The End of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?

I’m always loathe to personally embrace gay rights as a Jewish issue. Movements concerned with either contemporary social justice issues or maintaining relevancy are mentioned in this article in Jerusalem Post.

Points for consideration and discussion:

1. Is this really a Jewish issue?

2. In spite of the fact that we are blessed to live in a nation where civilian control of the military is paramount, is it troubling that many Jewish voices on this issue, such as Rabbi Wernick of the Conservative Movement, have not served as either troops or chaplains? Are there Jewish military voices speaking on this issue, or would like to?

3. How does this positively or negatively affect Jewish service, if at all?

4. Can we reshape the dialog to stop being dishonest? Attempts to make this about anything other than fairness, i.e. the “this is a national security” issue mantra, ring false with an organization where by rule, we are all expendable.

A topic I am curious about is based off a recent Sexual Assault Prevention briefing. An astounding number of sexual assaults within the military are male-on-male attacks, with 95% of the accused perpetrators identifying as heterosexual. Just to clarify, my thought here does not involve “gays-as-villainous-rapists,” but rather, with the removal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and I can only assume would be the Congressional modification of current UCMJ articles as well, without additional protections implemented, will homosexual men in particular end up as a statistical victim class?

Whether for or against homosexuals within the military, there are many fine points for discussion. It’s not an issue I’m personally invested in nor particularly concerned about, but with Jewish groups choosing to identify this as a “Jewish issue” on the behalf of the aggregate, I’d like to give Jewish service members, past and present, a forum to air our thoughts.


  • Rabbi Eli Seidman

    SGT Kresge,

    I read your post on Jews in Green and on Shylock in Amishland about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT). I too am struggling exactly how I feel about the issue of gays in the military.

    I do not suspect gays as “villainous rapists”. I suspect the argument for lack of unit cohesion may be specious. In Israel (and in England I am told) gay soldiers serve openly without any lack of cohesion or readiness.

    If they abolish DADT tomorrow, I doubt we would see or feel any change in the PA Army Guard (or other branches of the Armed Forces). But I look at the issue as a Jew who adheres to halachah (Jewish law). Halachah says that we should abhor this behavior and not tolerate it.

    Although this may not be politically correct, I have sufficient respect for Halachah not to be concerned if it is PC or not. Not only would I advise my Jewish soldiers not to engage in these kinds of behaviors, but I also feel we have a responsibility to make our voices heard about the wider society. We do not want our society to be immoral.

    I would not persecute gay soldiers in any way. But I do not have to condone their behavior. The UCC that CH Fokas is a member of may allow gay and lesbian ministers-but it is no mitzvah to be gay.

    I do not believe that sexual orientation is innate and that tehse people do not have choices. They do, and the choice they are making is an immoral one in my humble opinion.

    I have met CH Aris Fokas in the PA Guard (where we are both NG Chaplains). He seems to be a decent person who does his job. But in this respect, he may not be well-suited for the job.


    Chaplain (Rabbi) LTC Eli Seidman


  • Thank you, Rabbi Seidman!

    FYI for folks that don’t read my personal blog – Chaplain Fokas is a member of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard who, in spite of praiseworthy service, has been “outed” by a supervising chaplain. There are some that believe (myself included) that Chaplain Fokas’ bachelor status combined with his denomination’s acceptance of the LGBT community, is more at root of his “outing” than any real relevatory statement made to a still anonymous supervisor.

    Generally speaking, I stand with Rabbi Seidman’s halachic admonition for Jewish conduct with regards to homosexuality. If you believe that halachah is normative, then there is no question. Even with regards to Noachide application to non-Jews, Rabbi Seidman pointed out separately that some interpretation interpretation includes sexual immorality on the whole.

    Of course the problem lies in reconciling our categorically religious beliefs concerning homosexuality against the separation of church and state. My fear, of course, is that because of the absence of a non-religious, ethical argument, that folks unreceptive to homosexual conduct could be construed and persecuted for those beliefs born of religious principle, but I digress.

    That said, the thrust of my article on Shylock in Amishland is that there is great potential for DADT to be “weaponized” in cases such as Chaplain Fokas, where a 3rd party outing by a supervisor, who’s statement enjoys the merit of his rank, leaves someone having to disprove a negative. Since there is little to no evidence that Chaplain Fokas is gay aside from a statement the man denies making (with no witnesses to support it), it seems ludicrous that this would be a sufficient basis for such a damaging investigation. The fact that there is so much question in and of itself seems to serve as evidence that Chaplain Fokas, even if gay, is not in a position where he is in violation of the current DADT policy.

    Which leads me back to the point where I think it is entirely prudent to demand to know the denomination and name of the chaplain supervisor outing Chaplain Fokas, so that the Pennsylvania taxpayers can be confident that this is in no way some kind of internecine denomininational shenanigan.