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Orthodox Rabbis Split on Anti-Gay Bullying Law in Canadian City of Winnepeg

An anti-bullying bill in Manitoba has Winnipeg’s two leading Orthodox rabbis split over how much schools should do to accommodate students who support gay rights.

One part of Bill 18, proposed last December, requires any school that receives provincial funding to allow students to create a gay-straight alliance club.

Fearing that Christian schools will be forced to accept such clubs, many Christian leaders in Manitoba have opposed the bill. But in the case of the province’s Jewish community, the two leading Orthodox rabbis have landed on opposite sides of the debate.

“The Torah rejects homosexuality,” Rabbi Avrohom Altein, the longtime head of Chabad Lubavitch in Winnipeg, told the Canadian Jewish News. “Religious schools should not be forced to accept a gay rights group.”

But while Altein has written a letter to Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger protesting the bill and taken to the airwaves to make his views heard, Winnipeg’s other prominent Orthodox rabbi has taken a much different approach.

Rabbi Ari Ellis, who leads Winnipeg’s largest Orthodox congregation, told the Canadian Jewish News that he originally planned not to get involved in the Bill 18 debate. But once he heard Altein claiming that the bill stood in opposition to Orthodox Judaism, he felt compelled to speak up.

“As an Orthodox rabbi and a Jewish educator, it is my belief that a gay-straight alliance could be a welcome institution in our schools and communities,” Ellis told the newspaper.

Gray Academy of Jewish Education, the only K-12 Jewish private school in Winnipeg, has had a gay-straight alliance for several years, according to head of school Rory Paul.

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