Homosexuality in the Conservative Movement

By | January 3, 2007

Conservative Judaism’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) of the Rabbinical Assembly has recently approved three responsa on the question of ordaining avowed homosexuals as rabbis and cantors. The way the CJLS works, any of the three positions is now considered valid within Conservative Judaism, and individual rabbis may choose which to follow.

The three positions, as summarized by Professor Steven M. Cohen, are as follows:

  1. One teshuva reaffirmed the prior position of the CJLS, which denied ordination as clergy to active homosexuals and also prohibited same-sex commitment ceremonies or marriage.
  2. One teshuva, while retaining the Torah’s explicit prohibition as understood by the rabbis banning male homosexual intercourse, argued 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.
  3. A third teshuva 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.

I’d love to read these three teshuvot, but I don’t believe the CJLS has published them. I am disturbed by both the second and third teshuva, but much more so by the third one. I think it is shocking that there are rabbis in the leadership of the Conservative today who are willing to publicly advocate the position that homosexuality is an illness which can be cured.

Under the new rulings, the various Conservative institutions of higher learning are free to decide for themselves whether to admit avowed homosexuals. To that end, the Jewish Theological Seminary has commissioned a survey of “the views of various leadership constituencies within Conservative Judaism” to help them decide what to do. I got a copy of the survey, which is brilliantly designed. You can read it here if you’re curious.

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