Statement on Synagogue Acknowledgment of Forbidden Unions

Judaism celebrates marriage and the creation of families. However, families must conform to a Torah framework, following its laws including those listed in Vayikra 18, as delineated by the Talmud and later authorities. Recently, some synagogues that affiliate Orthodox have congratulated members or children and grandchildren of members on life cycle events that are in blatant violation of Torah laws, specifically same-sex unions.

TORA, the umbrella group of Traditional Orthodox Rabbis of America, encourages synagogues to be inclusive environments in which both the observant and the non-observant find warmth and authentic Torah Judaism. This institutional inreach and outreach fulfills important Torah values, and must therefore be subject to the dictates of our Torah. Jews who seek the authenticity of Orthodox synagogues must publicly respect these Torah laws, regardless of whether they personally fulfill all of them. The Torah value of inclusion cannot come at the expense of other Torah values.

We call upon spiritual and lay leaders and members of the public of respective synagogues not to congratulate or celebrate, whether orally or in writing, those celebrating life cycle events in violation of Jewish law, included but not limited to halakhically prohibited marriages (intermarriages, homosexual unions, marriages of Kohanim to women they may not marry, etc.), celebrations held in blatant violation of Shabbat or kashrut laws, or any other event that publicly proclaims opposition to Jewish law.

To those whose life cycle events we will neither be able to celebrate, join in, nor congratulate, we ask for your respect, tolerance and understanding of our Torah and tradition. Our members have repeatedly committed to creating inclusive spaces, and have shown understanding to people of all walks of life. When there are events we cannot condone, it is not out of contempt or disrespect, but rather out of a firm commitment to the Torah, its values and its worldview, which requires us all to submit to the Torah even when doing so is difficult or inexpedient.

We call upon all Jews to reaffirm the immutable character of the Torah’s values — including but not limited to its sexual mores — and proclaim that to celebrate events that publicly flout Torah law is itself a violation. Within the confines of Jewish law we recommit to making our synagogues and other Orthodox institutions sacred spaces where all can seek the wisdom of the Torah, the guidance of its teachers and the inspiration from the fulfillment of its precepts and the internalization of its values.