HRC Blog

Support Network for LGBT in the Orthodox Community

The following post comes from HRC Jewish Organization Equality Index Intern Hannah Henschel:

The numerous “It Gets Better” videos have created a diverse supportive network for the LGBT community. Recently, a video was made by a group of Jewish men who all grew up as Orthodox and identify as gay. This video paints a depressing picture – it is extremely hard, even perhaps impossible, to currently be an out gay man in the Orthodox community. One of the men in the video, Chaim Levin, received a particularly harsh backlash from the Orthodox community in the form of an article on the website Jewish Press. Elliot Resnick, a writer for the Jewish Press, wrote that while it is possible to be Orthodox and gay, that the proper way to “handle” these feelings in the Orthodox tradition is through suppression. Resnick explains, “Jewish thought teaches one to be embarrassed of one's failings, to hide one's flaws from man and God, to repress one's base characteristics and desires.” He goes on to state that anyone who cannot abide by this is immoral.

Levin came back strong with a response to Resnick through his own article on the same website. Throughout telling the story of his own coming-out experience, Levin paints a horrifying picture of the experiences of so-called “reparative therapy” to isolation and expulsion from the Orthodox community.  The alienation from his Orthodox community nearly led Levin to take his own life, but he was helped by finding a supportive organization, JQY.  JQY is a support network of those brought up in the Orthodox community and work within their congregations and communities to create a safer environment for those who are LGBT.  Through all the turmoil Levin has faced as a gay Orthodox young man, he now is able to build an inclusive supportive community for others.  To find out more about Levin and his work, check out his personal blog or watch his recent interview with the Faith Complex.

Photo Credit: © Katja Heinemann/Aurora Select, courtesy of the Southern Poverty Law Center

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