The chief rabbi of Amsterdam’s Orthodox Jewish community, Aryeh Ralbag (right), was suspended from his post Tuesday evening following the outrage that erupted when he co-signed a declaration calling homosexuality “not an acceptable lifestyle or a genuine identity” and claiming that same-sex attractions “can be modified and healed.”
Ralbag was chosen in 2005 as the leader of Amsterdam’s vibrant and relatively liberal Orthodox community despite being born in the U.S. and living in New York City. (He reportedly visits the Netherlands just a few times a year).
He’s also one of 180 (predominantly American) Orthodox and Hasidic rabbis and community leaders to have signed the homophobic Declaration On The Torah Approach To Homosexuality, released at the end of December.
The document, in part, reads:
The Torah makes a clear statement that homosexuality is not an acceptable lifestyle or a genuine identity by severely prohibiting its conduct. Furthermore, the Torah, ever prescient about negative secular influences, warns us in Vayikra (Leviticus) 20:23 “Do not follow the traditions of the nations that I expel from before you…” Particularly the Torah writes this in regards to homosexuality and other forbidden sexual liaisons…
We emphatically reject the notion that a homosexually inclined person cannot overcome his or her inclination and desire. Behaviors are changeable. The Torah does not forbid something which is impossible to avoid. Abandoning people to lifelong loneliness and despair by denying all hope of overcoming and healing their same-sex attraction is heartlessly cruel.
The chair of the Jewish Community of Amsterdam (NIHS), Ronnie Eisenman, expressed deep regret that Ralbag’s autograph might imply that NIHS also endorses the anti-gay manifesto.
“Rabbi Ralbag’s signature may give the impression the Orthodox Jewish community of Amsterdam shares his view,” said Eisenman in a press release. “This is absolutely untrue. Homosexuals are welcome at the Amsterdam Jewish community.”
NIHS’s executive committee has relieved Ralbag of his duties until he can travel to Holland to discuss the matter further.
Yesterday, Esther Voet, former editor-in-chief of the Dutch Jewish weekly Nieuw Israëlietisch Weekblad, called on Ralbag to completely step down from his position.
“The Dutch Jewish neshoma [soul] is unique,” said Voet. “We need a chief rabbi who is aware of our traditions, and that’s something you cannot fly in two times a year [to learn].”