Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Title: “Speaking in the name of Torah”: How Orthodox rabbis address racism and homosexuality in sermons, speches, and public statements
Authors: Zaitseva, Maria
Harcsztark, Abraham D.
Keywords: Orthodox Jewish community
civil rights
social activism
gay rights
Issue Date: 2023
Publisher: Yeshiva University
Citation: Harcsztark, A. D. (2023). “Speaking in the name of Torah”: How Orthodox rabbis address racism and homosexuality in sermons, speches, and public statements [Undergraduate honors thesis, Yeshiva University].
Series/Report no.: Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Theses;2023
Abstract: The Orthodox Jewish community in the diaspora is defined by its commitment to Jewish texts and Law and its involvement, to varying degrees, in secular society. Though some Orthodox communities engage with the outside world purely professionally, all are aware of the political and social headwinds of the day. The nature of modern civilization requires even more isolated communities to address societal trends, and the leaders of these communities must therefore respond to them. Moreover, Orthodox Jewry’s adherence to the Torah and Jewish Law means that its participation in secular society is colored by its religious code and worldview. Eating practices (a result of the laws of kashrut) and interaction with women are two basic examples of this dynamic. But there are also broader principles stated by the Torah; commandments like “you must love the stranger” (Deuteronomy 10:19, Leviticus 19:33-34), “You shall not subvert the rights of the stranger or the fatherless” (Deuteronomy 24:18), “Remember that you were a slave in Egypt” (Deutoronomy 24:19), and “devote yourself to justice; aid the wronged. Uphold the rights of the orphan, defend the cause of the widow” (Isaiah 1:17), to name a few. The importance Judaism places on this message - the biblical call to defend justice and aid the oppressed - is evident merely from the amount of space the Bible grants to it, not to mention the content of the declarations and context in which they were said. ___The aim of this paper is to probe the way these values play out in practice. To do that, this paper will consider two major social shifts in the last 70 years. It will first examine Orthodox Jewry’s response to racial injustice beginning with the Civil Rights Movement of the early 1960s and through the present day. This portion of the paper will focus on the United States for the sake of convenience; the national focus on race and its relatively large population of Orthodox Jews make the United States an ideal subject of study. This paper will then consider the Orthodox community's encounter with a slightly more complex issue: homosexuality and homosexual individuals in the Orthodox community. At this point it will also refer to Orthodox Rabbis outside of the United States because the issue is no more pressing in the United States than it is in other Orthodox Jewish communities around the world. The point, in part, is to assess whether there is a discrepancy between theory and practice. Though it will, at times, relate to justifications for the Jewish community to care about these issues, for the most part this paper will focus on communal practice. This is because verses like those quoted above are universally recognized; nobody denies their existence or validity. Even those Orthodox Rabbis who discourage social activism or believe Orthodoxy has no place for gay people do not do so because they reject the notion that these are basic principles of Judaism. The question therefore becomes what supplants these values or prevents them from being realized in practice.
Description: Undergraduate honors thesis / Opt-out
Appears in Collections:Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Student Theses

Files in This Item:
File Description SizeFormat 
Abraham Harcsztark Honors Thesis Opt-out.pdf
  Restricted Access
262.89 kBAdobe PDFView/Open

This item is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons