Response To Open Letter To OU

Dear Avi Goldstein,

Your open letter to the OU regarding Big Gay Ice Cream, as printed in the February 8 edition of the 5TJT, was the topic of discussion at our Eshel support group this past week. Eshel is an organization that attempts to build a bridge between the Orthodox Jewish community and our LGBTQ children. As Orthodox parents of LGBTQ children, we meet to offer support and advice to each other in dealing with our shared challenge — how to love and stay close to our children even though they have taken a path that we find difficult to accept.

From the tone of your letter, it is obvious that you have no idea how widespread this issue is. Clearly, you don’t realize that the entire spectrum of Orthodox Jewry is facing this issue — from “Conservodox” to Modern Orthodox to yeshivish to chassidic. Clearly, you don’t realize that every Jewish community is facing this issue — from New York to Baltimore to Chicago to Los Angeles and, yes, even the Five Towns. Would you have written your letter if you knew that your chavrusa’s son or your rebbe daughter lead “alternative” lifestyles? What will you do if your own child or grandchild “comes out” to you one day?

We know what the Torah says about homosexuality, but where does it say that you can’t also be kosher? There are quite a few prohibitions in the Torah. Among them: desecrating Shabbos, collecting interest, cheating in business, adultery, eating treif, etc. Does the OU need to check out all of these prohibitions before certifying the kashrus of a product? If you cheat in business, can you no longer be certified as kosher?

Through Eshel, we have learned that it’s not something that “we” did wrong as parents and that it’s not a choice that “they” have made. In most cases, it is a natural predisposition that they were born with. Through Eshel we have learned that homosexuality is not something new. It has been around since the world was created. Until now, it was always hidden “in the closet.” The secular world has just recently learned to accept it, and now our Orthodox Jewish community must find a way to deal with it as well.

Our Orthodox Jewish community must not push these children away. They are Jewish children. If we tell them to leave, they will. What does your “moral compass” say about that? Must your son be forced to choose between happiness and Jewishness? When your daughter gives birth to a Jewish child and applies to the “Yeshiva of Moral High Ground,” will your moral compass point the child to the entrance or the exit?

Yes. We agree. There are big questions that the rabbinical authorities must deal with on this issue, but the kashrus of the controversial ice cream is certainly not one of them. We suggest that people like Mr. Goldstein should open their eyes a little bit wider. This issue is a lot bigger than you think and it’s not going away.

With love and understanding for all Jewish children,

The Long Island Eshel Support Group

11 COMMENTS

  1. This letter is disgusting, and has no place in any part of the Jewish world, frum or otherwise. There can be no acceptance of the unacceptable. Larry, you should be ashamed to have this garbage on your website.

    • Dear Mr. Cohen,
      This issue is not ‘garbage’. It’s reality. It’s happening all around us. It’s not for us to judge. That’s God’s job. Our job is to figure out how to deal with it. If we hide our heads in the sand and refuse to deal with it, then we, too, will have to answer to God.

    • Dear Mr. Cohen,
      We can’t undo a reality by calling it names. And, in fact, as a frum Eshel member, I can say with certainty that you’d be very suprised at who you’re calling these names. They include mechanchim and mechanchos, baalebatim and shul board members, and a wide variety of people from fine, frum homes who are dedicated to Yiddishkeit. There are very likely some people in your community and family who are LGBTQ, though they won’t tell you so if you write letters like this one. There are thousands of frum men and women in the NY area alone who are gay, who are struggling to maintain their connection to Hashem, community, and family. Just because their struggle is unfamiliar to you doesn’t make it “garbage.” People who are trying to maintain connection to Hashem and the Jewish community in particularly trying circumstances deserve to be mentioned for their extraordinary efforts. I, for one, am touched and appreciative, both to the parents who penned this letter and to the 5TJT who printed it. Joint acts of kindness and basic recognition like this one help all of us who are frum and LGBTQ to keep Torah and Mitzvos and hope for a brighter future, knowing we are not alone or abandoned by the entire Jewish community. On the eve of Purim, that is joyous news indeed.

  2. Whats wrong with 5TJT?? Is it so desparate for attention that his has to post anti-frum concepts and ideas that go against our Torah values? I for one have had enough. I’m sticking with the Jewish Home for now on.

    • I, too, felt sick to my stomach when my child ‘came out’ but then I realized that it was my child and I refused to let go. How would your neshama feel?

  3. Dear Letter Writers—-
    No one here is condoning or endorsing or supporting in any fashion a lifestyle that at best challenges the directives of Torah and halacha. But there is a crisis out there and just ignoring that reality should not be an acceptable answer either.

    To that end I spoke with Tzvi Gluck today of Amudim about these issues and its impact on the frum community. He advised me that he serves on the NYS Committee To Prevent Suicide, a position that he was appointed to by Governor Cuomo. He said that in his time on the board he has learned that the highest rate of suicides in New York is among the LGBTQ population that was born and raised in the frum community.

