Amsterdam’s ‘gay cure’ rabbi ‘fears for his life’

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The New York-based rabbi who heads Amsterdam’s Orthodox Ashkenazi community had said he fears for his life after he was suspended for signing a ‘gay cure’ declaration.

The chief rabbi reportedly told a Dutch newspaper he felt it would be safer to stay away from the Netherlands, saying: “Why would I risk the life of my wife and me?”

Aryeh Ralbag, had been suspended from his position after he signed a document alleging homosexuality could be “modified and healed”.

Ralbag defended putting his name to the Torah Declaration, a document written by 25 Jews who claim to have overcome same-sex attraction and now campaign that “change is possible”. Around 180 rabbis and other figures have signed the document.

The Orthodox rabbi, who is based in America but has been head of the Dutch city’s Jewish community for six years, stood by his endorsement of the “Declaration On The Torah Approach To Homosexuality”, saying it was “unheard of” for a chief rabbi to be suspended for expressing an official Orthodox view.

The Conference of European Rabbis, the continent’s primary Orthodox rabbinical alliance, issued a statement saying: “In Amsterdam, a community that is too concerned with what their secular peers believe, has penalised their Chief Rabbi for re stating the Torah’s opposition to same sex unions. As contemporary traditional Jews we have an obligation to uphold Torah values whilst living as responsible citizens.

“The Conference of European Rabbis is already in talks with the Community and will be sending a representative to meet the Amsterdam Community in an effort to work through the issue.”

The Jewish Chronicle reports comments made by the Conference to Ronnie Eisenmann, the community’s president, that: “The action of summarily suspending a rabbi from his duties for expressing halachah [the collective body of Jewish laws and customs] is a practice we wholeheartedly oppose, one which is unacceptable for an Orthodox Jewish community”.

One of the signatories to the Torah declaration is Arthur Goldberg, a co-director of JONAH.

JONAH recently made the headlines when JFS, a Jewish school in London, showed students a slide displaying its logo during a discussion on homosexuality.

The school strongly denied promoting JONAH, Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (formerly Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality), as an option for gay students to explore.