This is a cross post by Dan Littauer from GayStarNews
Havruta, an association of gay Jewish Orthodox Israelis, held its first ever communal Shabbat prayer event in Jerusalem for the first time this weekend.
The group organized a Friday (1 March) night prayer service at the residence of one of the members, which was followed by a number of Shabbat dinners hosted by members.
Havruta aims to provide a welcoming and affirmative space for religious gay Jews.
Organizers were pleased with the modest turnout, 15 men, at this first historic event, stating it was an important step in helping gay Orthodox Jews feel supported and that they are not alone.
Daniel Jonas, chair of Havruta, told Gay Star News, that the monthly event is important in several respects: ‘For some people this may be the only space where they don’t need to hide their sexuality.
‘Gay Jews now have a space where they can conduct a prayer service according to the Jewish Orthodox tradition and feel welcomed, although we welcome gay Jews from any denominations.
‘We are not aiming to separate from the larger Jewish Orthodox community, but have a balance between our unique requirements while being part of a larger whole.
‘Communal prayers are an important part of the social fabric of Judaism’, Jonas explained.
‘This prayer event is part of our larger aim to give Orthodox Jews a space where members can feel at home and reconcile their faith with their sexualities and not feel under pressure to be somebody they are not.
‘The increase in our members through the last three years, bears witness to the need of many people to reconcile their faith with their sexualities.
‘We hope we can be in an enriching dialogue not only with the Orthodox Jewish community but even with other faith communities around the world, on the subject of how to live in peace and harmony with one’s own faith and sexuality’.
Jonas was pleased to note that the prayer was also attended by members from throughout the country.
‘Havruta started as a local group in Jerusalem but we now have regular events in two other cities, Tel-Aviv and Haifa.
‘We have several yearly events which is attended by members from throughout the country’, he said.
‘We haven’t received any reaction from the larger Jewish Orthodox community, but judging but previous reactions to our events, we know it will most likely be welcomed with sympathy.
‘We are also pleased with the acceptance and support from the larger LGBT community in Israel, and I think this openness is in part that we have given gay Jews an opportunity to reengage with their Judaism without feeling it conflicts with their sexuality’.