By Jamie Kirchick
Published in Tablet Magazine

shmuelheadWhen Zvi Bellin, a gay Washingtonian, heard that a vigil was being organized by members of the gay and Jewish communities in the Capitol to memorialize the victims of the Tel Aviv gay youth center shooting, he decided to invite Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld. Herzfeld, who leads the modern Orthodox Ohev Sholom synagogue in Shepherd Park, is a member of the only movement of mainstream American Judaism that views homosexuality as issur d’oraita, something that is proscribed by the Torah. Thousands of years after the Jewish holy text was transmitted from God’s mouth to man’s ears, Orthodox Judaism’s classification of sexual relations between people of the same gender remains unerring: “an abomination.” But whatever the conservative doctrines of his faith, Herzfeld recognized an important Jewish value at stake in the Tel Aviv massacre: that some Jews would take halakhic prohibitions against homosexuality to mean that homosexuals are themselves an abomination and thus unworthy in the eyes of God.

“I said it would be my honor,” Herzfeld told me about the invitation offered by Bellin, who is gay and attends Ohev Sholom. Herzfeld turned what would have been a somber commemoration of a tragedy into an inspiring, even newsworthy, event. In his brief speech, he called upon Orthodox congregations to take a “communal pledge declaring that we will not create a climate of gay-bashing,” wowing his mostly gay, Dupont Circle audience.

Read the rest of the article in Tablet Magazine

About the author


James Kirchick is a fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributing editor for The New Republic.