Rabbis Struggle for Total Inclusion and Equality
A group of Israeli and US Conservative Rabbis will try to pass a resolution next week at the Annual Convention of the Rabbinical Assembly (RA) in Cambridge, Massachusetts that would force Israel’s rabbinic seminary to admit homosexuals.
"Whereas the Rabbinical Assembly has called for full civil rights for Gays and Lesbians," write the proponents of the resolution, "therefore be it resolved that the RA calls for all of the rabbinical schools the world over that ordain Conservative/Masorti rabbis to admit applicants without regard to sexual orientation."
Rabbi David Lazar, who has been conducting same-sex commitment ceremonies for over a decade in open disregard for Conservative Judaism’s official stance, is one of the rabbis behind the initiative.
"We have the prerequisite 25 signatures we need from RA members," said Lazar, spiritual leader of the Tiferet Shalom Congregation in Ramat Aviv and founding director of RIKMA, a social activism movement.
"We cannot go on denying peoples’ rights. Most Israelis can’t afford to study in America for five years. Besides, they wouldn’t be getting the training they need to serve Israeli congregations."
Rabbi Andy Sacks, Director of the Israeli Rabbinical Assembly, who is also a supporter of the resolution, said that the Israeli seminary’s admission policy did not reflect the majority opinion in the movement. But he doubted that the RA’s Resolution Committee would support the initiative.
"The committee agenda is already full. Besides, I doubt the committee will go out of its way to reopen the homosexual issue."
Rabbi Einat Ramon, dean of the Masorti/Conservative movement’s Schechter Rabbinical Seminary in Jerusalem, who decided last month against admitting openly homosexual seminary students, attacked the resolution.
"It challenges the very concept of pluralism," said Ramon. "There are three legitimate rulings on the issue [of admission policy for homosexuals]. We chose one opinion while other seminaries chose another. We expect our decision to be respected just as we respect the decisions of other seminaries."
Ramon’s admission policy decision came just days after the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York - the main seminary and flagship institution of Conservative Judaism - said it would start accepting openly gay and lesbian students, after scholars who interpret Jewish law for the movement voted to allow it.
The more liberal University of Judaism in Los Angeles, California had already decided to accept homosexuals to its seminary.
In December 2006 the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly ratified three conflicting halachic opinions. One written by Rabbi Joel Roth upheld the prohibition on gay rabbis that the committee passed overwhelmingly in 1992. Another rebutted the idea that homosexuality was biologically ingrained in every case, and suggested that some gay people could undergo "reparative therapy" to change their sexuality.
The third opinion, authored by Rabbis Elliot Dorff, Daniel Nevins and Avram Reisner, accepted gay rabbis and blessed same-sex unions, as long as the men did not practice sodomy. Israel is not alone in its refusal to accept homosexual rabbinic students.
Rabbi Abraham Skorka, rector of Latin America’s Conservative seminary, the Seminario Rabinico Latinoamericano in Buenos Aires, Argentina has publicly announced that his institution would not admit homosexuals, claiming that Latin America’s strong Catholic influence makes the move unrealistic.