Advocate: What Does Judaism Say About LGBTQ People?

LGBTQ Political Party Starting Up in Israel

New Lesbian Deputy Mayor of Tel Aviv

Wikipedia: List of LGBTQ Jews

PBS Video: Being Queer and Orthodox Jewish

Keshet: National LGBTQ Jewish Organization

YouTube: Gay and Jewish

Jewish Journal: Home for Gay and Lesbian Teens in Orthodoxy?

HRC: Reconstructionist Judaism and LGBTQ Issues

Video: Black, Jewish, and Gay

Advocate Interview: Israel's Lifelong LGBTQ Activist


Jewish and Gay


“While there are no simple equations between Jewish and queer identities, Jewishness and queerness yet utilize and are bound up with one another in particularly resonant ways. This crossover also extends to the modern discourses of antisemitism and homophobia, with stereotypes of the Jew frequently underwriting pop cultural and scientific notions of the homosexual. And vice versa.”

- Daniel Boyarin, Daniel Itzkovitz, & Ann Pellegrini / Queer Theory & the Jewish Question



"The God I worship endorses loving, committed, monogamous relationships, regardless of the gender of those involved."

-Rabbi Marder

"Being gay is okay, so long as the behavior is not obsessive, responsible and safe, non-abusive, and the manifestation of a loving, respectful relationship."

-Rabbi Wilson



"First of all, I do not know what God thinks. In my opinion, homosexuality is not a sin, but an alternate lifestyle. In my opinion, homosexuality by itself is not immoral. When sex is used to corrupt, for prurient and/or exploitative purposes or selfish reasons or to hurt someone else, this is immoral."

-Rabbi Lazar


JQY: Jewish Queer Youth

Jewish LGBTQ Organizations

BBC: Israeli Knesset Member Resigns Amid Gay Wedding Criticism

Lesbian Jewish-Palestinian Couple

Sojourn: Southern Jewish LGBTQ Resource Network

Wikipedia: LGBTQ Rights in Israel

New Lesbian Deputy Mayor of Tel Aviv

Ending School Homophobia is a Jewish Imperative

Wider Bridge: LGBTQ Equality in Israel

Gay Jewish-Palestinian Married Couple

Israeli Knesset Member Forced Out for Attending Gay Wedding


What Does Judaism Say About LGBTQ People?


Within Judaism, there are many shades of LGBTQ acceptance and rejection.


Rabbi Denise Eger, the rabbi of the West Hollywood Reform synagogue Congregation Kol Ami, is one of the first openly gay or lesbian rabbis. She was ordained in 1988, and came out publicly the same year.  In 1990 Reform Judaism began ordaining openly gay and lesbian rabbis.



Eger says that Judaism has evolved on the issue of LGBTQ inclusion, particularly with the Reform movement’s long record of support for LGBTQ rights.


“There’s such a rapid change of pace,” says Eger, who became the first openly LGBTQ president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, which has endorsed marriage equality since 1996. She says liberal Jews want “to welcome all people and to speak out for human rights and LGBTQ rights.”


The primary branches of Judaism vary in their views on LGBTQ people:


Reform Judaism - Reform rabbis can officiate at ceremonies recognizing same-sex relationships, and most will perform same-sex weddings. The most liberal branch of Judaism, Reform is also the largest one in North America, Eger says. About 80 percent of Jewish people on the continent are either Reform or Conservative.



Conservative Judaism - Whereas Reform Judaism is broadly affirming, Conservative Judaism is “still in transition,” Eger says. Gay and lesbian rabbis can be ordained in Conservative Judaism, she says. Some Conservative rabbis will officiate at same-sex weddings, others will not.


Orthodox Judaism - Orthodox Judaism, the smallest branch of Judaism in North America, includes synagogues that reflect different degrees of acceptance. Most Orthodox rabbis oppose marriage quality and would not officiate at a same-sex wedding or affirm same-sex relationships, Eger says. In fact, some would reject LGBTQ members or even endorse discredited “reparative therapy.” However, some Orthodox synagogues would welcome LGBTQ people to be part of the community.


