600 rabbis back LGBT rights, in response to 200 rabbis who condemned gay ‘perverts’

600 rabbis have signed a letter in solidarity with the LGBT community, after 200 rabbis signed a letter calling gay people “perverts.”

Ahead of this month’s Jerusalem Pride celebrations, more than 200 religious clerics signed an open letter calling Pride marchers “perverts”.

The group of ultra-Orthadox rabbis claimed that LGBT rights activists are leading an “aggressive terror [campaign] accompanied by non-stop media brainwashing, as if there is some sort of ‘family’ here, destroy the notion of a family and turn the perverts into heroes.”

Participants attend the annual Jerusalem Gay Pride parade on August 2, 2018. (GALI TIBBON / AFP/Getty)

The letter led to an angry response from LGBT Jewish people, who hit out at the rabbis behind it.

This week a response was published also in the form of an open letter, signed by 600 rabbis.

The response, published by US-based Jewish group A Wider Bridge, states: “We join together to decry the rise of intolerance, discrimination and Sinat Chinam, baseless hatred, against the LGBTQ community in Israel.

“In light of a recent letter, signed by 200 prominent Israeli rabbis, labeling LGBTQ people with hateful and demeaning insults, as well as condemning their children to a ‘wretched existence, we lift our own voices not in hatred, but out of the deepest love and concern for all the people of Israel.”

It adds: “This week marks the 2018 Jerusalem March for Pride and Tolerance, a time to recognize the LGBTQ community of Jerusalem and the freedom of all communities to live proudly and freely, side by side all other citizens, in the democratic state of Israel.

“Israel has been, and continues to be, an Ohr LaGoyim, a Light to the Nations, through its embrace of democratic and pluralist values, where all Jewish peoples, together with other peoples, can find safety, refuge and a decent life.

“Three years ago at Jerusalem Pride, Shira Banki was brutally murdered by a man claiming to act in the name of Torah.

“While we all can agree that hatred, violence and murder are, in fact, nothing short of a Chilul HaShem, a desecration of God’s Name, we must similarly recognize that the recent rabbinic letter… [reflects] a dehumanizing mindset that could, G-d forbid, lead to more tragedies like Shira’s murder in the future.”

It adds: “Our call affirms the equal rights of Orthodox Jewry in Israel, and we assert that notions of equal rights and protections for all Israeli citizens are values that reflect the highest and best values of the Orthodox community. We ask that our Orthodox colleagues do the same for us.”

The letter also condemns the decision to exclude gay couples from recent surrogacy legislation in Israel – a decision that has led to unrest and anger targeted at PM Benjamin Netanyahu.