What should a synagogue do if a gay member of the community applies for membership?

January 10, 2022 by Rabbi Raymond Apple
Read on for article

Ask the rabbi.

Rabbi Raymond Apple


Q. What should a synagogue do if a homosexual applied for membership.

A. These are some principles that I would propose:
1. Synagogues should not ask members about their sexuality.

2. They should not debar a homosexual from being a member, or from being counted to a minyan or receiving an Aliyah.

3. They should however object if a person uses synagogue involvement in order to make a statement or promote a militant cause.

Jewish teaching prohibits many kinds of activity but it still expects the people concerned to participate in and maintain Jewish observance.

It deals with acts, not ideations; people’s minds think of many forbidden things but what creates a problem is if they act upon the thoughts.

It is concerned at any form of sexual (including heterosexual) obsession, and indeed at all forms of obsession (including money, status and violence).

It is also concerned at any form of selfishness and self-centredness; it sees (heterosexual) marriage as balancing the self and the other, and using this balance to construct the future.


Q. Someone told me that there have been cases where missionaries applied for conversion to Judaism in order to get inside the Jewish community so as to proselytise among them. Has this really ever happened and if so how can a conversion to Judaism be revoked?

A. Unfortunately there have been a few such cases, though not many. One wonders how any genuine believer could be so dishonest as to tell lies about their real beliefs and motivations.

There was a case of this kind in Chicago some years ago where a rabbinical court revoked the conversion of a family because there was evidence that they had remained Christians and had moved to Israel in the hope of spreading Christianity. The Israeli Minister of the Interior refused to register the family as Jews and the Supreme Court upheld his decision.

The family argued that a conversion cannot be revoked, but the rabbinical court, the Minister and the Supreme Court all stated that there had been no conversion at all since the family had acted under false pretences.

One of the judges of the Supreme Court quoted II Kings 17:33, which says, “They feared the Lord and served their own gods”.

He added that the family were wrong in claiming that they had been expelled from the Jewish faith, since they had never been accepted into it.


Q. Is a mezuzah needed on a caravan, a market stall or a prison cell?

A. The Shema requires a mezuzah “on the doorposts of your house and on your gates”.

The criterion is whether a particular place is a dirah – a dwelling. If the area is about 8 square feet and one eats there, it needs a mezuzah.

Thus a car does not need a mezuzah but a caravan does. A temporary market stall does not need one (even if you eat there) but a permanent shop or office does (Yoreh De’ah 286).

Rabbi Chayyim Joseph David Azulay says on Yoreh De’ah 286 that a prison cell needs a mezuzah if the inmate has been sentenced to a longish term, but not if it is only for a few days.

Obviously no-one regards prison as a permanent dwelling!

Rabbi Raymond Apple served for 32 years as the chief minister of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, Australia’s oldest and most prestigious congregation. He is now retired and lives in Jerusalem where he answers interesting questions.

Speak Your Mind

Comments received without a full name will not be considered
Email addresses are NEVER published! All comments are moderated. J-Wire will publish considered comments by people who provide a real name and email address. Comments that are abusive, rude, defamatory or which contain offensive language will not be published

Got something to say about this?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.