London Orthodox rabbis call for boycott of Jewish cultural center over LGBT programming


(JTA) — A group of Orthodox rabbis in London have called on their members to boycott the city’s JW3 Jewish cultural center because it holds events for LGBT Jews.

Signed by seven haredi Orthodox rabbis, the letter released Friday calls on members of their communities to “distance themselves fully from JW3, its activities and services, and avoid using this centre.”

JW3, an American-style Jewish community center that opened in 2013, includes a kindergarten, movie theater, fitness facilities, a kosher restaurant and a library. In early March, the Jewish center held a GayW3 festival to mark 50 years since the decriminalization of homosexuality in Britain. A poster outside the center advertising the event was vandalized with the word “shame” drawn on it, the London-based Jewish Chronicle reported.

The rabbis’ letter referred to the JW3’s LGBT programming as “Toievah” — Hebrew for “abomination,” the word used in the Bible to describe homosexual acts — and said it “promotes a way of life which is in total contradiction to [O]rthodox Judaism and Halacha,” or Jewish law.

“We are of the strong opinion that a red line has been crossed in launching campaigns and initiatives that promote lifestyles and behaviours forbidden and condemned by the Torah,” the letter also said.

Raymond Simonson, the chief executive of JW3, told the Jewish Chronicle on Monday that he had received supportive messages from members of the Jewish community, including a number of Orthodox rabbis, since the letter was made public.

“At JW3, we’re really about looking for and celebrating a unified and diverse British Jewish community,” he said. “And I don’t really like us to try and get dragged into incidents where  people are doing things that are anti that.”

The publication of the letter follows a review process set up by the country’s chief rabbi that examined the teachings and statements of Rabbi Joseph Dweck, Britain’s top Sephardi rabbi, after he said at a lecture that societal acceptance of homosexuality is a “fantastic development” because it opens the door to a more loving society.

In recent years, a growing haredi Orthodox community in Great Britain has become more assertive in communal affairs, often clashing with the centrist Orthodox United Hebrew Congregations — represented by the chief rabbi — and other denominations.

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