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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President
Saturday, August 19, 2017

Over London Rabbi's Stance on Homosexuality 

Rabbi Joseph Dweck, the senior rabbi of London’s Spanish and Portuguese Jewish community is receiving his share of bad ink these days. Over the last several weeks he has been vehemently condemned by such prominent rabbis as HaRav David Yosef (the son of HaRav Ovadia Yosef, zt’l) in Israel to Rabbi Eli Mansour, shilta, a leader of Brooklyn’s Syrian community. It should also be noted that Rabbi Dweck is married to Margalit, the granddaughter of HaRav Ovadia Yosef. 

 So, you may ask, “what’s the flap all about?” 

At a shul known as the Ner Yisrael synagogue in northwest London, Rabbi Dweck delivered a 90 minute shiur on the Torah’s strict prohibition of homosexuality and how the views therein stand in stark contrast to more contemporary societal norms which, he asserts, have grown more accepting of alternative lifestyles.

Prefacing his remarks with vigilant wording Rabbi Dweck said, “Chances are, I will upset everybody in this room tonight. I’m going to say something that will strike an uncomfortable chord. I knew that would be the reality when I decided to give this lecture, and I decided to do it anyway. Nobody is talking about it.”

He added:  “In the Orthodox world, very few people are talking about it. I don’t claim to have all the answers .... I may say things you may be quite upset at me for saying. All of that risk I am taking tonight, and I am being extremely vulnerable in front of you, in the recording, and whoever else is going to hear me. And I am sure that people will hear this lecture.”

Speaking in an erudite fashion, Rabbi Dweck’s shiur was brimming with a sophistical kind of intellectualism. Clearly, he is exceptionally well learned in Torah, the Talmud and other religious texts, yet other rabbis have noted that this transforms his message into a way more dangerous one; especially for the unitiated. 

Rabbi Dweck then devoted a copious amount of time to the dissection of homosexuality as referenced in both the texts of the Torah and Talmud.  While he stated most unequivocally that the performance of homosexual acts were and still remain strictly prohibited according to Torah law, he also asked his acolytes to give some intellectual and emotional gravitas to the consideration of easing religious mores as it pertains to the inclusion of homosexuals in the tradition based community they come from.   

“The entire revolution of feminism and homosexuality in our society is a fantastic development for humanity. The world is moving towards love. And if you’re not on the bandwagon, well then fine, you can stay back.”

In the past several weeks since his controversial Torah address, the very popular kiruv Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi and others have taken to You Tube to stridently counter Rabbi Dweck's arguments. Taking his hypotheses point by point, Rabbi Mizrachi cited a veritable cornucopia of Torah concepts and positions of the Gedolim in which to summarily debunk the questionable narrative that was crafted in the London shiur.  

It has also been reported that  Rabbi Aharon Bassous of London’s Golders Green community requested that the London rabbinical court investigate Rabbi Dweck and his motives.

Rabbi Eli Mansour, shlita of the Brooklyn and Deal, New Jersey Syrian communities has suggested that HaRav Yitzchak Yosef , the Sephardic chief rabbi in Israel pen a strong missive to Rabbi Dweck in which he would unequivocally offer his opinion.

Rabbi Yosef labeled homosexuality as “nonsense and heresy that were uttered in opposition to the foundations of our faith in the holy Torah.”

Rabbi Dovid Yosef of the predominantly Orthodox neighborhood of Har Nof in Jerusalem also weighed in on the maelstrom of controversy that Rabbi Dweck's remarks have generated. In Hebrew he wrote a stern admonition to the community that Rabbi Dweck serves.  

“Do whatever you can to prevent him from entering your holy camp, and without question he cannot be allowed to serve in any communal capacity.”

Rabbi Shraga Feivel Zimmerman, Rov of Gateshead, who is widely regarded as highly influential in Orthodox circles, penned his withering critique of Rabbi Dweck in a letter to colleagues in London this week, according to a June 13th report in the Times of Israel.

In it, HaRav Zimmerman, shlita admonishes the now infamous comments that Rabbi Dweck made back in May, when he said that the homosexual revolution had been a “fantastic” development for humanity. The report also indicated that he has since been defended by more than 1,400 supporters, while others – mainly in the United States – have derided him as a “heretic”.

HaRav Zimmerman this week said of Dweck: “It is clear that he is not equipped to rule on Halacha, due to his limited knowledge, weak reasoning skills and lack of training.”

HaRav Zimmerman continued: “It is clear from his lectures that he lacks many of the 48 requisite qualities needed to acquire Torah, such as awe, fear (of Heaven), modesty, purity, Rabbinic training and scholarly interactions with his colleagues. For the above reasons one cannot rely on his rulings and he is not fit to serve as a rabbi.”

Other respected and renowned Orthodox rabbis such as HaRav Meir Yedid of Brooklyn focused his critique of Rabbi Dweck’s perspective on homosexuality without even uttering the word. In a shiur he delivered to adherents,  he spoke of the grave sin of using unclean language and how it evokes Hashem’s wrath.

“The Torah does not even have words to describe body parts that are private and certainly has no words to describe the act in which these parts are used,” he said with a deep sense of resoluteness in his voice.

“When we use unclean language we defile ourselves as it exhibits immorality. It arouses the passions within ourselves and others and causes them to sin as well,” he added.

Referencing the Torah prohibition on homosexuality that is found in Parshat Kedosim in Sefer Vayikra, Rabbi Yedid took issue with Rabbi Dweck’s interpretation.  He said that the Torah clearly states that “A man shall not lay with a man as he would with a woman” and that the transgression of such an admonition warrants the death penalty in the days of the Sanhedrin.

Rabbi Yedid noted that while the Torah offers a detailed litany of physical relationships that are strictly forbidden, none of them are classified as a “toeva” (abomination) other than the relationships between two males and between a male and an animal.

Commenting on Rabbi Dweck’s assertion that the acceptance of feminism and homosexuality in contemporary society is considered a “revolution” and a “fantastic development”, Rabbi Yedid expressed profound consternation.  “The word ‘revolution’ is almost always used in the context of something that signals progress in a positive way, yet when used by Rabbi Dweck is sets us back to much darker times.         

Other rabbis have taken a more conciliatory approach to defusing the burgeoning animus directed at Rabbi Dweck.

Rabbi Sammy Kassin of the Shehebar Sephardic Center wrote:  “If a mistake does appear in a rabbi’s words, one must find the appropriate way to react, in the way of peace, not in the way of a burning strong fire, even if it is well-intentioned."

Strong opinions have been vocalized on social media platforms as well, as petitions expressing both opposition and support of Rabbi Dweck's stance on homosexuality have appeared on Facebook and What'sApp.  

One member of the Syrian Jewish community wrote on Facebook of Rabbi Dweck:  “Just this summation of his positions leaves me shaking my head in disgust. He has zero respect for other rabbis and holds his personal opinions and interpretations as a way out for the homosexual community. Let him find a reform or conservative congregation that will lap his views up. He has no place in an Orthodox rabbinical setting.”

By: Zev Adlerstein