By Maayan Jaffe/JNS.org –
“Orthodox parents of gay children tend to feel isolated,” says Mindy Dickler, the mother of 21-year-old Elie, who came out as gay three years ago.
Dickler, from Baltimore, is on the planning committee for the second annual Eshel Retreat For Orthodox Parents of LGBT Children. She says the conference, which will be held at the Capital Retreat Center in Waynesboro, Penn., gives parents a chance to feel that they are part of the Orthodox Jewish community again, and gives them hope. The conference will be held from March 7-9.
According to Eshel founder Miryam Kabakov, the first conference, held last April, came after several parents of LGBT youths approached her after various speaking engagements to talk about their plight. She said many expressed loneliness or an inability to discuss what it meant to have an LGBT child with their friends or rabbis.
“As soon as an [Orthodox] child reveals the secret, the parent takes on the secret and goes into hiding. And the parent has to go through his own process,” explains Kabakov.
This “hiding” is largely a result of the way that Orthodox Jews see the world and the words of the Torah.
Click photo to download. Caption: Attendees of last year’s Eshel parent conference engage in a discussion about the challenges of coming out to their Orthodox Jewish communities about their LGBT children. Credit: Provided photo.
“Orthodox, or specifically halachically [Jewish law] observant, Jews begin their discussions with what does God want from me, and how do I understand the texts and teachings of my faith to indicate what God expects and wants from me,” says Dr. Saundra Sterling Epstein, who has a gay daughter. “Our decisions are within the context of that discussion, so different from the non-Orthodox world in which this does not come to the table.”
The basis of the prohibition against homosexual acts in Judaism derives from two biblical verses in Leviticus: “Do not lie with a male as one lies with a woman; it is an abhorrence” (Leviticus 18:22), and “If a man lies with a male as one lies with a woman, the two of them have done an abhorrent thing; they shall be put to death—their bloodguilt is upon them” (Leviticus 20:13). The Torah considers a homosexual act between two men to be an abhorrent thing (to’evah), punishable by death—a strong prohibition. As a result, Orthodox parents of LGBT children are often struck with …read more