Uncertain Territory: Conservative Judaism’s Pioneering Gay Rabbinical Students Tread Carefully In Israel
When the first openly gay rabbinic students came through the doors of Conservative Judaism’s Jewish Theological Seminary in 2007, there remained in the back of everyone’s mind one sensitive, still-unresolved issue: What would happen when they went to Israel? All understood that their curriculum, like that of all JTS rabbinic students, would include a third year spent abroad in Jerusalem, where the Conservative movement has so far refused to ordain gay rabbis. Now, Ian Chesir-Teran and Aaron Weininger - the pioneering gay students - are poring over their Talmuds and arguing the fine points of Jewish law at Machon Schechter in Jerusalem, JTS’s sister seminary. And so far, say both the students and their school, the year abroad is proceeding smoothly, at least on the surface. “We haven’t encountered blatant homophobia,” Weininger said. “And yet, there’s a history there. There’s that challenge of, a little bit, walking on eggshells.” This month marks three years since the Conservative movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards opened the gates for gay rabbis. Six of the committee’s 25 members voted for the landmark responsum, or religious position paper, advocating the move-the minimum number required under the movement’s rules to allow individual Conservative institutions to adopt the gay ordination position as their own.