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I understand that the following incident (from November 2006) has been well-publicized in the Jewish blogosphere since December, but I only discovered it this morning at Apikorsus Online. A large proportion of my friendslist does not read Jewish blogs, so I feel justified in reposting here.

An Orthodox Jewish woman was beaten for refusing to sit at the back of the bus to the Kotel (the holiest site for Jews in Israel). Also, the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz has reported on the case.

I am sick to my stomach thinking about this. Miriam Shear got up before 4 AM to go and pray. She took a bus that was officially unsegregated (and apparently there are gender-segregated public buses in Israel, much to my horror) and sat in the front, near chareidi* men. A man spat on her. Shear, being a brave woman, spat back, at which point the man and four others started physically attacking her. (Please note that, given their observance level, these men should not have been touching a woman who was not married to them at all!) Shear fought back, but no one else came to her defense. Most bystanders seem to have said things on the order of "She had it coming." There was an eyewitness willing to speak, who will testify in Shear's upcoming suit.

What kind of Jewish country is it when a Jew going to pray can be attacked by other Jews who are also going to pray? What does it mean for there to be a Jewish people at all? What kind of civilized nation thinks segregation is remotely acceptable? I simply don't understand. I don't.

One more note: Since seeing Elf's links and the Ha'aretz article, I've looked around other blogs to see what they had to say. I am not going to link to the last blog I read, nor am I going to try to engage with the virulent idiocy of some of the comments there, but I do want to say that I am literally crying and pounding the sofa with rage and disgust. God help us all.

*The word is usually translated "ultra-Orthodox", but the English term is fairly useless as description goes.
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All of the CJLS opinions on homosexuality are now available on the Rabbinical Assembly website. So are the opinions on mikveh (ritual bathing), for those of you who were looking for them.

(Thanks, [livejournal.com profile] elfsdh!)

ETA: Look at all these teshuvot, finally accessible to the general public! I approve.
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After years of debate, the Conservative Movement's Committee for Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) has finally come to a conclusion regarding commitment ceremonies and ordination for gays and lesbians. The Conservative Movement of American Judaism being what it is, the committee has actually come to three conclusions.

From the press release, as posted at [livejournal.com profile] cons_judaism:

At the CJLS meetings, five specific teshuvot were extensively discussed in a spirit of collegiality and open-mindedness. Two teshuvot -- one authored by Rabbi Joel Roth and the other authored by Rabbis Elliot Dorff, Daniel Nevins and Avram Reisner -- obtained clear majority support. Rabbi Roth’s responsum “Homosexuality Revisited” reaffirmed the prior position, which denied ordination as clergy to active homosexuals and also prohibited same sex commitment ceremonies or marriage. In contrast, Rabbis Dorff, Nevins and Reisner, while retaining the Torah’s explicit prohibition, as understood by the rabbis banning male homosexual intercourse, argued in “Homosexuality, Human Dignity and Halakhah” for the full normalization of the status of gay and lesbian Jews. Under this ruling, gay and lesbian Jews may be ordained as clergy and their committed relationships may be recognized, although not as sanctified marriage.

A third teshuva accepted by the CJLS, written by Rabbi Leonard Levy, which upheld the traditional prohibitions, argued that homosexuality is not a unitary condition and urged the development of educational programs within the community to achieve understanding, compassion and dignity for gays and lesbians. There was also some support on the committee for a more comprehensive repeal of the prior ban against homosexual relationships. All authors of teshuvot shared a universal appreciation for the principle of kvod habriot and the welfare of gays and lesbians in our community.

During its deliberations the CJLS did not discuss – nor do any of the papers reflect – any determination regarding gay marriage.


My response: Thank God, the Dorff opinion passed. I'm relieved to know that ordination of gays and lesbians and performance of commitment ceremonies is possible (at rabbis' discretion) in my movement. That said, I find myself -- surprisingly -- disappointed that neither of the opinions further left than Dorff's passed. I should be glad to see that the Conservative movement is keeping itself within rigorous Jewish law, and that it isn't discarding tradition for the sake of rendering all homosexual activity (read: anal sex for men) permissible. And yet, and yet... I can't articulate what it is about not passing the Tucker opinion that disappoints me, but something does.

