Reinstated Amsterdam chief rabbi rues using title on ‘curing’ homosexuality document


(JTA) — The chief rabbi of Amsterdam, who was suspended for signing a statement on "curing" homosexuality, reportedly has been reinstated and said he was wrong to sign the document using his chief rabbi title.

Rabbi Aryeh Ralbag of New York, who travels to the Netherlands several times a year to rule on matters of Jewish law, traveled to Amsterdam last week to discuss his position, the Dutch news agency ANP reported Thursday.

Along with saying he was wrong to sign the "Declaration On The Torah Approach To Homosexuality” using his title, Ralbag also said that the statement "did not properly reflect his position," according to APN.

He had been suspended in mid-January by the Executive Committee of the Jewish Community of Amsterdam pending a face-to-face meeting to discuss his signature on the declaration. The Amsterdam community suspended the rabbi over including his title as chief rabbi in his list of positions, saying at the time of his suspension that "Rabbi Ralbag’s signature may give the impression the Orthodox Jewish community of Amsterdam shares his view. This is absolutely untrue. Homosexuals are welcome and recognized as full members of the Amsterdam Jewish community."

Ralbag was among some 180 rabbis, community leaders and mental health professionals who signed the document, which according to a page on the declaration website was initiated by Jews who say they have overcome their homosexuality. The declaration 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.".

The Conference of European Rabbis said in a statement issued Wednesday that “We welcome the reinstatement of Chief Rabbi Ralbag as a wise step in the best interests of the Amsterdam community," said.

Ralbag said at the time of his suspension that he would not travel to the Netherlands for several weeks due to threats on his life. The Amsterdam community said it will discuss Ralbag’s long-term future in the position, since it is concerned about how well the rabbi can do his job when he lives so far away, APN reported.

The Conference of European Rabbis had criticized the Amsterdam Jewish community for levying the suspension, telling a Dutch newspaper at the time that the rabbi has done "nothing more than restate what the Torah says about homosexuality."

Its statement on Wednesday said that "The Amsterdam kehilla is known the world over for its proud commitment to its traditions. We are pleased it has decided to address any issues relating to the articulation by its Chief Rabbi or other officially appointed Rabbinic figures of traditional, halachic positions, in a positive and consultative manner.”

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