Religion, Sex & Gender

Proud and Ashamed III

Our anonymous Conservative rabbinical student returns with a third installment, commenting on JTS’s decision to permit openly gay students. I reiterate, as has become necessary from the last two posts contributed by this individual, that I am not the author.
This is the third in my series of “Both Proud and Ashamed” to be a student, preparing for the rabbinate, within the Conservative Movement. The “Gay issue” has generated more ink for the Conservative Movement than any issue in recent memory. The secular press has carried stories, the Israeli media has taken an interest, the Orthodox Jewish media vehicles have been relentless in their criticism, and there has been much back and forth within the Conservative community.
Overall, dialogue is healthy. I am proud that the Conservative Movement is taking on an issue, in Halachic terms, that profoundly touches the lives of untold numbers of people. In this sense I think we are about two decades ahead of the Orthodox.
We saw this with regard to the woman’s issue. Today, many have nothing but praise for Shira Hadasha, an Orthodox congregation with deep ritual involvement of women. Women study Torah and Talmud in a myriad of Orthodox institutions. Women are trained to serve as “lawyers” in the all male Hardei rabbinic courts. This may have not come about without the progressive Halachic positions taken within the Conservative community.
Last month Chancellor Arnie Eisen (the new head of the Jewish Theological Seminary) appointed as dean a rabbi who holds in favor of the acceptance of Gays and Lesbians into the rabbinate. This made me proud.
The University of Judaism’s Zeigler Rabbinical School has already accepted, to begin their studies in September, at least two out Gays. For this I am proud.
On Monday, JTS sent out an announcement that they would extend the deadline to allow Gays and Lesbians to apply for this coming academic year. This following a vote of the faculty, which lent substantial support to the move. Stogy old JTS now wearing rainbow colors – I am so proud.
But fast forward to today. The newspapers today are reporting, what seemed inevitable – that the Schechter Rabbinical School, where I and the other Conservative rabbinical school students are spending the year, will bar Gays and Lesbians from applying. The decision was taken by our dean, Rabbi Einat Ramon. For this decision I feel shame.
Rabbi Ramon was thought to be, by many of us, a committed feminist who cared deeply about advancing the rights, obligations, and participation, of those neglected by the Jewish world.
Indeed, when Israel was slow to ordain women as rabbis-she left the country to follow her heart and was ordained at the very Seminary she now criticizes. She saw the flexibility of Jewish Law when it came to the women’s issues.
Yet, in the Schechter press release it states:

In a position paper that Rabbi Ramon distributed to the Executive Committee, she called attention to the historic centrality of heterosexual marriage in Jewish life. “Jewish theology regards the union between a man a woman who are sexually and emotionally different from one another as a complementary covenant of friendship and intimacy, which forms the basis for procreation and childrearing. This is why Jewish law has so fervently opposed sexual relations between members of the same sex”, she explained, “and why the heterosexual family has played such a vital role throughout the ages in the transmission of Jewish values and the survival of the Jewish people”.

I would like to remind Rabbi Ramon that most Gays were raised in two parent (male-female) homes. Most children raised by Gay parents are heterosexual (“not that it matters”). So just how does the Gay family hurt the Jewish community?
In the past Rabbi Raman has spoken of Homosexuality as being a choice – something that one may be able to work hard to overcome. She has spoken about strengthening gender roles to lessen the instances of homosexuality. She has spoken of a homosexual agenda (see my previous Jewschool post) to destroy the concept of traditional family.
Ramon states: “We have always admitted students committed to an observant life-style,” continued Ramon, “including Kashrut, Shabbat, and the sanctity of the heterosexual family. Today in particular, when the traditional family is in trouble, it is especially important that we ordain modern rabbis who are devoted to this institution and identify with this worldview.”
So what do I tell my friends now? I am studying at an institution that not only adheres to a traditional halachic stand when the rest of the Conservative world has seen that is not the way. I, in essence, support Schechter financially through my tuition. I feel shame, shame, shame.
But as Bob Dylan sang, “The times they are a’ changing.” Stay tuned.
*Despite the calls from others, perhaps more brave than I, that I identify myself by name, I choose not to do so. I am a Conservative rabbinical student studying in Israel for the academic year. I do not think that my views on this subject will be held against me. But I can not be certain of this. So for now, I will just be “Gaavah and Ashma.-Proud and Ashamed.”

