HOMOSEXUALITY & THE SYNAGOGUE

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. 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 Dr. Raymond Apple, Jerusalem, Israel


SACRAMENTO – Gov. Gavin Newsom recently announced the following appointments, including Eric O. Berg, 55, of Concord, who has been reappointed Deputy Chief of Health in the Division of Occupational Safety and Health at the California Department of Industrial Relations, where he has served since 2015. Berg held several positions in the Division of Occupational Safety and Health from 1997 to 2015, including Principal Safety Engineer, Acting Principal Safety Engineer, Senior Safety Engineer, Associate Safety Engineer, Associate Industrial Hygienist and Assistant Industrial Hygienist. He was an Occupational Health Specialist at the Santa Clara Center for Occupational Safety and Health from 1996 to 1997. Berg was a Student Assistant at the California Department of Public Health from 1994 to 1996. He was an Organizer at the United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO from 1993 to 1994. Berg was a Peace Corps Volunteer from 1991 to 1993. He earned a Master of Public Health degree from the University of California, Berkeley. This position does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $179,832. Berg is a Democrat. 



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STANFORD, California – During a panel on rising anti-Semitism and ways to address it in the workplace, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Commissioner Andrea Lucas, for the very first time, commented on the Brandeis Center’s complaint of anti-Semitism at Stanford University, calling the allegations, “deeply troubling.”

Lucas specifically highlighted serious concerns about the “segregation of Jewish employees in white affirming and white passing affinity groups, separated out from other individuals of color” that allegedly took place in one of Stanford University’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs as well as DEI leaders  “dismissing allegations of Zoom bombings with swastikas out of concern that it would draw attention away from anti-Black anti-racism concerns.”

The Brandeis Center complaint against Stanford was filed in June and is currently being reviewed by the EEOC and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).  It alleges that Stanford University’s Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) division has created and fostered a hostile and unwelcoming environment for Jews in its DEI program, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.  

Lucas’ comments took place during a public webinar, hosted by the Brandeis Center, on ways to combat anti-Jewish discrimination and harassment in the workplace amid a nationwide surge of anti-Semitism.  The purpose of the webinar was to increase awareness and make sure that if people are feeling discriminated against or harassed, they know how to report it.

During the section devoted to educating the public about actions and behavior prohibited under Title VII, Lucas and EEOC Commissioner Keith Sonderling noted that, in addition to religion, anti-Semitism can involve discrimination, harassment or retaliation related to national origin, race, color or even genetic information. And they cited a number of specific examples of ways anti-Semitism is currently manifesting in the workplace including, telling Jewish employees that Jews are powerful members of society who contribute to systemic racism, characterizing all Jewish people as privileged based on assumptions about their race or color, circulating conspiracy theories about COVID-19 or vaccines that blame Jews, trivializing the Holocaust by comparing it to mask or vaccine mandates, placing a swastika on a desk of a Jewish employee or via a Zoom bombing, and disproportionate criticism of Israel or conflation of all Jews with Israel.  The Commissioners also advised employers on best practices for preventing anti-Semitism and how to address it if it does occur.

Kenneth L. Marcus, founder of the Brandeis Center and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights, who moderated the panel, noted that “frighteningly many of the examples cited by the Commissioners are exactly what we saw take place at Stanford University and we don’t want repeated in other DEI programs. These behaviors completely undermine the purpose for which DEI programs are developed.”

The Commissioners also noted that employers, like Stanford, are responsible for “specifically address[ing] anti-Semitism in anti-harassment, anti-discrimination, and diversity trainings, initiatives and policies” and “carefully audit[ing] DEI-anti-racism, content and provide[ing] implementation training, to ensure that these efforts do not contribute to anti-Semitism, including through assumptions, stereotypes of power, privilege, racial identity  or conclusions based on racial/ethnic disparities.”

According to the Brandeis complaint, Stanford’s CAPS DEI program has advanced anti-Semitic tropes concerning Jewish power, conspiracy, and control and endorsed the narrative that Jews support white supremacy and contribute to systemic racism. The complaint alleges the DEI program refused to address incidents of anti-Semitism, including swastika vandalism and that it excluded anti-Semitism from the program’s agenda and silenced and intimidated Jews who have spoken up to challenge the program’s failure to discuss incidents of Jew-hatred at Stanford.  

For example, during a virtual townhall for the Stanford community, unknown participants hijacked the meeting and shared racist messages that displayed images of swastikas and weapons and used the N-word. This incident caused widespread distress among members of Stanford’s student body due to the racist and anti-Semitic nature of the attack. At the next DEI meeting, DEI committee members addressed the racist and anti-Black content but did not mention the anti-Semitic images of swastikas. When asked about that, the answer was that the DEI committee intentionally decided to omit any mention of anti-Semitism so as not to dominate the discussion about anti-Black racism. Later, when swastikas were discovered inside Stanford’s Memorial Church, again, the DEI program ignored the incident in its next meeting.  This offensive behavior presents staff with the canard that they must choose between opposing anti- Semitism or fighting anti-Black racism.

In addition, during a presentation to pre-doctoral students with information about CAPS internship and training opportunities, one of the presenters discussed a program that will explore how Jews are connected to white supremacy, and another presenter recommended a book that portrays the Jewish State of Israel as a racist endeavor. On another occasion a DEI committee member accused a Jewish member of the committee of being racist due to her Jewish identity. In addition, DEI committee members made repeated offensive and derogatory remarks toward both Jewish members of the committee, invoking classic anti-Semitic tropes, using ethnic and racial stereotypes of Jews as well as insults and put-downs about Jews.  

To date, Stanford has refused to recognize the problem or take appropriate corrective action to address it.