Sunday, July 08, 2012

Gay, Black Ex-Muslim New Yorker To Become Rabbi

This has to be one of the most interesting yet bizarre religious conversion stories I have ever come across.

New Yorker Dario Hunter, an openly gay lawyer who also happens to be half black (his mum) and half Iranian Muslim (his dad) is graduating as a rabbi on August 25.

Apparently, Hunter gave up everything- including his career in New York city- to move to Israel to study to be a rabbi. Granted, it was through a progressive online study program, the Jewish Spiritual Leaders Institute (JSLI), which is run by Rabbi Steven Blane. Graduating with Hunter are a Catholic-born Brazilian and a British songwriter. In fact, half of his class are converts. Blane himself has an interesting story. Since so many Jews are either "unaffiliated or in interfaith marriages", Blane believes there's a need for Rabbis to minister to this segment of the Jewish diaspora.

Blane was a traditional rabbi until he resigned after being "threatened with expulsion for officiating at interfaith weddings."

Along with his online rabbinical training programme, he also runs Sim Shalom, a global online synagogue.

Blane has a unique perspective on Judaism:

Blane knows that a former Muslim becoming a rabbi will be uncomfortable for some, but the plurality of backgrounds of his graduating class fits perfectly with his belief in Jewish Universalism.

"I don't believe that Jewish people were uniquely chosen for a relationship with God – God doesn't choose a favorite child," Blane said.

"Nearly 50% of the Jewish population finds deep significance in observing Holiday and life-cycle rituals, but doesn't feel like any traditional denomination reflects their views. There's a huge need for rabbis who can provide spiritual leadership that serves this large and important group."

I'm not sure what Hunter's father might think of his apostate son, but if he is indeed gay, he certainly has a better chance of surviving in the Jewish religion than he would as a Muslim. Let's hope he can hang on to his head.

Shalom, Rabbi Hunter, you've embraced a far more tolerant religion.

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