Ordination of gays and lesbians as rabbis

vor einigen tagen hatte ich in meinem studentenpostfach folgende email, die ich höchst erstaunlich finde. es scheint, dass das konservative judentum endlich bemerkt hat, dass wir jude vielfälltiger sind, als es sich der eine oder andere von ihnen vorgestellt hat und, dass rabbinerinnen und rabbiner diese vielschichtigkeit genauso darstellen sollten und können:

Dr. Raymond B. Goldstein, International President
Rabbi Jerome M. Epstein, Executive Vice President

Ordination of gays and lesbians and same-sex commitment ceremonies

Within the past few hours, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards completed its deliberation on five responsa that considered whether Jewish law may allow the ordination of gay men and lesbians and same-sex commitment ceremonies. The debate and the deliberation, which took place over many sessions, was serious, passionate, and at times heated. The issue has been treated with great sensitivity by everyone involved.

Although the full texts of the responsa will be made available in due course, we want to inform you as soon as possible that the committee has endorsed papers both reaffirming the status quo and affirming change. The status quo, as you know, has been that the ordination of openly gay men and lesbians was not allowed, and rabbis who performed same-sex commitment ceremonies did so without the Law Committee’s sanction. The result of the committee’s vote means that rabbis, synagogues, and other Conservative institutions may continue not to permit commitment ceremonies and not to hire openly gay or lesbian rabbis and cantors. On the other hand, rabbis, synagogues, and institutions can perform or host those ceremonies and are free to hire openly gay rabbis and cantors. The halakha of the Conservative movement, as voted by the Law Committee, now allows both positions. Both are considered valid.

Although we have the greatest respect for the Law Committee’s decisions, we do not agree with the recommendations of the third paper it accepted, which said that gay men and lesbians are best advised to find “restorative therapy” to change their sexual orientation.

One of the basic tenets of the Conservative movement is that each rabbi who is the spiritual leader of a congregation is the mara d’atra, or final decisor of Jewish law, in that congregation. Therefore, the decisions of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, while important, are advisory. Reached after serious scholarship, thought, and debate, the decisions provide guidance and support to congregational rabbis, who must make their own decisions.

Another basic truth of our movement is its diversity. We draw strength from the differences in practice and commitment that mark Conservative congregations, even as we celebrate our common bonds and shared values. Today’s decision is another example of the wide range of Conservative Judaism. If we work together, we can show that strength in action.

No matter which path a rabbi and congregation may take, which halakha it chooses to follow, all of our rabbis and congregations share a concern for the dignity of all human beings. No matter what a rabbi and congregation chooses to do about hiring gay and lesbian rabbis or commitment ceremonies, all must show respect and sensitivity to all Jews, no matter what their sexual orientation may be. All Jews must be welcome in all our congregations.

Given the Law Committee’s decision today, Rabbi Epstein, who is United Synagogue’s mara d’atra, has told United Synagogue’s leadership that he sees no reason why we should not revise our hiring policies. Based on this conclusion, we may consider applicants for United Synagogue jobs no matter what their sexual orientation. United Synagogue’s leadership will discuss the issue at its next scheduled meeting.

We know that some congregations will face tensions and challenges as they grapple with this issue in the weeks, months, and years ahead. As with the larger Conservative movement, each congregation must find ways to bridge its differences and strengthen the bonds that unite it. It is part of our mission to help each congregation cope with the challenges. That is why over the past few months we sponsored several sessions throughout the country where we explained both the halakhic process and the issues. A video of one of the sessions is on our website – go to www.uscj.org and click on the links at the item on the top left of the bulletin board. Study guides are available on the website as well.

As we face the implications and possibilities inherent in the Law Committee’s decision, we continue our commitment to help each congregation. We offer personal consultation and guidance to each of our member congregations. Rabbi Epstein has convened a meeting of senior staff for tomorrow. They will meet an expert in consultancy and organizational change to begin planning the strategy to help each congregation in concrete ways. On January 2 and 3, the entire United Synagogue staff will meet for intensive training. We are committed to stand by your side as each congregation works through the process in its own time, using its own agenda.

In this week’s Torah portion, we are told that Jacob wrestled with God. As a result of that encounter, Jacob became Israel and evolved into a stronger human being. We share with your our heartfelt prayer that as a result of our wrestling with the issues we confront, we, too, will become stronger in our commitment to Jewish living and to our fellow Jews.

December 6, 2006 


  1. medbrain2001

    Jetzt möchte ich doch eine Lanze brechen für das konservative Judentum: ich bin sicher, daß die Diskussion im konservativen Judentum bereits länger andauert. Nur ist es – wie der Name ja auch besagt – konservativ und tut sich mit Veränderungen nicht gar so leicht. Daß es homosexuelle Juden gibt, die religiös leben und wie heterosexuelle auch zuweilen ein Rabbinatsstudium anstreben ist auch dem konservativen Judentum nicht neu.

    Die Ansicht, daß Homosexuelle Menschen wie andere auch – und da Homophobie noch immer als eine der sozial akzeptierten Vorurteile anzusehen ist sei es hier klar gesagt – mit derselben Menschenwürde sind wie Heterosexuelle ist eine in *allen* Strömungen des Judentums anerkannte genuin jüdische Sichtweise (siehe auch den Film “Trembling before G-d”). Es ist lediglich der Akt des homosex. Geschlechtsverkehrs der in der Torah explizit verboten ist und damit in einigen Strömungen kontrovers diskutiert wird.

    Interessant wird die Begründung der Entscheidung die in o.g. Bulletin ja nicht genannt ist.

    Persönlich glaube ich, daß die Mehrheit konservativer Juden das – wie ich – pragmatisch betrachtet: Homosexualität ist weder eine Abart noch ein Verstoß gegen die g-ttgewollte Vielfalt. Gerade diese Ansicht unterscheidet mich als heterosexuellen Menschen – jedoch deutlich von der Orthodoxie.

  2. Adi

    danke für den kommentar. wie gesagt, ich freue mich, dass das konservative judentum diesen, dringend notwenigen, schritt unternommen hat.

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