Suppose you were the principal of a Hebrew day school out in the middle of Nowheresville, Alabama and you were approached by a lesbian couple who wanted to enroll their child, who is Jewish, in your school, what would you do? On the one hand, homosexuality is anathematic to Orthodox Judaism, but on the other hand, the child did nothing wrong—a seemingly impossible choice.
This very question was actually posed to a well-known Rosh Yeshiva who instructed the day school to accept the couple. And the reason given was that no child should be denied a religious education simply based on the actions of their parents.
It struck me as a powerful message to the community, and to myself in particular, because this is a subject about which I have been writing for years—the actions of the parents bit, not the lesbian part. In my case the fight was about social stigma, the stigma of divorce, the stigma of being the child of a mentally ill mother. Doors were constantly closing before me because the people in charge were so concerned over possible, and likely improbable, complications which may or may not arise that I was never given a chance. When I was four years old, applying to pre-school, no school would accept me because my parents were divorced. Only after begging, pleading with the school administration did my mother and grandparents manage to get me into a school.
I would be remiss if I did not admit that there are many potential problems with accepting the child of lesbians into an Orthodox Jewish school, influence being the least of them, but a child, especially one as young as the child in question, hasn’t lived long enough to have actually don’t anything wrong themselves, anything which would give cause to not accept him into a religious school.
I had this argument with another guest at my friend’s house one Shabbos, and she seemed pretty quick to condemn the child to a life of public school, devoid of Judaism—until it hit close to him. My friend’s uncle isn’t very religious and is sending his son to an even less religious school in California. As we were debating the issue of the lesbian’s child this woman began lamenting the fact that my friend’s cousin would likely never receive a real religious education. I was incredulous. Just five minutes prior she had been all for rejecting the child of questionable parents, regardless of whether or not those parents wanted their child to receive a religious education, and now she was bemoaning the fact that my friend’s uncle wasn’t sending his child to a religious school.
It took another five minutes until she actually understood how oxymoronic and hypocritical her positions were, and when she finally did realize, she was speechless. Because she realized the magnitude of her former opinion. None of us want problems in our backyard, but Kol Yisrael Arevim Zah Lazeh, and therefore, each Jew, regardless of religious observance or sinful parentage is worthy of our time, effort, and love. It is an important idea to understand and internalize because the very fact that the answer to the question returns a simple “reject” in a person’s mind bespeaks a terrible problem.