Leading Sephardic Rabbi Faces Backlash After Voicing Support for LGBT Community
Rabbi Joseph Dweck, the head of the S&P (Spanish and Portuguese) Sephardi Community in London, was giving an online lecture last month when he said that the acceptance of homosexuality “is a fantastic development in our society” and that it “has forced us to look at how we deal with love between people of the same sex.” He added: “The world is moving towards love. And if you’re not on the bandwagon, well then fine, you can stay back.” Backlash ensued, sparking petitions both for and against his views, and Dweck’s reputation has taken a hit.
Dweck, who is considered the top Sephardi rabbi in the UK, has said that his remarks were “misunderstood and misinterpreted.” His response is worth an in-depth read.
And now he’s canceled his scheduled appointment as a scholar-in-residence in the Syrian Jewish community in New Jersey from which he originates. “Unfortunately, my recent lecture caused some issues that must first be dealt with,” he wrote in a Facebook post. Dweck has also “stepped aside from the day to day activity” of the Beit Din, hoping for some of the controversy to quell.
Criticism came from a number of clergy. Rabbi Aaron Bassous of Beth Hamedrash Knesset Yehezkel in Golders Green, England, asked the Beit Din to remove Dweck from his position, calling him “dangerous.” Meanwhile, in Gateshead, Rabbi Shraga Feivel Zimmerman said that Dweck is “not fit to serve as a rabbi.” Israel’s Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef (who is Dweck’s uncle-in-law) weighed in as well, although he didn’t mention Dweck by name, saying, “I am amazed and angry at the words of nonsense and heresy that were said about the foundations of our faith in our Torah.”
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article noted that Rabbi Dweck had stepped down from his role with the S & P Sephardi Community, which is incorrect. He has stepped down from the Beit Din.