I was dismayed by the response of 60 rabbis to the cover photograph of Kolot that showed two tefillin-clad women holding hands (“Hands down, 60 rabbis criticize tefillin photo,” Jan 19). I am a gay man, and it never occurred to me to see sexual overtones in that cover. Have none of these rabbis ever attended a service during which congregants hold hands or link arms, perhaps while swaying to “Shalom Aleichem” or dancing on Simhat Torah, or chanting Hallel on Rosh Hodesh, when tefillin might be worn? I grew up Orthodox, where same-sex hand-holding while dancing was the norm and was never considered sexual.
I wonder what the reaction of these rabbis would have been had the photograph shown a woman holding hands with a hairy, masculine hand, both wearing tefillin? Would any of them have expected an article about heterosexuality and Conservative Judaism? Would any have imputed any sexuality to the photograph? Perhaps some introspection could lead these rabbis to sort out their subconscious attitudes toward homosexuality that are brought out by a picture of two Jewish women holding hands.