Conservatives in Israel vote for gay rabbis
ISRAEL’S CONSERVATIVE rabbinical school has voted to ordain gay and lesbian rabbis.
The Schechter Rabbinical Seminary took the decision last week, after years of internal disagreement on the subject. The controversy caused two rabbis, one for and one against ordination, to resign.
The no-gays policy that has stood at the Jerusalem institution until now also caused tension with the US Conservative Movement, which does ordain gay rabbis. “We had to reassess the issue because of the situation that the US accepts students but the seminary here does not,” said Ilana Mushkin, chair of Schechter’s executive committee.
The internal disagreement over the matter at Schechter was complicated by the fact that both proponents and opponents of ordaining gays and lesbians cited Jewish law. Back in 2006, there were two Conservative halachic rulings on the subject, one for and one against. The new policy at Schechter claims to respect both rulings by allowing the ordination of gay and lesbian rabbis, but leaving it up to every faculty member whether or not to serve in the three-person beth din convened to approve ordinations. Ms Mushkin said that this is an application of the Conservative Movement’s principle of “halachic pluralism”.
Andrew Sacks, director of the Conservative Movement’s Rabbinical Assembly in Israel, welcomed the rabbinical school’s decision. “I think that any step within halachic boundaries, which in my view this is, increases the pool of potential applicants and therefore rabbis, and raises the level of sensitivity to individuals,” he said. “It cannot be anything but beneficial.”
Regarding the reconciliation between adherents of the two halachic rulings he said: “This is a declaration that there are a variety of valid interpretations of Jewish law, and one of the wonderful things about the Masorti [Conservative] approach is this recognition that there is more than one valid way to interpret Jewish law.”
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