London haredi Orthodox rabbis call for boycott of Jewish center over LGBT programs


(JTA) — Haredi Orthodox rabbis in London have again called on their followers to boycott a local JCC because it holds events for LGBT Jews.

The letter, which was signed by 25 rabbis and circulated last week to synagogues in northwest London, says the JW3 Jewish community center “promotes a way of life which is in total contradiction to Orthodox Judaism and halacha,” or Jewish law.”

“Members of our community should distance themselves fully from JW3, its activities and services, and refrain from visiting JW3 even for recreational purposes only,” the letter also says, according to the Jewish Chronicle based in London.

The letter also states that it is “not intended … for circulation outside the strictly Orthodox communities of the UK.”

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. At the time, a poster outside the center advertising the event was vandalized with the word “shame” drawn on it.

A letter signed by seven haredi Orthodox rabbis was released in July calling on members of their communities to “distance themselves fully from JW3, its activities and services, and avoid using this centre” because of the JCC’s programming, which it called “Toievah” — Hebrew for “abomination,” the word used in the Bible to describe homosexual acts.

The latest letter is believed to be in reaction to an event held Sunday by Imahot v’Avot, an organization for LGBT Jewish families, ahead of Hanukkah, including music and crafts for children, according to the British newspaper The Guardian.

Meanwhile, a group of rabbis is believed to be pressuring the Sephardi Kashrut Authority to revoke the kosher certification of Zest, JW3’s restaurant, The Guardian reported.

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.

Recommended from JTA