By Leslie Robinson
Yente would plotz.
The matchmaker in “Fiddler on the Roof” would have a coronary over the kind of matchmaking being practiced these days. And by a rabbi, no less. The shmendrik.
For his part, Rabbi Arele Harel doesn’t need criticism from fictional characters, as he’s receiving plenty from real people who are angry over his efforts to match Orthodox Jewish gay men with Orthodox lesbians.
On the face of it, pairing a zebra and a wombat might stand a better chance of success.
Harel, who lives in a Jewish West Bank settlement, told The Associated Press he fixes up gays and lesbians so they can have children, a commandment of Jewish law.
“The main aspiration here is parenthood,” he said. “It allows them to become parents in a way that is permitted by religious Jewish law and prevents a conflict between their religious world and their sexual world.”
Um, the conflict between the two will still be there, as surely as I don’t intend to marry a wombat.
But I get what he means. He’s helping people live by the letter of the law. Even as the spirit of the law and their individual spirits won’t fare so well.
Harel believes some gays shift their orientation through therapy. He said his approach is for those whose orientation won’t budge, but who want to remain observant. Six years ago he started matching gay men and women, recognizing a “deep distress” among those “facing a dead end road.”
Instead of finding a new road, 24 gays and lesbians chose to tread the straight and narrow one – Harel said he’s wed 12 couples, some of whom produced children. Perhaps with assistance from Falcon Studios and Angelina Jolie movies.
Adultery is a no-no under Jewish law. In Harel’s view, when two married straight people mess around they’re guilty of adultery, because the two are sexually compatible. In a gay-lesbian marriage, as long as both persons know the other is dating, it’s not adultery.
Seems like Harel has found a loophole big enough to force a huppah through.
He maintains that once kids come, the gays learn to love each other. “Their love is based on parenthood. Parenthood is the glue and it’s strong.”
A number of Israelis are critical of Harel’s unorthodox approach to Orthodox gays. Most Orthodox Jews view the homosexual as slightly more appealing than the arsonist. Orthodox rabbis say Harel should be pushing gays to change their orientation.
On the other side, a liberal religious gay group charged Harel with trying to “erase” gays from the Orthodox community.
Harel’s position is a precarious one. Kind of like – didn’t you know I was going to say this? – a fiddler on the roof.
A group for gay Orthodox Jews called Kamoha independently fielded many phone requests for gay-meets-lesbian matchmaking, so Kamoha has joined with Harel to offer the service.
Kamoha’s website reads, “In this project, all of the cards are open, and without the lies, half-truths, and ‘mistakes,’ because both participants know very well the nature of the prospective spouse’s orientation.”
Do they ever. They can spend many a happy evening swapping coming-out stories. Or non-coming-out stories.
You know, now that I really think about it, Yente was nothing if not pragmatic as a matchmaker, so maybe, if she were living in Israel today, she wouldn’t be appalled at these gay pairings. She might even be getting in on the act. A successful match fetches about $400 from both groom and bride.
Whoever performs the unlikely matching, the endeavor brings to mind lyrics sung by Tzeitel in “Fiddler” as she wryly imitates Yente:
“I promise you’ll be happy. And even if you’re not,
There’s more to life than that. Don’t ask me what!”