Yeshiva U listens to stories of ‘Being Gay’

There was a tremendous amount of media coverage in 2006 when Conservative Judaism opened its doors to gay rabbis and gay marriage.

Reform Judaism had already done so. Orthodoxy never would.

The move by the Conservative world was seen as a small but meaningful social shift (in a much larger religious and social drama that continues).

But the Jewish Week has a fascinating story about an event at Yeshiva University that shows that even some elements of the modern Orthodox world are grappling with how to face the unsettling question of homosexuality in the modern culture.

Which is not to say that there is any talk of accepting gay rabbis or gay marriage or gay anything.

But a gay rabbi and several gay students and alumni were given an opportunity to speak about their lives and the unique challenges they face as Orthodox Jews. The program was called “Being  Gay in the Modern Orthodox World.”

One student said: “Hashem made me gay. My test is not that Hashem made me gay and that I have to become straight, but my test is to live with it.”

Some 600-800 people attended. “The crowd was respectful, listening quietly to the speakers’ remarks, interrupting only for applause, and laughter at the men’s humorous remarks,” according to the JW.

The Jewish Week notes: “Separate statements issued by President Richard Joel, and by leading members of the rabbinical school’s Talmudic faculty, distanced themselves from the event while not outright condemning it.”

I can’t seem to get to the Jewish Week website today, but a cache version is HERE.

So what now?

A statement from top leaders at Yeshiva said this: “Homosexual activity constitutes an abomination. As such, publicizing or seeking legitimization even for the homosexual orientation one feels runs contrary to Torah. In any forum or on any occasion when appropriate sympathy for such discreet individuals is being discussed, these basic truths regarding homosexual feelings and activity must be emphatically re-affirmed.”


Have a happy and safe New Year’s Eve.

Religious services prolong life (researchers say)

You want to live longer? It may help to attend religious services more often.

That’s the finding of a new study by researchers at Yeshiva University and its medical school, Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

According to a statement:

The researchers evaluated the religious practices of 92,395 post-menopausal women participating in the WHI. They examined the prospective association of religious affiliation, religious service attendance, and strength and comfort derived from religion with subsequent cardiovascular events and overall rates of mortality. Although the study showed as much as a 20 percent decrease in the overall risk of mortality for those attending religious services, it did not show any consistent change in rates of morbidity and death specifically related to cardiovascular disease, with no explanation readily evident.

The study adjusted for participation of individuals within communal organizations and group activities that promote a strong social life and enjoyable routines, behaviors known to lead to overall wellness. However, even after controlling for such behavior and other health-related factors, the improvements in morbidity and mortality rates exceeded expectations.

Eliezer Schnall, Ph.D., clinical assistant professor of psychology at Yeshiva College of Yeshiva University and lead author of the study, said: “Interestingly, the protection against mortality provided by religion cannot be entirely explained by expected factors that include enhanced social support of friends or family, lifestyle choices and reduced smoking and alcohol consumption. There is something here that we don’t quite understand. It is always possible that some unknown or unmeasured factors confounded these results.”

Yeah, I know that Yeshiva is an Orthodox Jewish institution. Is the study somehow biased? I can’t say, but it was published in “Psychology and Health,” the journal of the European Health Psychology Society. Europeans are generally post-religious, right?

You can read the actual study HERE.

A prominent rabbi’s off-the-cuff statement faces examination

When a prominent Talmudic scholar at Yeshiva University in NYC makes a terribly controversial statement — off the cuff and possibly in jest — what should happen to him?

thumb_hershel_schachter_o1.jpgThat’s the question raised in the Jewish Week about Rabbi Hershel Schachter, a leading figure at Yeshiva’s rabbinical school for decades. He apparently said in Israel last week that the Israeli prime minister should be shot if he “gives away” Jerusalem.

Schachter issued a statement through Yeshiva, the intellectual center of modern Orthodox Judaism:

Statements I made informally have been publicly excerpted this week. I deeply regret such statements and apologize for them. They were uttered spontaneously, off the cuff, and were not meant seriously. And, they do not, God forbid, represent my views. Jewish law demands respect for representatives of the Jewish government and the state of Israel.

Some think that Schachter should be disciplined — considering that a former Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, was in fact shot and killed. According to the Jewish Week: “His defenders say he is naïve, not mean-spirited, in part because he has little dealing with the community at large, cloistered within the study halls of Yeshiva.”