Social and Economic Justice

Advancing Equality for All Israelis

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Court Orders Rabbi to Apologize to Lesbian

By New Israel Fund

Five years ago, Rabbi Issar Klonsky, a state-employed rabbi from Jerusalem’s Givat Mordechai neighborhood, posted signs all over the neighborhood outing dance instructor Nurit Melamed as a lesbian, calling her a danger to the public, and warning women not to attend her dance classes: "Any woman, single or married, young or old, should not set foot there while a class is underway. This is strictly forbidden! Every man must do all he can to prevent a female family member from attending these classes, which are an abomination!"

NIF grantee the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) sued the rabbi for libel, but lost the original case. Now, in the appeal, the Jerusalem District Court has ruled in Ms. Melamed's favor. The rabbi will have to publicly apologize to her and pay her $17,400 in compensation. IRAC Executive Director Anat Hoffman said: "This is a huge victory, for Nurit, for LGBT people, and for all Israelis who believe in the right to privacy and equality before the law."

In response to the ruling, Nurit said: "Religion is the most beautiful thing in my life next to dancing, and it's a shame that one sabotaged the other. When they spilled my blood over the billboards of the city, it was even worse that it was done by a rabbi in Israel. The rabbi undermined the most basic precept of Judaism, "love thy neighbor as thyself." May my own private journey that ended today with an apology and compensation teach us all to preserve each other's privacy and way of life, for we are all one heart and one people."

Congratulations to Nurit and IRAC for successfully standing up for LGBT rights!

Photo Credit: "Mea Sharim, Jerusalem" via flickr user Mario Sanchez Carrion (mariobox)