I generally enjoyed the charming feature on Rabbi Gil Steinlauf ’91, now head of Princeton’s Center for Jewish Life (“One Jew’s Journey,” May issue). One passage, however, struck me as jarring. Calling it a “brave” move, the article recounts that Steinlauf sent an email “telling the entire Adas Israel congregation that he was gay. He wrote about how much he loved his wife, Batya, who is also a rabbi and the mother of their three children, but he could no longer live a lie.”
Leave aside the question how “brave” it is to make an announcement that will almost universally and predictably be lauded as courageous and honest in elite contemporary society. Leave aside the morality of homosexual practices. My question is this: How is it “brave” to announce that you have decided to embrace your sexual desires, when that entails divorcing your wife and the mother of your children?
For purposes of the question I raise, it would not matter if Steinlauf had announced he was “gay” or if he had announced he had one or more female paramours and decided he could no longer “live a lie” about them. The fact is that every human being faces temptations — e.g., over sexual desire, money, or power — to betray one’s duties to others. Yielding to those temptations, or embracing them as one’s identity, is not brave. Fidelity and sacrifice — doing what you are obliged to do regardless of how much or how little pleasure it brings — is true heroism.