Orthodox Jewish Parents, Smashing Stereotypes, Love Their LGBTQ+ Children, Yet Grieve Their Children’s Exodus from Orthodoxy Due to Discrimination, New Data Finds

Eshel (eshelonline.com), which conducted the survey, says there is some progress; 

Just convened a sold-out Parents Retreat of over 90 Orthodox Jewish parents with LGBTQ+ Kids

Findings are in sharp contrast to 2020 Pew Study reporting a stable, satisfied mainstream Orthodox community

NEW YORK, April 1, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — Orthodox Jewish parents accept their LGBTQ+ children, but report wide-ranging community discrimination, according to a new survey. A majority (67%) of parents disclose their adult LGBTQ+ children had no choice but to leave Orthodoxy. The respondents (17%) said their non-LGBTQ+ children have also left.

Alongside this upheaval, there is some progress being made, according to the nonprofit organization Eshel (www.eshelonline.com) that conducted the survey, “All You Need is Love?” and advocates for inclusive LGBTQ+ Orthodox communities. Through its “Welcoming Shuls Project,” Eshel has had dialogue with hundreds of U.S. Orthodox synagogues, resulting in dozens creating a more welcoming atmosphere for LGBTQ+ children and their families.

The survey was released at Eshel’s Parent’s Retreat (March 28-31, 2024) in Reisterstown, MD., which drew over 100 Orthodox Jewish parents to create community, hear speakers and to help navigate the journey of their LGBTQ+ children. They are available for interviews.

The Eshel eshelonline.com findings are in sharp contrast to a 2020 Pew Research Center study that reported a relatively stable and extremely satisfied Orthodox community with 67% of Americans raised as Orthodox remaining Orthodox as adults. The same study also found that 90% of Orthodox Jews are satisfied with their community.

“Whether known or not, an Orthodox synagogue and a Jewish day school have LGBTQ+ children and families as members and students,” said Miryam Kabakov, Executive Director and co-founder of Eshel. “We speak to a lot to rabbis who say,Every Jew is welcome,’ but they have no clue how unwelcome an LGBTQ+ person and family feel, from being told to go to another school to ignoring their congratulatory event.”

Among other findings, nearly one-half (44%) of parents surveyed state the great upheaval away from Orthodoxy is due to their child experiencing rejection in synagogue. One in three parents (33%) report discrimination against their child in their local Orthodox Jewish day school.

The parents, who are available to be interviewed, ranked their greatest challenge as “fearing for my child’s social acceptance,” and their least as “loving my child.” They want more openness, including their LGBTQ+ children joining the synagogue as a member, receiving full honors during services and participating in congratulatory lifecycle announcements.

Among parents’ statements: “They (my LGBTQ+ child) don’t have a place in the synagogue, their day school friends have largely ghosted them since high school.” “My wish for the Orthodox community is that they treat my children exactly the same as they treat any other child.” “As a family at the center of every Orthodox community we’ve participated in, it was astonishing to be on the margins literally overnight.” “How the world will receive a transgender religious Jew?”

The survey, conducted December 2023-January 2024, included responses by more than 133 parents – the first time so many Orthodox Jewish parents with LGBTQ+ children have allowed their group voice to be heard.

More than 80% of parents self-identified with Orthodox denominations that included Charedi, Sephardic, Yeshivish, or Modern Orthodox with one out of five identifying as Open Orthodox.

Eshel (eshelonline.com):

Co-founded in 2010 by Miryam Kabakov and Rabbi Steven Greenberg, Eshel helps LGBTQ+ Orthodox Jewish individuals and their families build LGBTQ+ inclusive Orthodox Jewish communities.

Eshel proactively reaches out to Orthodox leaders through consultations, trainings, and events, and it supports LGBTQ+ Orthodox Jewish individuals and their families through its warmline, support groups, mentoring, and a community network.

Contact: Raina Grossman