This video reminds me that my favorite tribal affiliation remains, humankind. Thanks Matt!
During the past week:
- Bishops meeting in the Vatican rejected the kinder, gentler approach to divorced people and members of LGBT community as Pope Francis had proposed.
- An American Orthodox Rabbi was caught using spy cams on unsuspecting women utilizing his synagogue ritual bath.
- 34 year old Joe Diangelo who was raped in his Satmar community ritual bath at age 7 and was then shunned by his community for trying to report the violation and his subsequent psychological struggles, committed suicide.
What do these three stories all have in common? They are the byproducts of cultures, communities and religions that are controlled by men.
A few years ago, I served as the Executive Director of a non-profit religious institution that was controlled by an old-boy’s network. Of course, as required by law, the institution had a board of directors that did meet for coffee’n a chat a few times a year. But the power was in the hands of 5 men who were the most significant financial supporters of the institution. The big-5 as I called them, met almost monthly at someone’s home or in a restaurant for lunch to make important decisions about the institution’s budget and personnel. These were good, decent men who with noble intentions. But every time I sat through one of their meetings I couldn’t help but envision doom and gloom on the horizon.
No charity, no institution can ultimately survive and flourish simply on money and good intentions. If the community that an institution is intended to serve is not politically, financially and emotionally vested and in control, it is a bankrupt institution regardless of its finances.
No one likes to surrender power and control, right? And tell me, where did you get that power? From the checks you write? From your last name? Maybe you have power because of a title given to you by others who believe that you will ultimately be more loyal to them than the people you are supposed to serve.
Leadership that is not subject to accountability is destined to fail.
The Catholic Church’s unwillingness and inability to responsibly and morally respond to decades if not centuries of pedophile priests being hidden and protected is a perfect example of the old’boys network at its worst.
No doubt, many members of the Catholic clergy relish the authority granted to them by their title and revel in the opportunity to sit in moral judgement of others. “NO! YOU ARE A SINNER AND CANNOT HAVE COMMUNION! Golly gee, who would want to give that kind of power up? We’re told that many of the participants in the recent Bishop Synod in the Vatican were troubled by the Pope’s appeals for tolerance. After all they countered, what about all those absolute truths known as “Church doctrine.”
BTW, anyone who tells you that they have a monopoly on truth and the will of God is dangerous and should never, ever be trusted.
Recently, we learned that a congressman from Florida who advocated for people who receive food stamps to be tested for illegal drugs was himself arrested for cocaine use. Member’s of the old’boys network are quite sure that you have to do as they say, not as they do.
Barry Freundel was a highly regarded rabbi in Orthodox circles. He was on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) and an authority on Jewish law. On a number of occasions, Freundel publicly expressed concern about technology and sex. Who would have guessed he was using his power, privilege and knowledge of technology to produce pornography?
In the totally male dominated world of Hassidic Judaism, men have the first and final word in all matters. And while some of the more politically savvy Hassidim like to perfume their incredibly paternalistic-cult like communities as enjoying separate but equal roles for men and women, ask who among them is empowered to make the most important decisions in the home, school and religious life and that separate but equal bubbe-meise quickly flies out the window.
Joe Dieangelo was murdered by the old’boys network in the Satmar Hassidic community. In that world, it was and is still assumed that all the men are morally upstanding and trustworthy. Challenging the behavior of the men in the Hassidic world is tantamount to questioning the will of God! How dare you? The Hassidim and the Catholic Church are proof that moral depravity like pedophilia can flourish in communities where unaccountable leadership is in control.
But what happened to Barry Freundel provides us with the obvious answer to the old’boys network. The Rabbi of Washington, D.C.’s prestigious Kesher Israel congregation was brought down because his victims shared their
suspicions with people who are not in the old’boys network, the lay leadership of the synagogue. In fact, we now know that when the RCA learned a couple of years ago that Freundel was coercing prospective female converts to Judaism to do things unrelated to their studies or religious life, the RCA only gave him a slap on the wrist and never shared those chilling facts with the lay leadership of his synagogue.
If Freundel’s synagogue were controlled like a Catholic parish -by a hierarchy of rabbis instead of members of the community, would the whole world now know and be talking about his vile behavior?
Humanity is getting smarter and that spells trouble for institutions and communities controlled by old’boy networks. The average educated person in western civilization in 2014 is no longer inclined to automatically buy into the myth that this or that group of men have a monopoly on power, God’s will and the truth.
I may not write checks as large as yours by I’ll be damned if I will give you more than one vote on election day or in the board room of a non-profit organization. I may not be a cleric or a theologian but you can’t tell me what to believe and how to behave because my participation or membership in a religion or a community that you control is subject to blind obedience.
And for the record: God didn’t give the Torah to rabbis, God gave the Torah (teachings) to all the people. Jesus didn’t teach about love and tolerance just to empower a clergy that would be more committed to protecting itself and a cloistered institution than resisting knowledge and change in the service of humanity. And the American Constitution states I’m your equal Mr. David Koch and Mr. Supreme Court Justice. Don’t tell me rich people and corporations should have more say governing this nation than me and my neighbors.
Guys, the jig is up. The days of the old’boy network are coming to an end. But don’t dismay. You are cordially invited to join a new up and coming club that intends to take control. It’s name, humanity. In this club everyone is equal. Deal with it.
A minister at a predominantly white church calls up an African-American neighbor who is not a member of the congregation and informs him that the church is going to be celebrating African-American History Month on such-and-such a date and they’d love for him to come. When asked about the program he’s told that a gospel choir from an inner city church will be singing and a lovely luncheon will be served after services.