14 thoughts on “Proud and Ashamed III

  1. Unfortunately, Rabbi Ramon is not alone in her thinking. “She saw the flexibility of Jewish Law when it came to the women’s issues.” We could spin this for people such as Rabbi Greenberg who sees the flexibility of halakha when it comes to his homosexuality in the Orthodox community, but refuses to apply the same flexibility to women. Identity politics aren’t helpful here…

  2. It is going to be very interesting to see how this plays out with the first openly glbt students – as rebecca says, what happens to the students when they go to Israel? Will JTS rabbinical/cantorial students have to study at HUC in Jerusalem? (wouldn’t that start a furor of it’s own!) Will Rabbi Ramon pretend she’s still living with “don’t ask – don’t tell” and simply turn a blind eye?
    Thatnks for the ongoing commentary, “Gaavah Ashma.” It’s appreciated.

  3. Off topic:
    What explains the failure of the mainstream media to cover the purge scandal for so long, and so many other scandals? Do you think somebody just set up newspaper editors to cheat on their wives, and threatened to tell if the editors wouldn’t play ball when they come back some day and ask for something?
    It wouldn’t be that hard to do, when you think about it. People wouldn’t talk about it.

  4. I think it would be amusing, and potentially effective, to address protests to RHR. In any political campaign, the question to be asked is, what sustains the target in their refusal to do the right thing?

  5. Rabbi Ramon is so far off base it is sad. How does homosexuality destroy the traditional family? Since the existence of Homosexuality is a given why not encourgae Gays to study Torah, teach Torah, raise adopted children as observant Jews (who may otherwise never know real families)?
    Intersting that there is room in her halachic view for a woman to be part of a Minyan, a Kohen to marry a convert, music on Shabbat, but God forbid the celebration of true love between two people of the same sex.
    I hope the American students who come for the year are given the choice to study elsewhere rather than to hold their noses for the year and just grin and bear it.

  6. The American students are not part of the rabbinical program at schechter, and are at schechter just as part of their studies elsewhere. Schechter does not refuse education to anyone, including gay people, only ordination.
    There’s also nothing to grin and bear – i.e. nothing that wasn’t there previously.
    But I do think AR is being ridiculous: I mean, if you weren’t a left-wing marker in the movement, if you were a serious scholar instead of a nonsense-monger, if you had any credit to your name aside from being a *woman rabbi* – then I’d understand you: you would be trying to uphold a system dear to your heart and central to your theology. Something like Roth. But AR is no halivni and no joel roth. she is, simply put, one of the (not so many) monsters created by the funny fiction called the Israeli conservative movement.

  7. Shalom- I’m not certain that the only “celebration of true love between two people of the same sex” is marriage and sex. Our tradition, I think, is rife with same-sex love; for instance, one of the greatest loves in all of Tanach (if I’m not mistaken) was the platonic one between David and Jonathan, and it is very much celebrated.
    There is nothing wrong with having a very deep and powerful love for someone of the same sex… I think it’s a mistake, particularly in our society today, to equate love with sex, as it seems that you are doing.
    And not to be nitpicky, but I think the part about women in minyans and music on shabbat are d’rabbanan, whereas homosexuality is pretty explicitly deoraisa. That might be some of the difference that Ramon sees. But I guess I agree with you, that it’s probably more black and white than that.

  8. As to the bizzarre logic, history and theology of R. Ramon, she seems to appeal to a mythic tradition of the monogamous. heterosexual, lifelong family. What I don’t get is how she can then have the Chutspah to learn and teach Torah, since we all know that in that myth “one who teaches his daughter Torah, teaches her z’nut.” The only explanation that fits the facts, without knowing the good Rabbi and her works, is “we women have gotten ours, screw the fags.”
    I was a closeted Conservative Reb student more than thirty years ago, and that recloseting of my life has still left stains on my neshama that I work to overcome. Maybe in my next gilgul …..

  9. “Homesexuality” as a concept isn’t even discussed in the Torah or by chazal. One specific act is forbidden d’oraita. How are we defining homosexuality? Is a homosexual merely a male who partakes of anal sex with another male? Seems like a somewhat limited definition… If we define homosexuality as being attracted to members of the same sex, then how does that disqualify one, halachically, from ordination? I have yet to find any source that forbids ordination based on attraction. I really “don’t have a dog in the fight” as they say, but this specific issue bothers me to end. Let’s all say it together: “THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HOMESEXUALITY AND ANAL SEX.”
    Thank you for allowing my little hissy fit.

  10. This should have been said to the anonymous author before I went into my rant. Khazak Lebekha Akhi. We need more like you.

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