Shira Chadasha: a confused reconstructionist stream based on human definitions of social justice

There are two ways to approach Judaism: you accept it for what it is, or you consider it a piece of plasticine that you can mould according to a human (or humanistic) philosophy that you already believe in, based on societal values or your own philosophical catechisms.

My feeling, from encounters with some who attend Shira Chadasha services, is that they are more aligned with the latter than the former. Even acceptance of unambiguous Halacha seems to depend on the influence of values and opinions of society in 2015. “It doesn’t matter if the pants don’t fit; we will make them fit.”

We just read Acharei/Kedoshim where the Torah unambiguously and without any prevarication deems the homosexual act by men as an abomination, to the extent that if the Beth Hamikdash was still standing, stoning would have been the punishment meted out. It’s a charming thought in 2015, but that is the fact. On the matter of female homosexuality, whilst not explicit in the Written Law, it was always considered forbidden by the Oral Law based on Egyptian sexual mores which were not acceptable.

Shira Chadasha pin their “orthodoxy” on permissive opinions of Rabbis. No amount of Daniel Sperber or other `academic style’ Rabbis which Shira Chadasha cling to, can with any ounce of historical or societal ‘need’ under the single mantra of ׳תיקון עולם׳ expunge these halachos (to which the אומות העולם are also constrained from the Noachide perspective) and simply will them away, debate them, or place them in a ‘too hard basket’.

Let us not forget the words that follow לתקן עולם in the עלינו prayer : במלכות שקי. If a homosexual asked one of the doyens (I don’t know what word to use to describe the managerial hierarchy in Melbourne) of Shira Chadasha whether they have committed an abomination by having a sexual affair with the same-sex, and the doyen could not or would not say “I’m afraid so”, then the doyen is an halachic fraud. Yes, one can continue with other words, but the Halacha is unambiguous both to Sperber or Mendel Kaplan or anyone they wish to rely on for their new prayer mode.

Yes, there is more than one way to address people who find they constantly sin in this way, or have a predilection which is responsible for such. It is also possible that there  are markers that may predict the predilection, but it certainly doesn’t require some false notion of equality or rights for others to behave like a mensch towards people who were born with such a tendency.

Hungarian Charedim and Litvak types will likely not give an aliya to anyone who sins perpetually, whatever the sin might be. They speak of whether someone is Shomer Shabbos. If not, they will ignore them and consider them as lepers.

I remember at Elwood Shule they used to bring this argument up to Rabbi Chaim Gutnick ז’ל all the time. They would ask him

‘how can you give so and so an Aliya, he drove to shule

What I can tell you is that at the end of the service or kiddush, Rabbi Gutnick used to stay in his office and wait until everyone had left. Only then would he begin walking home. Why? In this way, he never saw anyone openly sin. All he would see is someone coming to shule, and from his perspective, the minute they came to Shule they were at least a בעל תשובה and he had no reason to instruct a Gabbai not to give them any honour. (there were other factors, but let’s not go into that period of history).

The fashionable terminology of our time is ‘social justice’ and ‘equality’. What does that mean in the context of someone’s sexuality? Clearly one cannot treat all equally as some are committing a sin which has absolutely no technical out (unlike the halachic calisthenics used to create the strange creäture that is the Shira Chadasha- anti-mimetic, and a poorly supported stance of a great minority of Rabbis, none of whom are considered broad enough from a halakhic point of view to create the changes inaugurated in the services they have conjured. Now that’s the Jerusalem version where many are quite frum and consistently so. I won’t even go to the Melbourne incarnation which seems to have more holes than swiss cheese.

With this in mind I read about a function that was presumably held in the Shira Chadasha Kiddush

Finding Your Way Out of the Closet
On Saturday, 18 April, Shira is proud to welcome Wayne Green to speak after the kiddush.
His talk will be an exploration of one’s journey through discovering life as a Jewish and Gay man. Navigating how to be connected to the community, to Judaism and one’s self against that which the odds are stacked against.

