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By Kathleen Gilbert

NEW YORK, July 29, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The leader of a coalition of Orthodox rabbis has criticized a declaration signed by dozens of Jewish religious leaders that urges religious communities to accept open homosexuals and eschew therapy to overcome same-sex attraction.

More than 60 U.S. Orthodox rabbis signed the document, originally drafted by Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot, which proposes a set of “principles with regard to the place of Jews with a homosexual orientation in our community.”

According to Ynetnews.com, the statement was the result of a panel of Jewish academic leaders in New York earlier this year. The panel reportedly included three homosexual graduates of the Yeshiva University and was hosted by its spiritual supervisor, Rabbi Yosef Blau.

The document focuses on promoting the treatment of homosexuals with “dignity and respect” and encouraging the inclusion of Jews with a same-sex attraction “as full members of the synagogue and school community.” However, the document also discourages therapy designed to help individuals overcome unwanted same-sex attraction.

“Most of the mental health community, many rabbis, and most people with a homosexual orientation feel that some of these therapies are either ineffective or potentially damaging psychologically for many patients,” it states. “We affirm the religious right of those with a homosexual orientation to reject therapeutic approaches they reasonably see as useless or dangerous.”

The statement notes that “Halakhah sees heterosexual marriage as the ideal model and sole legitimate outlet for human sexual expression” and that same-sex commitment ceremonies must not receive religious sanction. Nonetheless, it continues, “communities should display sensitivity, acceptance and full embrace” of children of homosexual Jews and the authors encourage relatives “to make every effort to maintain harmonious family relations and connections.”

The authors also encourage actively homosexual Jews “to fulfill mitzvot [the commandments] to the best of their ability.”

But Rabbi Yehuda Levin, spokesman for The Rabbinical Alliance of America, has said the document errs in promoting a lenient attitude towards the sin of homosexuality. The Rabbinical Alliance of America represents approximately 1,000 rabbis across the United States.

“The Talmud teaches us that one who has compassion on the wrong party will not have compassion when compassion is truly necessary,” Levin told LifeSiteNews.com. “What's happening here is that these modern Orthodox rabbis – New York Times readers one and all – are just aping the in-vogue attitude towards justifying the homosexual community.”

Levin emphasized that, according to Leviticus, the sin of homosexual behavior should be treated no less lightly than that of pedophilia, incest, and other sexual sins, which historically received grave punishment. “Let's just cross out the word homosexual and insert the words prostitute, or adulterer, or polygamy marriage, or incestuous relationship. Why shouldn't we do the same thing and have compassion for the incestuous relationship?” he asked.

The rabbi noted that, “We do have compassion on people who struggle mightily with sexual drives that are non-kosher.” However, said Levin, “We don't do things that could be interpreted, or misinterpreted as koshering the homosexual relationship – with a wink and a blink and saying: we're against it, but, welcome to our synagogue, and that's a very nice commitment ring you have on.”

He also emphasized the sin of scandal perpetuated by treating homosexuality as a legitimate trait. “By openly proclaiming your sin, you're doing a second sin – you're cooling off the religious attitudes of all those in your community,” he said.

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