In any case, I certainly don't mind that gay and lesbian relationships can't be recognized as marriage. The Jewish marriage ceremony, ancient and venerable as it is, still has elements that make the feminist in me cringe. I mean, it's designed to pass a woman into the control and guardianship of her husband. If I were straight and planning my wedding, I'd probably use a minimally modified traditional Jewish wedding ceremony for the sake of the tradition. Not having access to that ceremony doesn't make me feel deprived, in any case.

Thoughts, anyone? Say what you want honestly, but bear in mind that this is my journal, and homophobia of the sort I've seen spouted on other Jewish LJ communities this week will either be stamped on or laughed at. I will not, of course, be deleting comments with which I disagree, but I may begin arguing with them.

ETA: More information from the Jewish Daily Forward. Apparently four CJLS committee members, including Rabbi Roth, resigned to protest the approval of the Dorff tshuvah. The article also discusses what today's results are likely to mean for ordination at the movement's two rabbinical schools.

Edited again to add: I just noticed (with help from [livejournal.com profile] spin0za1) further description of the Levy tshuvah in the Forward article.

At Wednesday’s vote, held at Manhattan’s Park Avenue Synagogue, five teshuvot were on the table, covering a diverse spectrum of opinion. The teshuvot in favor of upholding the ban on gay ordination and same-sex unions included...one written by Rabbi Leonard Levy, making the case that homosexuality is an illness that can be cured.

Other sites I've clicked on today suggest that Rabbi Levy is actually endorsing reparative therapy -- and that this endorsement is now legally part of Conservative Judaism. Excuse me? What on earth is bad science doing in an approved CJLS opinion?

Third edit: Rabbi Jason Miller has posted further information on his blog.

Fourth edit: In response to the CJLS decisions, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ), the arm of the movement that governs synagogues (rather than rabbis), is planning to change its policies to permit the hiring of openly gay or lesbian employees. Rabbi Jerome Epstein, executive vice president of USCJ, has also spoken out against reparative therapy. (Thanks, Dan!)
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(cross-posted to [livejournal.com profile] one_in_a_minyan)

From last Friday's Forward, here:

The ordination of gay rabbis and the sanctioning of same-sex marriage within Conservative Judaism is near certain, according to movement leaders who spoke at a meeting in New York on Thursday night.

...

In December, the law committee “might accept — will accept, I think — two or more of the papers [currently under consideration]: one that affirms the current state of affairs, and one, at least, that liberalizes it,” [Rabbi Jerome] Epstein [executive vice president of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism] told the audience. He added that while he believed that the movement had room enough for congregations differing in their treatment of homosexuality, the question of whether or not to accept gay rabbis and gay marriage “could be, at least theoretically, divisive” within synagogues.


Continued... )

In other words, the Conservative movement looks likely to sit on both sides of the fence again. I just want to know how JTS and UJ (the movement's seminaries) can simultaneously abide by Dorff's opinion, that it is permissible to ordain openly gay rabbis, and by Roth's, that it isn't. Can any of you help explain?
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The news from the CJLS (the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, in charge of determining religious law for the rabbis of Judaism's Conservative Movement, in case you haven't been following along here) regarding same-sex marriages and ordination of gay and lesbian clergy is apparently no news. The committee asked the authors of the submitted opinions to revise their proposals; the issue will be treated again the next time the CJLS convenes in December.

ETA: The Forward has more details, including news of a recent change in the CJLS policies that requires 80% unanimity, instead of the more usual 24%, to approve legal opinions on "particularly momentous" issues (i.e., given the issues facing the Conservative Movement lately, gays, gays and gays!).

Edited again, on March 7, to add: Either the Forward article was unclear or I misread it. The New York Times article post-non-vote explains that only the most radical proposal on the table, which advocated a complete change (takanah) in Jewish law, would require an 80% vote to pass. The other three opinions only need the normal 24%.
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
(cross-posted to [livejournal.com profile] one_in_a_minyan)

It's official and public: Next week, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS), the group of rabbis in charge of examining Jewish law on behalf of the centrist Conservative Movement of Judaism, is voting on same-sex marriage and ordination of gay and lesbian rabbis. All of the opinions have been written; there's nothing left for the CJLS to do but vote on which one (or more) of them to accept as binding halacha (law, sort of).

Pray with me that the committee makes its choice with wisdom and mercy. (I'm also praying that the committee legalizes both same-sex marriage and ordination of gay clergy*, but I recognize that even on Livejournal not everyone shares my political opinions.)