Theological Questions - From a theological standpoint, Jewish people face some of the same questions as Christians when it comes to scriptural interpretations. There’s the “man who lies with a man” verse in Leviticus. There’s a part of Noah’s story in which one of his son’s “saw his father’s nakedness,” which could be a euphemism for incest or molestation.  



For Eger’s part, she has criticized the “very literal fashion” in which religious texts are often viewed. “Bring your critical, insightful mind to whatever text you’re reading,” Eger said during a recent panel of pro-LGBTQ religious leaders. “Do not check your mind at the door.”


Nehirim is an LGBTQ Jewish organization. Like Eger, Nehirim officials note that things have changed markedly for LGBTQ people in Judaism. “Twenty-five years ago fewer than a dozen Jewish clergy publicly identified as LGBTQ. Today 200 rabbis, cantors, rabbinic pastors and clergy students in every denomination lead congregations, teach at universities, lead and teach at seminaries, run Jewish organizations, manage chaplaincy departments at hospitals and more,” Nehirim’s executive director, Rabbi Debra Kolodny, said. “We are thrilled that so many will clergy are willing to have meaningful dialogue about theology, leadership, and how we can help heal the wounds created by religion around sexuality in the Jewish world.”


[Source: Advocate, Stevie St. John, December 2014]


Jewish Views on Homosexuality

LGBTQ Affirming Jewish Groups

Gamal Palmer: Black, Gay, Jewish

JTA: Israeli Government Opposes Adoption by Same Sex Couples

Lesbian Jewish-Palestinian Couple

HRC: Conservative Judaism and LGBTQ Issues

New Lesbian Deputy Mayor of Tel Aviv

Jewishable: Jewish LGBTQ Network

Advocate Interview: Israel's Lifelong LGBTQ Activist

Man Harassed for Wearing a Pink Kippah

Welcoming Synagogues: Queering Jewish Religious Spaces

Times of Israel: Gay Pride in Tel Aviv



Israel May Ban Sexual Orientation Discrimination


Israel's Knesset advanced a bill in June 2018 banning sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. The bill widens the scope of current anti-discrimination law.  Under the amendment, wherever Israeli law refers to discrimination, it would also mean discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. "In view of the changes that have occurred in Israeli law since 1992, and in view of the frequent attacks on the LGBTQ community owing to sexual orientation or gender identity in the form of discrimination and harassment, the time has come to amend the interpretation law beyond the legal meaning,” reads the explanation to the bill.


Times of Israel: Knesset Advances Bill Banning LGBTQ Discrimination

Y Net News: Knesset Approves Bill Banning LGBTQ Discrimination

JTA: Israeli Lawmakers Give Preliminary Approval of LGBTQ Anti-Discrimination Bill

Cleveland Jewish News: Bill Banning LGBTQ Discrimination Gets Knesset Approval



LGBTQ Rights in Israel


Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) rights in Israel are the most advanced in the Middle East and one of the most advanced in Asia. Same-sex sexual activity was legalized in 1988, although the former law against sodomy had not been enforced since a court decision of 1963. Israel became the first in Asia to recognize unregistered cohabitation between same-sex couples, making it the first country in Asia to recognize any same-sex union. Although same-sex marriages are not performed in the country, Israel recognizes same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. Discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation was prohibited in 1992. Same-sex couples are allowed to jointly adopt after a court decision in 2008, while previously allowing stepchild adoptions and limited co-guardianship rights for non-biological parents. LGBTQ people are also allowed to serve openly in the military.



Tel Aviv has frequently been referred to by publishers as one of the most gay friendly cities in the world, famous for its annual Pride Parade and gay beach, earning it the nickname "the gay capital of the Middle East" by Out magazine. According to LGBTQ travelers, it was ranked as the best gay city in 2011, despite reports of some LGBTQ violence during the 2000s, which were criticized by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres. A monument dedicated to the gay victims of the Holocaust was erected in Tel Aviv in 2014.


