Identity, Politics, Religion, Sex & Gender

The Decision Is In: Yes to Gay Rabbis, Commitment Ceremonies

From JTA:

The Conservative movement’s highest legal body moved to allow commitment ceremonies for gays and the ordination of gay rabbis.
The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards endorsed three opinions Wednesday on homosexuality.
Two opinions upheld earlier prohibitions on homosexual activity, but the third endorsed commitment ceremonies and the ordination of gay rabbis, while retaining the biblical ban on male sodomy.
Two other opinions that were under consideration, which would have removed all restrictions on gay activity, were declared takanot, or substantial breaks from tradition that would require an absolute majority of the committee members for adoption.
They were defeated.

33 thoughts on “The Decision Is In: Yes to Gay Rabbis, Commitment Ceremonies

  1. Could someone please define male sodomy? When I and my gay male partner are accepted to JTS, which of the following is strictly prohibited:
    – Mutual masturbation
    – Oral sex
    – Full on pillow biting anal sex
    – Rimming
    – Rubbing myself with lube against his ass, but not penetrating
    If any of these are not allowed with a guy, can I still do them with my girlfriend? You know, on special occasions when we really want to go that extra mile (or inch)….
    Cuz that’s gonna be the next battle. What do we want? Kosher sodomy! When do we want it? Now!
    2-4-6-8, we’re all gonna penetrate!
    heh. seriously though, I’m in favor of all of it.

  2. welcome back to liberal judaism guys. we’ve been missing you since the 1980s when the Refs and the Recons made this leap against bigotry. good to have you back in the family. now if you need to exclude someone from jewish leadership, perhaps you can close seminaries to people who have been responsible for companies who fail to pay a living wage. that is a much bigger deal than the details of sexual intimacy between consenting adult partners.
    btw, i found out earlier today that the entire run of the Ford Taurus from original production to the final one being produced occured in the years after the Recons fully embraced gay jews and before the conservatives movement passed this minority view which may or may not impact the bigoted practices of the rabbinical schools.

  3. A wonderful quote on what is and isn’t kosher, sexually speaking…
    “the essential paradigmatic act of sexual sin is an act of rapacious self-assertion … essentially, this is a sexuality of cruelty, not of erotic relationship.”
    (Avivah Zornberg, The Beginning of Desire, p. 53)

  4. on what planet is this considered a triumph for gay jews? I guess I’ve been away too long from this world to even comprehend why liberal folks are happy about this.
    I find it the nuttiest thing CJ has done yet.

  5. I’d love to have the revolution happen in one vote, Becca, but I’ll settle for three steps forward. It indicates progress, even if it isn’t as much as I’d like… and the next generation of Conservative rabbis will hopefully know better.

  6. ZT, a little less ugliness would be eminently helpful here. I’m sorry you have to deal with folks who are different from you. Way to slap them for taking a step forward just cause it’s not yours.

  7. ZT writes:
    …before the conservatives movement passed this minority view which may or may not impact the bigoted practices of the rabbinical schools.
    The UJ has said that it will begin admitting gay and lesbian rabbinical students immediately. JTS still needs to go through a “process”.

  8. on what planet is this considered a triumph for gay jews? I guess I’ve been away too long from this world to even comprehend why liberal folks are happy about this.
    On the planet where no one listens to what the CJLS says except for the Conservative rabbinical schools themselves — i.e., this planet. The only real-world effect of this teshuva is that the C rabbinical schools will start ordaining gay and lesbian rabbis. No one will change what s/he does in his/her bedroom as a result of a CJLS decision. Therefore, in terms of the practical outcome, this is a triumph for equality.

  9. The UJ has said that it will begin admitting gay and lesbian rabbinical students immediately
    good point. what will happen to out gay UJ students in their Israel year? will they be forbidden from studying in the Masorti system as they haven’t accepted this change?
    Do people have a sense as to whether the JTS process is a delicate political maneuver which is designed to make the change or maintain the status quo? i am too far from seminary politics to have any insight.
    ZT, a little less ugliness would be eminently helpful here.
    helpful for whom? this is, at best, the beginning of a long fight. i am not sure it serves anyone to declare unqualified victory. to your point about ugliness, you are probably right that i ought to have been more upbeat.

  10. this is, at best, the beginning of a long fight. i am not sure it serves anyone to declare unqualified victory.
    Celebrate today; start fighting again tomorrow.
    Meanwhile, we’re all missing the more important point here: They don’t make Tauruses anymore???
    Okay, and the other point we’re missing: What’s this about commitment ceremonies? I didn’t even realize that was part of the teshuvot one way or the other until I saw this JTA article. Anyone have any idea what’s going on there?

