London – The senior rabbi of a Sephardic synagogue in London has found himself at the center of a raging firestorm after labeling the acceptance of same sex relationships as a “fantastic development for humanity.”
Rabbi Joseph Dweck, head of the 360 year old S&P Sephardi Community in the United Kingdom, gave a lecture earlier this month where he spoke openly about homosexuality, saying that same sex relationships allows people to express love for others without being viewed as “deviant or problematic” reported Britain’s Jewish News (http://bit.ly/2qwUjLj).
“The act remains an issue, but if we can deal with the peripheral issues, it changes how we address these things,” said Rabbi Dweck. “That’s good for society. If we do not hang our prejudices at the door, we will be on the outside. Society will move forward and the world is moving towards love.”
Rabbi Dweck received his semicha from Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and is married to Rabbi Yosef’s granddaughter. He earned a degree in liberal studies from Santa Monica College in California where he studied psychology and philosophy.
Before officially stepping in as the senior rabbi at S&P Sephardi community in 2014, Rabbi Dweck served as former rabbi of the Syrian Congregation Shaare Shalom and headmaster of the Barkai Yeshiva, both in Brooklyn.
Rabbi Dweck said that it is people, not Jewish law, who oppose the same sex revolution.
“Whatever hang ups you have are yours,” said Rabbi Dweck,. “Don’t blame them on the Torah.”
London’s Jewish Chronicle (http://bit.ly/2qx2VkX), whose viewpoint on religious matters ranges from the secular to the Orthodox, described Rabbi Dweck’s 97 minute lecture as “courageous” and “nuanced” calling it “a sophisticated attempt to offer a view which is both faith to an Orthodox understanding of the Torah and at the same time open to new ways of thinking.”
But others had a far less positive reaction to Rabbi Dweck’s controversial statements.
Rabbi Aaron Bassous, a well known Sephardic rabbi in Golders Green, spared no criticism of Rabbi Dweck, calling his lecture “twisted, misguided and mistaken.” Rabbi Bassous issued a statement with Beth Hamedrash Knesset Yehezkel saying that Rabbi Dweck’s words lacked halachic grounding.
“We have found it our obligation to warn the masses that his words are nothing and can only be defined as damaging.”
Rabbonim in London criticized Rabbi Dweck for comparing feminism to homosexuality, calling both wonderful developments in society. They also took him to task for saying that as times change, what was once considered unacceptable might become possibly permissible today.
A meeting between Rabbi Bassous, a group of London dayanim and Rabbi Dweck resulted in audio of the lecture being removed from the S&P Community website.
Rabbi Dweck noted that the lecture had been taken down only to avoid controversy and that he was not distancing himself from his remarks.
“Nothing was said contrary to Jewish law, nor was it a political statement of any kind,” said Rabbi Dweck. It has only been removed from our website because the study of Torah should not cause needless arguments.”
In an interview with Israeli news site Kikar Hashabat (http://bit.ly/2qwXouM), Rabbi Dweck defended his remarks, stressing the importance of an open minded approach to societal tends.
“We are losing our youth because if they have to choose between including different types of people in our community and Torah, they will choose inclusion,” said Rabbi Dweck. “This is a big problem and in my opinion, it is forbidden for rabbonim to ignore it.”
Now that his remarks are no longer available online, Rabbi Dweck said that he believes that Rabbi Bassous is alone in his opposition to the statements on homosexuality. Rabbi Bassous will be giving a shiur on Monday night at Beth Hamedrash Knesset Yehezkel in Golders Green addressing Rabbi Dweck’s remarks.
“It’s hard to believe that these words came out of the mouth of someone who describes himself as an Orthodox rabbi,” said Rabbi Bassous.