes on to say that he had always dreamed of having kids.  The film goes on to bring the parents of gay Jewish children into the matter, further highlighting the importance of family.  One rabbi noted that he has had parents with gay children come up to him and ask what can be done to help their child remain faithful: “They want their children to remain in love with the Torah.”  It seems that God becomes part of the family, and is an essential piece that must always remain at the center of that family.

Throughout the film, we come across many men and women who are caught in the struggle between Judaism and their homosexuality.  A young Jewish man discusses the methods by which some have tried to “cure” themselves of their homosexual urges.  He cites aversion therapy (such as snapping a rubber band against his skin whenever he saw a man), or drugs, and he even told his parents, “I’m gay but don’t worry I’m in therapy to change.”  It seemed as though turning straight was the hope.

However, when all else seemed to fail, many believed that God was the answer.  By diving deeper into Judaism, some believed that they could find answers for their apparently sinful urges.  Gay men and women were pushed to pray and fast and find comfort in God.  Greater faith would somehow save these people.  “I belong to God,” one young man says in the film.  Another says, “I live in my faith!”  They seem to recognize that humans are far from perfect, and hope for a merciful, understanding God who will save them because of their good works despite their sexuality.

I think that is a beautiful thing that comes out of such a struggle.  I think someone can just be a good person in the things they do for others, whether they are Christian, Jewish, straight, or gay.  Parts of the film Trembling Before G-d were heartbreaking, as we see so many people who were rejected for their sexuality.  A lesbian couple in the film hoped that they would have a place together in the Next World, and prayed that their good works would be enough to get them there.  I think it’s sad that people feel abandoned not only by their family and their people, but their God as well.