    So take a step back and ask yourself is it the best thing to slam the door on and shut these kids out at the risk of them killing themselves?

  4. To the Editor:

    In a previous 5TJT edition, I penned an open letter to the Orthodox Union, criticizing the organization for certifying products by a company named Big Gay Ice Cream. The Long Island Eshel Support Group’s respectful, heartfelt critique of my letter (March 15 issue) merits a response.

    Eshel’s members are courageous parents who must confront the difficult proposition that their children identify as LGBT. And I do sense the pain of these children, struggling with finding their place when that place diverges drastically from traditional expectations.

    Still, is Eshel’s goal simply one of support for these parents and their children? As detailed on Eshel’s website, a 2018 retreat resulted in the following declaration: “We want our LGBTQ child to be as happy as any heterosexual child and to find a life-long partner.” Here Eshel effectively endorses same-sex activity; It should be self-evident that no Orthodox Jew can support a sentiment of this nature.

    The Eshel letter makes incorrect assumptions about me. Yes, I do recognize that the issue of homosexuality transcends communities. Further, I fully concur that we must not push children (or adults) away simply because of their sexual preference/orientation. The letter asks whether, if I had a lesbian daughter, I would deny her child access to a yeshiva. The answer is no. A Jewish child is a Jewish child and must be fully accepted into our educational system. Just as we must not push away kids who have trouble with Shabbat observance or other fundaments of our faith, so must we open our arms to those who identify as gay. Simultaneously, we cannot give sanction to sinful behaviors.

    Moreover, I am against general discrimination based on sexual preference or orientation. For example, I believe that gay partners should have the right to share medical insurance and inheritance rights. By contrast, I fully support the right of the baker in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case to refuse to fashion a cake for a same-sex wedding; one must not be forced to compromise dearly held principles.

    None of this, however, pertains to my letter regarding Big Gay Ice Cream. It is one thing to offer support for gay individuals. It is quite another to recognize same-sex relationships as legitimate. Simply put, Jewish law deems homosexual conduct to be immoral and corrosive. Moreover, traditional Christianity and Islam share our view.

    And it is this collective religious outlook that has shaped much of our society’s legal codex. Murder, theft, and other sins are not perceived simply as incompatible with a functioning society. Rather, they are perceived as moral wrongs that undermine our culture. From where does this moral judgment come? It emanates from a common weltanschauung that has helped define our society for centuries. It is only because G-d gave us moral instruction that we can determine morality.

    It is precisely here that my criticism of the OU is centered. Why would a company specifically name its brand “Big Gay Ice Cream”? The answer is rooted in the primary agenda of the gay-rights movement: to force society to recognize same-sex relationships as equal in moral standing to heterosexual ones. Yet there is no equivalence; same-sex relationships were, are, and always will be immoral. By certifying the company’s products, the OU effectively gives a hechsher not just to the food, but to the agenda behind the food.

    Readers may be unaware how profoundly the LGBT agenda has infected our society. It is now common for someone who opposes same-sex marriage to be labeled a hater. Witness the vitriol hurled at Vice President Mike Pence because his wife teaches at a Christian school and because he opposes same-sex unions. (I ask: Was Barack Obama a “hater” until 2011, when he changed his mind and endorsed gay marriage?) School curricula today routinely instruct young children that there are several kinds of legitimate relationships. In these curricula, there is absolute equivalence between straight and gay sexual orientations! Perhaps worse, society is now expected to endorse the deviant notion that there are multiple sorts of gender identities and that one is free to choose his/her own.

    If an ice cream named “Sabbath Desecrators” existed, would the OU jump to certify its products? I highly doubt it. Why, then, should Big Gay Ice Cream be any different? I again call upon the OU to withdraw its hechsher. At the same time, I wish Eshel success in navigating its difficult path in a halachically acceptable fashion.

    Avi Goldstein

    Far Rockaway

  5. For all those who use words like- disgusting, moral depravity, infected-our-society, garbage, etc…I simply wonder what you would think and what would you say if it were YOUR child? May I suggest you stop, right now, and think about that for 10 seconds. I’m sure it sounds better in Yiddish, but the English equivalent is…very easy to be frum on someone else’s back.

  6. From an Eshel parent: I love my child and accept her as she is and as Hashem has created her. To do otherwise is to cast her aside and I will not do that. I pray that the Orthodox community will join Eshel and all frum parents of LGBTQ children and love them as Hashem does.

  7. Hey heads up, if you say you “support” LGBT+ kids and then in the same breath talk about their existence being immoral….that’s a contradiction. That’s not support. It does not matter how good your intentions are, posts like this are a huge reason LGBT+ kids feel alone, ostracized, and hated. Comparing love to murder and theft is not very open minded of you. The same sex “agenda” you speak of is not forcing people to do anything. Its asking people to leave these people alone, let them exist without being hated and talked about here like they’re hypotheticals as opposed to reality.

    Queer and trans kids are here. They are real. And they are not going away. I hope against hope you never have an LGBT+ child, for their sakes.

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