*Edit, thanks to [livejournal.com profile] naomichana: ...in a halachically viable manner...
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
I saw Serenity on Friday. I saw Mirrormask today. While I enjoyed Serenity and would certainly be willing to see it again, it doesn't even share a 'verse* with Mirrormask. I walked out of the theatre today absolutely dazed, having lost most of the facility of speech. (If I said anything particularly stupid to anyone who was there with me, I apologize. My brain fell down the rabbit hole.)

In the absence of coherent critical language with which to approach Mirrormask, I suppose I can fall back on the old love-child-of-X-and-Y cliché, thus: If Hayao Miyazaki fathered a child on the entire cast, crew and design staff of Cirque de Soleil, and dressed the baby in garments made from early works of Mark Rothko, the infant might look something like Mirrormask.

Go, my friends. Run. This movie will not be in theatres very long; it may not be in theatres near you at all. If it is, you need to see it.

* Translation for benefit of non-fans: 'Verse is short for "universe" in Firefly and Serenity slang.

ETA, before I put the computer away: I had heard they were cutting all of the theology out of the Narnia movie. The idea upset me; Narnia without Christianity is just as far from the spirit of the text as His Dark Materials without anticlericalism.

Therefore, I was thrilled when I saw the trailer preceding my roommate's Hitchhiker's Guide DVD. Immediately following a shot of the Professor's mansion, white words appear on a black screen: "In this house there are many rooms." Of course, a casual viewer without a stake in the idea of Narnia as Christian allegory might not recognize
John 14:2. Nevertheless, if the filmmakers are willing to cite the "New Testament" (Query: Is the politically correct term "Greek Bible"?) in a trailer available to the general public, there is real hope for Narnia.

***

I will be absent from all things LiveJournalish (and, in fact, all things computerish) from now until Wednesday night, due to the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah (the New Year). May you all have a good and sweet New Year. May this year, 5766 on the Jewish calendar, bring us a better world than the one we saw last year.
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Many of you are literary critics. Many of you are amateur or professional scholars of Judaism. Most of you are talented at creative, bizarre works of extempore interpretation.

Therefore:

I propose a challenge. It shall be open to every reader of this journal, regardless of religion, race, gender, level of education, sexual orientation or status as a fictional character. (I should note that entries from fictional characters are especially welcome.) It's even open to non-readers of this journal. Advertise the challenge to your friends!

I challenge you to provide an interpretation for the following song:

Had Gadya (One Little Goat) )

A note of explanation: "Had Gadya" is traditionally sung at the end of the Passover Seder, a ritual dinner occurring in a week and a half. By that point in the ritual, everyone is (or should be) drunk and exhausted, and no one quite knows what they're singing or why. The song, as you may notice, has nothing obvious to do with freedom from slavery; it has nothing obvious to do with spring fertility rituals; it may possibly have nothing to do with anything. However, Jews are not content to take "meaningless" as an answer, so we keep making up interpretations.

Some interpretations from Jewish Heritage Online Magazine )

Clearly, we need more explanations for this song. Explain away! Points will be given for creativity, randomness, amusement value, plausibility, implausibility, and my mood at any given moment.

Here's a bizarre 80s Hebrew version of the song, complete with synthesizers and eerie drums, to get you in the mood.
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Via [livejournal.com profile] one_in_a_minyan, (here, with fascinating discussions in the comments):

The Committee for Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS), which considers religious law for the centrist Conservative Movement of American Judaism, is meeting Tuesday for a formal reconsideration of its 1992 decisions prohibiting same-sex marriages and ordination of gay and lesbian (1) rabbis.

As a lesbian Conservative Jew, I have been watching what little bits of news emerged from the CJLS very closely. The 1992 decisions, which said that gay and lesbian congregants should be welcomed but refused to sanctify same-sex commitment ceremonies or to ordain gay and lesbian rabbis, were completely unsatisfying to just about everyone I've heard from. The several opinions all relied on dubious science to bolster their claims. I am not an expert on halacha (Jewish law) so I don't know whether the halachic arguments were any more convincing than the scientific arguments. (2) In any case, debate (often thoughtful and occasionally acrimonious) over the decisions has continued for the last fourteen years. About two years ago the CJLS chose to reopen discussion on homosexuality and Jewish law. Apparently (if we trust the Associated Press) the final discussion will be occurring this week. I don't quite know what this entails. Have the new responsa been written yet? Is the committee ready to vote? I would like very much to find out.

