Our friend Justin Spiro has hit upon the challenge in his piece, "LGBTQ Youth Have No Derech To Stray From." We cannot complain that young people are leaving a community if it leaves them first.
It cannot be denied that LGBT lives are at present, largely unacknowledged, excised or reviled by a majority of the Orthodox community. However, at Eshel, we are actually optimistic in regard to the future, and we want everyone, including teens and their parents, to hold off from despair.
There are already Orthodox shuls and schools in New York and Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston, St. Louis and Berkeley, Columbus and Minneapolis that are both Orthodox and inclusive of LGBT Jews. Increasingly, Orthodox Yeshiva High Schools are admitting to the human, moral and religious challenges that a more capacious understanding of gender identity and sexual orientation pose. Rabbis, leaders and educators are searching for ways to remain responsible both to the tradition and to their LGBT students who come out of the closet and they are turning to us to partner with them in that work.
If you are an Orthodox parent, and your beautiful child came out tonight, wouldn't you want to know that there are already a number of Orthodox synagogue communities in the world that are welcoming of LGBT Jews and their families? Wouldn't you be comforted to hear that a growing number of Orthodox rabbis and educators are aware of their weighty responsibility to your kids and some of them have already taken bold steps forward?
Before a “derech” for LGBT young people can be conceived of, before all the complexities of gender and sexuality can be fully understood, what is first needed is the conviction that we all belong inside of the community, figuring it out together. A few dozen rabbis, principals, educators and a group of strong and courageous parents are leading the way, and while there is a long road ahead, no one should despair.
Eshel is dedicated to increasing the number of Orthodox communities that demonstrate open-heartedness and welcome to LGBT Jews and their families, and you can help. Join our friends, parents and family members at the Orthodox Allies Roundtable.
Rabbi Steven Greenberg and Miryam Kabakov are the executive directors of Eshel.