Wayne Green is a passionate leader and contributor to advocacy and equality for LGBTI rights in the Jewish Community.
Wayne works full time in the State government in management in client services. Wayne also works in the evenings doing early detection and prevention for HIV in the wider Melbourne community.
Wayne is also the Founder of JAG Melbourne (Jewish and Gay), which is a social group in Melbourne connecting young Jewish LGBTI adults.
JAG provides a range of social activities as well as community advocacy, education and engagement for inclusion and acceptance of diversity.

Diversity Statement
At Shira there is a respectful and welcoming attitude towards those who form minority groups in our society. Therefore, Shira seeks to find ways of understanding our texts and traditions in order to give full dignity and equality to all LGBTIQ Jews. Shira supports the ‘No to Homophobia’ Campaign

Firstly there are no “rights” for LGBTI in the Jewish Community anymore than there are rights for Pork eaters or Sabbath breakers. What are these rights? To be considered as if they are not committing acts which the Torah explicitly calls an abomination. It doesn’t matter what type of tree hugging ‘Diversity Statement’ one creates with an 11th commandment, an abomination is an abomination and cannot be willed away by cutely worded and beautiful statements.

What is the advocacy that they wish to allow on their premises? How does abomination equate to acceptance of diversity and equality. Why promote JAG ? Is there a need to also have a group of ‘Jewish Thieves’ and give them rights and social activities? In Poland, there really was a Shule of Thieves. I kid you not. That was their profession. Before the war, the Gabbay was Hersh Feivel Gottfried and his wife was known as Channa der Fresser. She being a lot taller than Hersh Feivel, forced him into high healed boots. On Shabbos, they did not steal. They had the best Kiddush/lunch in Warsaw. As soon as Havdalah was made, they began pick pocketing continuing their profession.

What has this to do with sexuality? If someone is Orthodox, then they know there are two sides of the ten commandments, there are also Mishpatim and Chukim, but above all they SUBMIT to the will of Halacha as the authentic expression of Judaism. They don’t go on some journey re-interpreting texts to make an abomination an equality of diversity.

Now, I have a number of acquaintances who are gay; others who eat pork and are married to non Jews, and one who is married to a self-proclaimed non-Jewish witch! I treat then with the same hello as I treat anyone else, and in fact the most recent homosexual who has had two IVF boys from his ‘marriage’ to another male felt that I showed him no disrespect to the extent that he bought me a bottle of wine when he left the work place. He had no problem coming to my office and chatting about the problems of bringing up his two ‘sons’. As uncompromising as I am about forbidding “white out” to be used on a Torah, I can and do still treat people as human beings.

There is, however, no place for the institutionalisation of abomination, groupings based on abomination, or even Jewish public rights in this regard. If I am a compulsive liar, I don’t create a Jewish liar’s group and expect equal rights because they find a part of my DNA which indicates a proclivity to tell untruths.

I do understand Shira Chadasha’s support for such meetings and talks. Perhaps it will morph in time to giving Reviii to a homosexual to make them feel ‘wanted’ and they will say that this is how they will convince a person not to sin. We all sin, and all have strong tendencies. Why make an issue of this one? Why offer a platform for sin? Does it really need to be highlighted?

There is another way. Have a weekly Shiur in Mussar, Jewish Ethics and learn about desirable character traits and perfecting one’s own personality. There is no need to promote a talk in the same way as a boxing match.

I don’t know Wayne Green. If I met him, I do NOT need (or want) to know that he is an habitual sinner of type a, b, c or d. That’s none of my business. It also should not be important for Wayne to promote himself as such anymore than Hersh Feivel Gottfried or Channa der Fresser should wear t-shirts saying “THIEF”. I’m unaware of where the Rambam or any one of that ilk advises that one should publicise their problems and demand acceptance of abomination while being stoned.

It all sounds like at best temporal tree-hugging feel good stuff and at worst a dilution of Judaism where abomination is somehow translated into תיקון עולם or social justice and where these do gooders can be the only ones to make an “understanding parade” out of sinning and still include it in the rubric of Halachic Judaism.

I think they may have the wrong address. Alma Road and Temple Beth sounds like a reform place where you can make a blessing over anything that goes. Orthodox Judaism does not have those degrees of freedom. Period.