Progressive Jews should respect the opinions of others

The logo of the LGBTQ Jewish group
The logo of the LGBTQ Jewish group

The Feb. 8 issue of The CJN featured an irate letter to the editor signed by 26 readers, including several rabbis (including my own), who were incensed by my last column, which argued that basic Torah principles on hot-button gender issues – unfettered abortion, gay marriage and gender fluidity – have been sacrificed by progressive Jews on the altar of political correctness. By “principles” I mean the ineluctable Torah commitment to procreation and to a “binary” view of the human estate.

And by “sacrificed” I mean progressive Jews’ silence regarding, or acquiescence to, unregulated abortion, including late-term and sex-selection abortion; unqualified embrace of sanctification as a “social justice” approach to gay love, rather than the “justice” approach of civil unions; and an affirmative action, as opposed to a health-model, approach to gender dysphoria.


My infuriated detractors are certainly entitled to disagree with my interpretation of Torah principles, but I was taken aback by the irrationality and personal animus of the letter. I was accused of failing to uphold standards of civil discourse and of “polarizing ends.” Well, I suppose that all ideas one disagrees with will be seen as polarizing if only one opinion is perceived as “correct.” It’s a combative expression that suggests the word “extremist.” This is a charged and frankly intimidating judgment (perhaps meant to be so) in what should be a forum of free intellectual inquiry.

What is “polarizing” about wishing that unregulated abortion, and the morality of female-sex abortion were a topic of concern to Jews? I can see where a feminist would find it polarizing, but why should any Jew? Until a few decades ago, the Jewish understanding of marriage was one thing, and one thing only. Suddenly that definition has been up-ended. I see nothing polarizing in identifying a blurred line between political ideology and Judaism, unless of course one’s view is that the progressive view of gender politics is what is “sanctified.”

As for Jewish endorsement of gender fluidity, it is my view that we are in the midst of a social contagion very similar to the eventually discredited contagion of multiple personality syndrome. I believe encouraging little children to believe that their sex and their gender are entirely unlinked arouses anxiety when none would have existed. Gender dysphoria exists, but it is quite rare, and to me, the responsibly Jewish first line of action to presenting signs of it should not be affirmation, but watchful waiting. Most trans-presenting children outgrow their delusion after puberty. I should add that all these statements reflect the view of responsible, unpoliticized researchers in the field.

“All ideas one disagrees with will be seen as polarizing if only one opinion is perceived as ‘correct'”

These are my opinions. I am happy to hear rebuttals to my ideas, not vicious ad hominems rooted in anger that I have been allowed to air them. The letter to the editor adduces the “love your fellow as yourself,” which reveals the fatal flaw in reason of its signatories. The stricture commands equal respect for our fellow people. I do not hate nor did I target women, gays or transgendered people. I “targeted” conflicting principles.

I’m not feeling the love, nor do I expect to. What I demand to feel is respect for my right to hold opinions progressive Jews find uncomfortable without arousing their bully instinct. A second letter in the Feb. 8 CJN provides a roster of famous gay men, examples “of Jewish abominations as defined by Barbara Kay.” I have no problem whatsoever with homosexuality. (It’s embarrassing to have to say this, but some of my best friends are gay men.) Nor did I “define” homosexuality as anything, much less an abomination; I was quoting the Torah.

The second letter also comments on a putative gay or trans grandchild of mine needing prayers. That is a covert, but nonetheless inflammatory accusation of both homophobia and transphobia: a vile, untrue slander, and a telling sign of progressive Jews’ self-righteousness run repellently amok.