(JTA) – A group of haredi Orthodox rabbis in London have called on followers to boycott the city’s JW3 Jewish cultural centre because it holds events for LGBTQ 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, a North American-style Jewish community centre that opened in 2013, includes a kindergarten, movie theatre, fitness facilities, a kosher restaurant and a library. In early March, the Jewish centre held a GayW3 festival to mark 50 years since the decriminalization of homosexuality in Britain. A poster outside the centre 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 LGBTQ 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 Orthodox Judaism and Halachah,” 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.