Steven I. Weiss has done us all a service by putting Agudath Israel’s press release on the Conservative movement’s gay rabbi debate up on the web:
AGUDATH ISRAEL LAMENTS
CONSERVATIVE MOVEMENT DECISION
“An Abandonment of All Pretense of Fealty to Judaism”
NEW YORK – Noting with sorrow the Conservative movement’s “Committee on Jewish Law and Standards”’ shameless endorsement of a position permitting “commitment ceremonies” between people of the same gender and the ordination as Conservative rabbis of people living openly homosexual lives, a spokesman for Agudath Israel of America called the decision “an abandonment of all pretense of fealty to Judaism.”
Rabbi Avi Shafran, Agudath Israel’s director of public affairs, stated that “this ruling doesn’t conserve the Jewish tradition, it defies it.”
“The entire corpus of halacha, or Jewish religious law,” he said, “makes abundantly clear that homosexual behavior is sinful. That a movement claiming to uphold the Jewish religious tradition can arrogate to stand halachic Judaism on its head is tragic. It will no doubt cheer those who place contemporary mores above the Jewish mandate, but in the end, it seals the fate of a movement long mired in muddle and malaise.”
“While every Jew is precious in the eyes of Heaven,” Rabbi Shafran continued, “and while some of us may face more difficult challenges than others as we strive to live by the Torah’s prescriptions, that striving is the very essence of what it means to be a Jew committed to Judaism.”
Now the facts. 1. The only homosexual behavior called sinful (actually, an "abomination") by the Torah is male-male anal intercourse. 2. Homosexuals are not called sinful or abominations. 3. Oral sex is not forbidden by the Torah. Neither is masturbatory sex. Indeed, poskim allow married heterosexual couples to do both, without worry about "spilling seed." The Conservative Movement’s new position is based on these points, and is in no way "an abandonment of all pretense of fealty to Judaism."
Agudath Israel – whose leading sages either covered for or ignored a serial pedophile who perpetrated rabbi-on-boy sexual abuse for almost 40 years – has no business commenting on the actions of the Conservative Movement, especially when Shafran and Agudah fell silent when asked to comment on the rabbi-on-boy sex abuse.
But this is not only about Agudath Israel and its snake-oiled spokesman. In truth, what we have here is homophobia dressed in the guise of Judaism. From the RCA’s condemnation to UTJ’s, one thing stands out – a lack of compassion and concern for those born gay who seek, nonetheless, to lead a committed Jewish life.
This lack of compassion – as so clearly demonstrated during the vitriolic opposition to Jerusalem’s Gay Pride parade – again shows Orthodoxy in all its forms to be far more concerned about laws dealing with man’s relationship to God, like the ban on male-male anal intercourse, than it is about the laws of conduct between people. This is why convicted haredi criminals lead haredi communities and are given seats of honor at communal functions, while openly gay men who seek to live the most honest and committed Orthodox life they can are ridiculed and often exiled from their communities.
What do you think God hates more? A convicted swindler with a 30 year record of fraud leading a haredi rabbinic organization and writing a weekly column in an Orthodox newspaper or two openly gay men trying desperately to carve out a life for themselves within Orthodoxy? If you have trouble answering this question you have failed Judaism 101.