How Rainbow Jews Threaten a Black and White Haredi Worldview

It is tempting to read Yishai Schlissel’s terrorist act at the Jerusalem Pride Parade, which we now know claimed the life of Shira Banki, a 16-year-old marcher, as confirming the opposition between the religious and secular realm. The common adjectives used to describe Schlissel are ultra-Orthodox or haredi.  That oft-repeated descriptor not only reflects but also shapes the unfortunate reality that many in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community zealously guard homophobia as an essential and eternal value sanctified by Torah.  Those who decried the stabbings committed by Schlissel but nonetheless referred to the Pride Parade as “the abomination parade” represent such zealous homophobes. Of course, the language of abomination is biblical language used to describe any number of transgressions.  However, an anti-historical reading of Leviticus 18:22, the passage that declares it an abomination for men to lie with one another as they would with a woman and implicitly renders lesbians invisible and even unthinkable, is the proof text that continues to be used to justify homophobia. 

Even Israeli security forces assume the secularism of marchers and the homophobia of the haredim.  According to Haaretz, “In security briefings before the event, there were clear instructions to stop any ultra-Orthodox person nearing the inner circle of the parade, with police instructed to ask them to identify themselves and state their business at the parade. Moreover, police were asked to pay special attention to any possible Haredi masquerading as a secular Israeli.”  When we assume that ultra-Orthodox or haredi Jews are necessarily and eternally homophobic, we forget that ultra-Orthodoxy has a history and presumably a future, one not written on stone tablets.  Even more importantly, such a reductive narrative belies the possibility and the experience of queer ultra-Orthodoxy. 

One comment on “How Rainbow Jews Threaten a Black and White Haredi Worldview

  1. Tootyfruity on

    Oh, Lord, I hadn’t thought about Haredi gays. It reminds me of the rail thin black man who used to wobble through our neighborhood in miniskirt and high heels. After a few years of saying hello to Mr. Miniskirt, as I thought of him, I finally learned that he lived in a group home for mentally ill AID’s patients. What a rough community to be gay in, I thought.

    A haredi community would be even tougher, particularly for men.

    Can hate be a form of mental illness? Is it treatable at all? How, in a time when fanaticism seems on the rise among Muslim, Christian and Jew can we hope to transform these ultra-conservative communities into places that truly love and respect the “other” among them? Surely, the commandment: “Though Shalt Not Murder,” ranks far higher than the few sentences describing homosexuality, mixing fabrics, and yoking one animal to another as an abomination.

    The same goes for those who set fire to a Palestinian home with people in it. In the name of Judaism. The very thought makes me ill.

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