Rabbi Dweck controversy shakes Jewish world

The repercussions of a 90-minute lecture by the Senior Rabbi of the UK Sephardi community, Rabbi Joseph Dweck, are being felt all over the Jewish world. The lecture dealt with homosexuality, but did not condone physical acts – Rabbi Dweck said these were against the Torah. However, men could love each other in other ways. Dweck’s critics, including the Chief Rabbi of Israel, rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, have been trying to discredit him by casting doubt on the validity of his other rulings. Meanwhile, Rabbi Dweck’s own community has declared itself solidly behind him. Jenni Frazer in The Times of Israel gives the background to the controversy (with thanks: Sylvia):

LONDON — Those close to the Rabbi Joseph Dweck affair have described is as “a behemoth of an issue.” It’s a suitably biblical term for what might seem, on the face of it, an arcane spat between British religious scholars over the permissibility — or not — of homosexuality.

But, in fact, the repercussions of a lecture which seemingly condoned homosexual relationships that Dweck delivered in London this past may go far beyond that. At stake could be the Jewish religious status of anyone who has availed themselves of the rabbi’s services, whether for circumcision, conversion or marriage.

The uproar follows a 97-minute talk the rabbi gave to members of the Ner Yisrael Community in Hendon, northwest London, on homosexuality in Jewish law.

“[W]e have to see ultimately how it is we deal with it in terms of Torah and society,” Dweck said at the lecture. “If we do not hang our prejudices at the door when we deal with it, and don’t look at Torah as it is and what it is saying to us, and stop with the insane bigotry and prejudice we’ve got, we will be on the out and society will move forward because [God] doesn’t wait for anybody. He is taking His world into love.”

As the senior rabbi of the Spanish and Portuguese congregation — and thus, effectively, the titular head of Britain’s small but vibrant Sephardi Jewish community — the Los Angeles-born rabbi has attracted a devoted following since taking up his post three years ago.

“>Read article in full

In defence of rabbi Dweck and orthodox Judaism (R. Lopez Cardoso)

One Comment

  • I listened to both videos. For Rabbi Dweck, he should have defined what he means by love. Is it strong friendship, is it platonic love he is talking about, is it brotherly love? Not clear. People themselves have a hard time understanding their own feelings. That the Thora penalises the act but not sentiments is self evident. The religion doesn't sanction feelings. So what does he mean?

    At best, it is a very weak argument considering the context and the drama. Those ideas are not new they were part of Platonist philosophy. Why not just say so? (He does mention Socrates)

    What has infuriated the other Rabbis are mostly his interpretation of Toeva usually translated by "abomination" and his putting on the same level turning on the lights or driving to shul on Shabat and homosexuality implying it's the same transgression.

    What I thought was puzzling was that he said the subject has almost never been discussed in Jewish sources. Not true. The Gaon Saadia has offered a detailed rebuttal to all the arguments pro-homosexuality of his day, because it was prevalent among Arabs in his time. That a Sephardi Rabbi would not mention that fact in a 97 mn shiur on the subject is rather surprising.

    So, what's the purpose of all this? What did he expect to achieve? Make a name for himself? "Reform" Sephardi Judaism? Or just leave the door opened a little for more membership?


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