Winnipeg Orthodox rabbis differ in debate on gay-straight clubs in schools


VANCOUVER, Canada (JTA) — An anti-bullying bill in Manitoba has Winnipeg’s two leading Orthodox rabbis split over whether publicly funded schools should be forced to create gay-straight alliance clubs.

One part of the bill, which was proposed last December, requires any school that receives provincial funding to allow students to create such clubs.

Fearing that Christian schools will be forced to accept such clubs, many Christian leaders in Manitoba have opposed the bill. But in the case of the province’s Jewish community, the two leading Orthodox rabbis have landed on opposite sides of the debate.

“The Torah rejects homosexuality,” Rabbi Avrohom Altein, the longtime head of Chabad Lubavitch in Winnipeg, told the Canadian Jewish News. “Religious schools should not be forced to accept a gay rights group.”

Altein has written a letter to Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger protesting the bill and taken to the airwaves to make his views heard.

Rabbi Ari Ellis, who leads Winnipeg’s largest Orthodox congregation, told the Canadian Jewish News that he had planned not to become involved in the debate, but felt compelled to speak up once he heard Altein claiming that the measure stood in opposition to Orthodox Judaism.

“As an Orthodox rabbi and a Jewish educator, it is my belief that a gay-straight alliance could be a welcome institution in our schools and communities,” Ellis told the newspaper.

The Gray Academy of Jewish Education, the only K-12 Jewish private school in Winnipeg, has had a gay-straight alliance for several years, according to its head of school, Rory Paul.

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