Just a few days ago, a Jewish teenager from South Africa committed suicide while on an organized trip to Israel. Before dying, the 19-year-old—a first-year medical school student—wrote a note on his phone that he was struggling with his sexual identity and his place in the Modern Orthodox community he belonged to.
“Trying to pretend to be something I am not in front of you all is becoming more trying by the day as I’m not the heterosexual being I portray for you. I wish I could have told you guys everything and I know you would have understood, but deep down, I know our relationship would have changed,” the teenager reportedly wrote.
It’s crucial that Jewish institutions, leaders, and publications give visibility to the conversation on LGBT identities in Judaism, rather than avoiding it. The erasure of the issue is unlikely to stop tragedies like this to happen again. Only by having more open discussions on the matter we can try to foster an environment in which no teenager will ever bee so afraid to reveal their sexual identity that they prefer to die.