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Group slams suspension of Amsterdam chief rabbi for comments about gays

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(JTA) — The suspension of Amsterdam’s chief rabbi for signing a statement on "curing" homosexuality is "verging on fascism," a committee of several Orthodox Jews told a Dutch newspaper.

A group calling itself the Committee for the Declaration on the Torah Approach to Homosexuality said in a letter Monday to the Volksrant newspaper that it is "shocking" that a chief rabbi in the Netherlands has been suspended for his statements on "centuries-old religious truths."

Amsterdam’s Orthodox Jewish community suspended Rabbi Aryeh Ralbag of New York from his position for signing the "Declaration On The Torah Approach To Homosexuality,” which states that "We emphatically reject the notion that a homosexually inclined person cannot overcome his or her inclination and desire. Behaviors are changeable. The Torah does not forbid something which is impossible to avoid," and that "therapy and teshuvah" can overcome homosexuality.

Ralbag travels to the Netherlands a couple times a year to rule on matters of Jewish law. 

The rabbi said he will remain suspended until he and community leaders discuss the issue in person. On Sunday, however, Ralbag said he would not travel to the Netherlands for several weeks due to threats on his life. 

"I have strong indications that my wife and I would not be sure of our lives if we came to the Netherlands now," he told the NRC Dutch newspaper.

New Jersey Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, a Ralbag supporter who also signed the statement, told the Volksrant that "Dutch society is so tolerant, with legal and open prostitution and a sharp reduction in faithfulness in marriage, that it is impossible for Jews who grow up in such surroundings to embrace the moral message of the Torah. They are in spiritual shock."

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