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“Accordingly, the institutional endorsement or encouragement (implicit or explicit) of any conduct that is contrary to halacha is activity that no Orthodox synagogue should allow.” The statement said the OU is reviewing its congregational standards before taking further action. The Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, which has long served as a leader in pushing the bounds of traditional Jewish law to include women and LGBT Jews, has been friendlier to same-sex couples. It counts same-sex couples among its members and last year hosted a panel on LGBT Jews in Orthodoxy called “Building a Jewish Future Outside the Closet.” Its founding rabbi, Avi Weiss, was one of the signatories of a landmark 2010 statement of principles by Orthodox leaders affirming the need to “treat human beings with same-sex attractions and orientations with dignity and respect.” The synagogue’s clergy do not officiate at same-sex weddings, but the synagogue began including same-sex marriages in its announcements earlier this year. Following the OU statement, however, the Hebrew Institute’s rabbi, Steven Exler, confirmed to JTA that the announcements would stop. Mordechai Levovitz, executive director of Jewish Queer Youth, which focuses on LGBT Orthodox teens, said the OU policy will only inflict further damage on that group. He said that 70 percent of the kids who come to his group’s weekly Drop-In Center in Midtown Manhattan report being suicidal. Levovitz added that he does not blame the Hebrew Institute for its decision following the OU statement. “We have very, very real issues when it comes to LGBT youth in the Orthodox community,” Levovitz said. “HIR is a wonderful shul and it treats its LGBT people wonderfully.
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