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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!)
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
(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?
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
Geoffrey Chaucer has returned to the blogosphere, to share with us the sad tale of secret trysts he spent with the Pearl-poet.

At morwe-tyde, he sayde me, “Thou knowst I am not of the scole of Edwarde II.”

“Me neithere,” quod I. “‘Tis nobodies privitee but oures.”

While we're on the subject of Brokeback Mountain parodies, the students at the Jewish Theological Seminary have something they wish they could quit. This one probably won't be funny unless you've been following the Conservative Movement's homosexuality debate closely. Thanks for the link, [livejournal.com profile] shirei_shibolim!

One more link before I go back to work: [livejournal.com profile] ladybird97 has kindly alerted me that it is now legal for Jews to wear armor in Ireland. It seems that armor-wearing has been illegal for Jews in Ireland since 1181. This is fascinating. I suspect I have to do more research on the topic.
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
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)
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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January 2017



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