I pray that the committee finds a halachically valid solution that permits both some form of movement-recognized commitment ceremonies/marriages for same-sex couples and open ordination without reference to sexual orientation.

(1) The fate of bisexuals in the Conservative movement is not currently under discussion. Conservative Jewish leadership concludes that anyone who is attracted both to men and women could choose only to date/marry people of the opposite gender. I understand the position but I strongly disagree with it, for reasons I cannot articulate nearly as well as I would like.

(2)Summaries of all of the 1992 decisions, and links to the full decisions, are available here. Note that only items 1 through 5 on that list of decisions were officially approved as law.
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The holiday of Purim approaches, as it does every year. The residents of my apartment are spending our spare hours assembling pirate costumes, buying liquor and baking a kind of filled cookie we call the hamantash (plural: hamantashen).

This year's thoughts on hamantash baking:

1. Poppy seed filling is a good thing.
2. Not being able to find poppy seed filling in Northern California is a bad thing.
3. Making one's own poppy seed filling is a good thing.
4. Finding hundreds of poppy seeds scattered all over the kitchen floors and counters is a bad thing.
5. If the stovetop is covered with poppy seeds, and one lights a burner, can one get high on opium inhalation?
6. Nonstick rolling pins sound like an excellent idea, but, in fact, they have some serious flaws.
7. When I roll out my sticky hamantash dough, I need some flour to stick to the rolling pin.
8. I'm out of practice at this hamantash-making thing.
9. I hope that when I make my second batch of cookies, today or tomorrow, the hamantashen are actually triangular.
10. I am thankful that blob-shaped hamantashen taste just as good as triangle-shaped hamantashen.
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
I always complain about not having studied Talmud. A new Daf Yomi cycle, in which Jews read the entire Talmud at the rate of one page per day for more than seven years, is starting now.

With some trepidation, I'm going to try it this time.

I'm not the only person with this idea on LJ. [livejournal.com profile] zachkessin founded [livejournal.com profile] dafyomi to read and discuss the daily passage. Come join us.
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
and my latkes (potato pancakes, sort of) were an unqualified success. This did not surprise my roommates, but it did surprise me, as I have never in my life been in charge of making latkes before. I was always either the sous-chef on grating detail or the person following the instructions on the box. There was no box this year. There were merely potatoes and onions and salt and pepper and eggs and baking powder and flour and lots and lots of olive oil, fried and served with applesauce and sour cream: heavenly. We all sat in the candlelight and ate latkes and spinach-and-cheese (roommate #1 decided that we needed green vegetables with our carbohydrates and fat), drank alcoholic pear cider, sang. It feels like Chanukah, now. It's a good feeling.

Meanwhile, I must sing the praises of my friends.

[livejournal.com profile] caffeinediary and I met ten years ago (I am still boggled -- where on earth did those ten years go?!) in Hebrew high school, and our friendship made the ghastly place tolerable. [livejournal.com profile] caffeinediary has wonderful taste in music; she taught me to love Tori Amos and Philadelphia's independent radio station WXPN. She helped to hook me on Dar Williams and the Nields, and recently she introduced me to Tegan and Sara. We talk about good books and bad dates, and somehow manage to keep in touch despite thousadns of miles of physical distance.

Oh yes, [livejournal.com profile] caffeinediary gave me my LJ invite code last year, a few weeks before LJ dropped the invite code requirement. I would not be here today if it weren't for her. Round of applause for [livejournal.com profile] caffeinediary, please.

Still to come: odes to [livejournal.com profile] emidala, [livejournal.com profile] prosewitch, [livejournal.com profile] debka_notion and [livejournal.com profile] muffinbutt. If you forgot to request an ode and you want one, leave me a note here.

***

Happy Chanukah, everyone!
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
I am tired of reading about the supposed chasm between Godly America and Worldly America. My Judaism is very important to me. My beliefs on moral/ethical issues such as how to define a just war guide my vote. One reason that I firmly believe in the division between church and state comes from my knowledge, as a present-day Conservative Jew and as a scholar interested in the history of religions, that the value structure endorsed by any one religion at any one time is a construct that may bear little resemblance to the values of the same religion at a different time, or to the values of any other contemporary religion. I'm part of the Religious Left, and I vote.

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