A word from Eric Geboff, JFS Orlando Executive Director:

In the Book of Kings II, we learn about four men who were afflicted with leprosy and as such, were forced to live outside the gates of the City of Samaria, the capital and center of Jewish life in ancient Israel (c 800 BCE). This was a dreadful time for the Israelites as the city was besieged by the LGBT-Pride-MonthArameans who sought to starve the Israelites out and take the city as their own. People suffering from leprosy were always separated and usually ostracized from the community as in some cases, the leprosy was a result of a sin, not necessarily a skin disease.

Now there were four men with leprosy at the entrance of the city gate. They said to each other, “Why stay here until we die? If we say, ‘We’ll go into the city’—the famine is there, and we will die. And if we stay here, we will die. So let’s go over to the camp of the Arameans and surrender. If they spare us, we live; if they kill us, then we die.” At dusk they got up and went to the camp of the Arameans. When they reached the edge of the camp, not a man was there, for the Lord had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of chariots and horses and a great army, so that they said to one another, “Look, the king of Israel has hired the Hittite and Egyptian kings to attack us!” So they got up and fled in the dusk and abandoned their tents and their horses and donkeys. They left the camp as it was and ran for their lives. The men who had leprosy reached the edge of the camp and entered one of the tents. They ate and drank, and carried away silver, gold and clothes, and went off and hid them. They returned and entered another tent and took some things from it and hid them also. (II Kings 7:3-8)

When we look at the narrative in Kings II, we see four men that were “different” than all others and due to this difference, were removed from the city. The four men felt so much despair that they risked their lives for the hope of survival. They chose to surrender to the enemy. They hoped that they could not possibly be treated worse than they were being treated by their own people.

Then, a miracle happened. G-d intervened, drove off the army, and allowed the four to find the enemy camp abandoned and full of food and supplies. A second miracle happened: the four men decided that, rather than keep the food to themselves, they brought it back to their own city that abandoned them, and broke the siege. After some hesitation, King Joram decided to approach and plunder the Aramean camp which was now empty. The city was saved and the four men were heroes.

June is national LGBTQ Pride month. While many strides have been made in the area of inclusion, much work is yet to be done in welcoming our brothers and sisters into our “camp”. Formal and informal obstacles remain in place, and as a group, they continue to face vast disparities in income, employment, protection from crimes, access to healthcare, and access to social services.

G-d did not abandon the four “different” men; so who are we to abandon the LGBTQ? After all, isn’t that one of the lessons of our Torah – to emulate G-d?

Our community is stronger when we include everyone – as everyone has something to offer.  Even those who have been kept on the fringes of our communities have much to give.  Together, we are a stronger community.

At JFS Orlando, all are welcome to come to our family.

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Eric Geboff

Executive Director

JFS Orlando