First openly gay Orthodox rabbi promotes diversity in Judaism


Steven Greenberg from Boston, Massachusetts, speaks in the Kent State University Library on March 6, 2017. Greenberg is an openly gay Jewish rabbi and author.

Megan Ferguson

Steven Greenberg, the first openly gay Orthodox rabbi, helped Kent State students cultivate open minds and analyze religious text to understand what it means to be a gay rabbi.

Greenberg said his goal is to open the hearts and minds of others by representing a community of people who in the past have been afraid to speak up.

Greenberg came out as the first openly gay Orthodox rabbi in 1999 and is the founder and director of Eshel, a support, education and advocacy program for LGBT Orthodox Jews.

“You have twice the power of love,” Orthodox Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliashiv said to Greenberg when he came out as bisexual at age 20.

“Running away from something often empowers it,” Greenberg said.

Greenberg said cultural fears and homophobia make people misread resources. He also said a strategy people use when reading the Hebrew Bible is to accept the things they like and ignore those they do not.

“Own the guilt that you are a part of a tradition that has yet to move forward thoughtfully,” Greenberg said when advising other rabbis on how to address the LGBT community.

Sam Draper, a senior marketing major from the University of Akron, said Greenberg’s message provides an opportunity for people to learn tolerance.

Greenberg said, in the past, people in the Jewish community often hid their sexuality or left the community if they identified as gay or transgender, but now more than ever, people need to accept that more individuals are coming out at a younger age.

Alejandra Fishman, a junior fashion merchandising major, said she has a lot of friends in the LGTBQ community who are also Jewish, and she wants to see them have the same rights as straight people.

Fishman said she notices the stigma around gay and transgender people with religion, and she said it is important to show that people can embrace their sexuality while still being connected to their faith.

Greenberg now lives in Boston with his partner, Steven Goldstein, and their daughter. He was raised in Columbus, Ohio by conservative Jewish parents and attended college in New York at Yeshiva University, where he studied in Israel at Yeshivat Har Etzion.

Megan Furguson is the student life and religion reporter, contact her at [email protected].