Image via YouTube

LGBT groups and the Anti-Defamation League have roundly condemned the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem who said in a sermon last week that gay people cannot be religious Jews, and that homosexuality is ‘a wild lust that needs to be overcome.’

Rabbi Shlomo Amar made the remarks last week during a sermon. A video of some of his comments was published Monday by the Israeli public broadcaster Kan.

Three groups representing religious LGBT+ Jews – Bat-Kol, Havruta and the Gay Religious Community – slammed his remarks in a joint statement yesterday (Tuesday).

The organisations said:

Rabbi Amar, with your harsh comments you called on our families to vomit us out of our homes and from our communities.

The groups’ condemnation was followed by an angry response from the Anti-Defamation League. The ADL wrote on its Twitter account:

Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Amar’s hateful comments about the #LGBTQ community are antithetical to Jewish values of tolerance & acceptance. Religious leaders should respect all people & positively engage with the entire community.

Amar, who has generated controversy in the past by saying that homosexuality is an “abomination” said of gay Jews:

They aren’t religious. It would be better if they cast off their kippah and Shabbat [observance] and show their true faces. God knows that it is a lust, a wild lust that needs to be overcome and it can be overcome.

Referring to so-called conversion therapy, Amar said:

Everyone can overcome. There’s no need for understanding or a psychologist or any nonsense. All they need is to be God-fearing – just belief in God to overcome.

Among those to criticise Amar was Avi Buskila, a former head of Peace Now who recently joined the fledgling Israel Democratic Party. He warned in a tweet that the outburst could lead to bloodshed:

An unbelievable and painful display of incitement, especially when it comes from the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem. This is calling open season. It creates abominable murderers like Yishai Schlissel, who murdered Shira Banki during the gay pride parade in the city.

Schlissel stabbed Banki, 16, to death during the pride parade in the capital in 2015, just three weeks after being released from prison, where he had served eight years for a stabbing attack at the Jerusalem parade in 2005.

In 2016 Amar said he declined to attend a memorial service for Banki after her family refused to read aloud a condemnation of homosexuality he included in a condolence missive he sent to them. Amar told the Israel Hayom newspaper at the time that he had written to the parents, saying that:

If you want to exalt her soul to the heavens, repent from your evil ways.

During an interview with the newspaper, Amar said that homosexuality was “a cult.”

Image via YouTube

Amar’s recent sermon came after Israel’s Education Minister Rafi Peretz, above, also an ordained rabbi, caused uproar earlier this month by indicating his support for gay conversion therapy, a controversial process that purports to make gay people heterosexual.

After calls for his resignation, Peretz vehemently denied supporting such therapy, calling it “wrong and grave.” He explained:

When asked about the subject I said that during my many years as an educator I was approached on several occasions on issues of sexual orientation. I always listened attentively to the difficulties brought before me and sometimes suggested consultations with professionals.

However I never turned a cold shoulder or suggested conversion therapy, which I oppose utterly.
I know conversion therapy is wrong and grave. This is my unequivocal position. I understand that this is an invasive treatment that is unsuitable for the human psyche, causes those treated more suffering than relief, and can even put peoples lives in peril and cause suicidal tendencies.

I never thought, and certainly did not say, that such therapy should be introduced into the education system.

However, he added:

It is the right of those with same-sex orientation to seek and find an attentive ear and help from professionals in a respectful and loving manner, and that is what I meant.