Why was the African-American neighbor invited to this event? What role if any, does he have to play? Or to look at it from his perspective, what’s in it for him?
If a rabbi or lay-leader of a synagogue were to come to me as an LGBT member of the Jewish community and ask what kind of programming can they can do that would entice me to particpate or potentially join the congregation down the road, I would answer without hesitation, I would love to meet other Jewish LGBT people.
Thank God, in 2014 in the community in which I live, every synagogue regardless of denomination is welcoming of LGBT people. There are almost 2 million people in Central Ohio and it is estimated that there are over 20,000 LGBT people in the metro-Columbus area. I’m sure I haven’t met most of the Jewish members of the local LGBT community. We need a forum for connecting with one another.
A year ago with encouragement from a friend, I myself tried to launch a Jewish LGBT group. After a dismal turnout to the kick-off meeting, I spoke with a few LGBT leaders in the Jewish community. We don’t need a need an exclusive Jewish LGBT group anymore, they told me, such a group would serve no purpose; we are welcomed by all the synagogues as members and leaders. I couldn’t help but note by the way that all these people telling me that such a group was not needed happen to be partnered. For the record, I am not.
Do single LGBT people and partnered LGBT people have different needs and agendas? Do straight single adults have different social needs that partnered/married heterosexuals? Of course!
I did give up on organizing a Jewish LGBT group but have no doubt that a majority of single Jewish LGBT people in the community are not affiliated with any of the predominantly heterosexual, family oriented synagogues in the community.
So I was thrilled some weeks ago when a local rabbi of a synagogue I do not belong to called and proudly informed me that her congregation was going to host a Gay Pride Shabbat program and she hoped that I would not only attend but help promote the event in the LGBT community. I was excited by the prospect of an evening under Jewish auspices at which I could connect with other LGBT people. In follow-up planning meetings and telephone conversations, we learned that the program for Pride Shabbat would include a concert by a gay men’s choir and a nice dinner, all of which was being sponsored by a generous family. Sounds perfect, no?
I gladly reproduced at my own expense some flyers for the program and distributed them at different venues frequented by the LGBT community. Afterall, I had a vested interest in seeing a good turnout for Gay Pride Shabbat.
Two days before the program, my 86-year-old mother who is a resident at a local Jewish assisted living facility informed me that she would be joining a van-load of people from the facility who were going Friday night to an area synagogue for Shabbat dinner and a concert.
“What shul are you going to Ma?” What d’a you know? It was the same one I was going to. Mom knew nothing about Pride Shabbat.
So what was going on? Why are straight senior adults being bussed in for a Gay Pride Shabbat program I wondered? I love my Mom, but I would never think of going out to a gay club or bar with her in toe. I felt confused and frankly, somewhat violated. Gay Pride Shabbat was apparently not going to be the program I was expecting it to be.
The rabbi who was organizing the evening confirmed as much to me in responding to an email I sent to her expressing my regrets for not wanting to participate in a general community Shabbat program simply because of its name or the entertainment.
In her own words she wrote: “I can only assure you that the intention of Pride Shabbat (as it was originally conceived and now executed) was for this to be a community gathering bringing together the LGBT, Jewish and greater Columbus communities for an evening of inclusivity, music, community-building, and rejoicing in who we are, individually and communally.”
In other words, the objective the Gay Pride Shabbat program from the start was to host a very public celebration of that particular Temple’s inclusivity. Noble agenda; any institution that is welcoming to all members of the community should be proud of their inclusive nature. But Pride Shabbat was really not about addressing the needs or interests of gay people in particular, now was it? This was about advancing the congregation’s public persona and development agenda.
So what about me? What about my agenda? What was my role in this event? I suddenly felt like that African-American neighbor who was needed as a prop in a white church’s celebration of African History Month.
I sincerely apologized to the rabbi in a follow-up email. I got it wrong, I told her. I missed the whole point of this program as you envisioned it.
She should have let things go at that point and we could have parted on a positive note. “So you’ll be there?” she quickly wrote back. We were talking past each other. The rabbi couldn’t answer the question, why should Mitch Gilbert be there? But she apparently thought that my place as a gay member of the Jewish community was to be in attendance at her Temple’s community celebration of their open tent.
I think it’s essential that synagogues offer special clubs and programs for children, teens, women, men and senior adults. I myself spent the first 2 decades of my career as a Jewish communal professional organizing and promoting synagogue youth programs. Would any synagogue NFTY, USY or NCSY group enjoy any measure of success if parents and grandparents were invited to all their programs?
Have the barriers to LGBT inclusion come down so fast that when predominately heterosexual congregations do programming for LGBT people the format has to be that of a town-hall-meeting so people of all ages and backgrounds can pat each other on the back for hanging with the gays?
For the record: I don’t run to any program or activity at any institution simply because they unfurl a rainbow flag for one event. I’m a person with needs and expectations that I don’t think are unreasonable. If clergy and lay leaders in the Jewish community want to do outreach to the LGBT community, ask us we want, ask us what we need? We’ll gladly tell you.
Please share this post with people you may know who are quite sure that LGBT people have some kind of dangerous, nefarious agenda to destroy society.
If after viewing this video if you still think that gay couples and gay families are somehow destroying the institution of marriage and the family, I respectfully suggest that it is YOU and not US who are doing serious damage to our society and the values that descent, educated, cultured and RELIGIOUS people hold dear.
subject: SHAME ON YOU!