Since the Internet boom and the more recent growing popularity of social media—from blogs to Facebook groups, dating sites to Twitter feeds, as well as official organizational websites—there has been a veritable explosion of sites and support groups for LGBT Orthodox Jews, a population that until now, hid in the shadows.
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The Orthodox community has strict rules about homosexual behavior: Male homosexuality, colloquially known as mishkav zachor literally, someone who lies with men , is explicitly forbidden in the Torah from Leviticus From this narrow proscription of a sexual act, any behaviors or acts that could possibly be considered evidence of a homosexual lifestyle have also been widely condemned in Orthodox circles.
Writing in the s, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein , the most important halachic decider of the century, wrote: Faced with official condemnation and afraid to come out for fear of losing their religious community, many LGBT Orthodox Jews lived lives of quiet desperation until recently. However with the advent of the Internet and social media, according to activists and experts, more and more LGBT Orthodox Jews are finally able to find each other—online or in person—and bring both sides of their identity together at last.
This is the big mistake that a lot of people make about being Orthodox and LGBT is that there is a huge risk for suicide and self-harm, but not because of the prohibition in the Torah.
The Internet kind of saved people. For Levovitz, the change happened when he discovered the website GayJews. Levovitz, 19 at the time, recalls it as some sort of dating website where you could specify religious orientation, from Reform to Orthodox. From there, Levovitz—who was a speaker at Y. Currently they maintain a list of over members and encompass groups for Jewish parents of LGBT children and workshops about increasing tolerance inside the Orthodox community.
Then again, the Internet itself is a source of consternation for many Orthodox Jews: A large anti-Internet rally held in Citifield in , attended by more than 40, Ultra-Orthodox Jews, hammered home the resistance many Orthodox Jews have for such technologies. And in many ways, it was this kind of awareness of the lives of Orthodox LGBT that the organizers were striving against. While there is no empirical statistical data about LGBT Orthodox Jews, for many the Internet provides a safe space to discuss their sexuality and take the initial step in dealing with who they are.
You can still hide and not be alone.
Chaim Levin, a gay activist and blogger involved in the Orthodox community, said that the Internet helped him come out. Oriol Poveda, a researcher in Sweden who is studying the effects of social media on LGBT Orthodox Jews, said that in the last few years a shift has occurred. He cited the documentary Trembling Before G-d , about homosexuality inside Orthodox Judaism, as a turning point.
The Orthodox version has received close to , views, an astronomical number considering the population of Orthodox Jews. Once Orthodox people started discussing LGBT life online, activists told me, others in the Orthodox community were forced to deal with it. Continue reading: Jewish Business News. June 29, Algemeiner Journal.
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For LGBT Orthodox Jews, Growth of Social Media Creates a Safe Space Online
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