Rabbi to pay NIS 60,000 for outing lesbian

Man ordered to compensate dance instructor after warning women against attending her classes

Yifa Yaakov is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Jerusalem-based choreographer and dance instructor Nurit Melamed (photo credit: Facebook)
Jerusalem-based choreographer and dance instructor Nurit Melamed (photo credit: Facebook)

A rabbi in Jerusalem will pay a choreographer and circle dancing instructor NIS 60,000 ($17,300) after he plastered posters in the neighborhood in which she works, outing her as a lesbian.

The woman, Nurit Melamed, sued Rabbi Isser Klonsky after he publicly revealed her sexual orientation, the Ynet news site reported Monday.

Klonsky printed the posters in 2009, reportedly after some residents of the capital’s Givat Mordechai neighborhood, where Melamed teaches circle and Israeli dancing, told him she had had romantic relationships with women. 

In the poster (Hebrew PDF), Klonsky wrote that after a thorough “examination and investigation,” he had decided to forbid women from attending Melamed’s classes. The men of the neighborhood were urged to prevent their wives, daughters and other female relatives from taking part.

“I have come to caution, warn and inform the women of Givat Mordechai and other places against attending these classes. No woman, married or single, young or old, must set foot there. It is absolutely forbidden,” read the poster.

“It is obligatory to stay away from this ugliness and anything resembling it,” Klonsky declared, quoting a verse from the biblical book of Leviticus cautioning the Israelites against adopting the behavioral norms of Egypt while dwelling there.

In the 2009 poster, Klonsky stressed that he, as a religious authority, took no issue with dancing, which he said was encouraged in Jewish scripture — only with Melamed’s classes, which he feared might tempt women to sin. He then suggested that the women of the neighborhood seek out other classes.

Consequently, Melamed’s classes were boycotted by women in the neighborhood, which has a large religious population. The hall in which she had held her classes broke its contract with her, and she was forced to cancel classes both in Givat Mordechai and in other neighborhoods in the city.

With her livelihood compromised, Melamed decided to sue Klonsky with the help of lawyers affiliated with the Reform movement. However, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court took the rabbi off the hook for printing the posters, saying he had acted “in good faith.”

Melamed then appealed the verdict, and the Jerusalem District Court overturned the Magistrate’s Court’s decision, ordering Klonsky to compensate the choreographer and apologize to her for violating her privacy.

In his defense, Klonsky stated that he had decided to take action against Melamed when he heard that a local woman had left her husband and children for the choreographer after taking a class with her.

In an interview with Ynet, Melamed said she hoped the verdict would teach others the importance of guarding their neighbors’ privacy.

Melamed added that she believed the rabbi’s behavior contradicted Jewish values, which she said were as important to her as dancing was.

“Religion is the most beautiful thing in my life, along with dancing. It’s a shame that one interfered with the other,” said the choreographer.

“We are both Jews,” she said, referring to herself and Klonsky. She added that during the campaign against her, she had felt the rabbi was “undermining the fundamental value [to] love thy neighbor.”

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