World Congress of LGBTQ Jews

YouTube: Lesbian Jewish Wedding Story

New Lesbian Deputy Mayor of Tel Aviv

Dana Goldberg: Jewish Lesbian Comedian

Tourist Israel: Gay Tel Aviv for Beginners

Video: Black, Jewish, and Gay

Lesbian Jewish-Palestinian Couple

LGBTQ Political Party Srtarting Up in Israel

IGY: Israeli Gay Youth

Times of Israel: 79% of Israelis Back Gay Marriage

Wikipedia: Homosexuality and Judaism

Gamal Palmer: Black, Gay, Jewish


Rabbi Denise Eger

Denise Eger is an American Reform rabbi. In March 2015 she became president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the largest and oldest rabbinical organization in North America.  She is the first openly gay person to hold that position.



While studying to become a rabbi during the 1980s in New York City, Denise Eger started a group for gay and lesbian students, holding meetings far from campus. At the time, there were few prospects for out lesbian rabbis, a lesson Eger would learn personally. No one would hire her. But she found her calling at a synagogue created as a religious refuge for gays, Beth Chayim Chadashim in Los Angeles, the world’s first gay and lesbian synagogue to be recognized by Reform Judaism. It was a road that led her to found Kol Ami, a welcoming and jubilant Jewish community that is open to all.

Since then, the Reform Jewish movement (Eger’s lifelong spiritual home) has undergone a radical transformation on LGBTQ issues and now fully embraces the community.


Eger has been honored for her HIV/AIDS work and is a highly regarded expert on Judaism and LGBTQ civil rights. She is a noted author contributing to anthologies such as “Torah Queeries,” “Lesbian Rabbis,” “Twice Blessed,” and “Conflicting Visions: Contemporary Debates in Reform Judaism.” She wrote the piece “Creating Opportunities for the ‘Other’: The Ordination of Women as a Turning Point for LGBTQ Jews”, which appears in the book “The Sacred Calling: Four Decades of Women in the Rabbinate,” published in 2016.


Wikipedia: Denise Eger

Queery: Lesbian Rabbi Denise Eger

NY Times: Lesbian Rabbi Becomes President of Reform Group

Institute for Judaism and Sexual Orientation
How Can You be Gay and Jewish?

Rabbi's View: Gay Marriage Does Not Violate Religious Rules

What Does Judaism Say About LGBTQ People?



Famous LGBTQ Jews


Harvey Milk / Politician

Barney Frank / Politician

Dana Goldberg / Comedian

Allan Bloom / Philosopher

Ludwig Wittgenstein / Philosopher

Magnus Hirschfeld / Sexologist

Arlene Istar Lev / Social Worker, Therapist, Educator

Sandra Bernhard / Actor, Comedian

Harvey Feinstein / Actor, Playwright

Victor Garber / Actor

Annie Leibovitz / Photographer

Moises Kaufman / Playwright

Leonard Bernstein / Composer, Conductor

Aaron Copland / Composer

Dave Koz / Jazz Saxophonist

Barry Manilow / Singer, Songwriter

Janis Ian / Singer, Songwriter

Adam Lambert / Singer

Allen Ginsberg / Poet

Tony Kushner / Playwright

Marcel Proust / Novelist

Gertrude Stein / Writer

Susan Sontag / Novelist

Maurice Sendak / Writer

Ari Shapiro / Radio Newscaster


Advocate: What Does Judaism Say About LGBTQ People?

LGBTQ Political Party Starting Up in Israel

Man Harassed for Wearing a Pink Kippah

Advocate Interview: Israel's Lifelong LGBTQ Activist

Wikipedia: List of LGBTQ Jews

PBS Video: Being Queer and Orthodox Jewish

Keshet: National LGBTQ Jewish Organization

YouTube: Gay and Jewish

Jewish Journal: Home for Gay and Lesbian Teens in Orthodoxy?

HRC: Reconstructionist Judaism and LGBTQ Issues

Video: Black, Jewish, and Gay



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