  11. as far as i know, rabbis ordained by the conservative movement (before today) were banned from performing commitment ceremonies. however, no one was ever punished for performing them. now the conservative movement will allow its rabbis to perform them, though rabbis will not be required to perform them.

  12. several RA members (at least one i know quite well) have been performing commitment ceremonies in contravention of the ban for quite a while.

  13. Considering their membership decline in recent years, this was an understandable step towards reconciliation with their true parent organization, the Reform Movement.

  14. Can someone explain to me what the term”committment ceremonies” means? Does this mean kiddushin proper? If so, is a Get required to end it? And, if so, who gives it and who receives it? Who is a ‘grusha’? If it is a lesbian marriage, who cannot marry a kohen? Who has to wait 30 days? If Conservative Judaism, as it claims, is a halakhic movement, these would be real, and vital questions. The absurdity of them reveals the silliness of the claim.
    Just to be clear: I applaud and support the (unfortunately grudging and vacillating) steps taken today in the direction of including gay people in Judaism. CJ, however, ought to own up to what it really is: the traditionalist wing of American Liberal Judaism, which is not really bound by halakha.
    And if “committment ceremonies” does not mean kiddushin, then what is it, other than the most transparent tokenism?

  15. I know a few folks that will be jumping out of closest with nothing but kippah’s on… But just wonderin, will this cause an exodus from RRC or HUC?
    I’m also interested in knowing just how many candidates we’re talking about. ARe the number of gay (closeted) clergy candidates at Conservative seminaries disproportionate to the percentage of gays in the General Jewish community (which we already know is high)?
    Does this really change anything? The shuls/kehillot that don’t accept this still aren’t going to hire a gay Rabbi if they don’t want to…
    And will those who resigned from the committee follow suit from the movement as well? And will 2007 bring a United Liberal Synagogue and United Conservative Judaism? I hope so, if only because I like acronyms and think the USCJ, with its cumbersome fourth initial, seriously lags behind the JRF, URJ and OU. I mean, come on…

  16. Thoughts on what is allowed and what is not allowed are contained in http://www.bmv.org.il/ab/dd.asp by Rabbi Simchah Roth in his widely discussed responsum: Dear David
    This goes a great way towards answering the question, though healthy discussion is, i am sure, welcomed.

  17. I love the reaction of the less than liberals reported in JTA:
    Joel Roth and Leonard Levy, along with Rabbis Mayer Rabinowitz and Joseph Prouser, resigned from the law committee to protest its endorsement of the liberal Dorff paper.
    So, if these guys do not get their way they stamp their feet and resign! Such leadership, such great behaviour, such responsibility, such maturity.
    I have met foot stamping queens before. How interesting that the alleged heterosexual community has them too, and that they are prominent rabbis
    Let them not be invited back to the committee. Let them sink into ignominy. People who resign because a dissenting view was also accepted are not worthy leaders.

  18. Let them not be invited back to the committee. Let them sink into ignominy. People who resign because a dissenting view was also accepted are not worthy leaders.
    I wish it were this easy in American politics. How cool would it be if all the prominent Republicans resigned from Congress after the new Democratic majority passes its first bill?

  19. And will 2007 bring a United Liberal Synagogue and United Conservative Judaism?
    Probably not. The fact that everyone has been talking about keeping the movement together shows that institutional inertia is stronger than ideology.

  20. To my understanding, the endorsement of commitment ceremonies does not mean they are kiddushin in the talmudic sense (it would be hard to imagine how they could be). Therefore a traditional get could not be required, though a divorce document might be instituted, perhaps.
    My guess is the “commitment ceremony” term was made vague because individual rabbis are bound to define and conduct such ceremonies differently. But for sure issues like mamzerut and the annulment of vows won’t come up. In that sense, this is going to be a laboratory for fully egalitarian Jewish marriage, in which one partner is not differently halakhically bound than the other. (The truth is that rabbis have been redefining the traditional concept of kiddushin for some time– witness the double ring ceremony–but no one has made that formal.) This new decision may even push the Conservative movement into making a study of Jewish marriage law (as opposed to just re-working kiddushin ceremonies). I’d like to see that!
    As for the question of whether a woman can marry a cohen after having a female partner, the Talmud is divided on this matter (Yevamot 60a) but later halakhah says yes, I believe. Since the Conservative movement already allows cohanim to marry divorcees, the question is moot in practice.
    But what to do about niddah….?

  21. This new decision may even push the Conservative movement into making a study of Jewish marriage law (as opposed to just re-working kiddushin ceremonies). I’d like to see that!
    Me too. I’d be very interested in reworking Seder Nashim in an egalitarian context (with or without the Conservative movement).

  22. my guess is that there won’t be much of an exodus towards the C movement, it just avoided an out-migration (hehe). i can’t imagine this ruling makes folks in the gay community feel embraced. two very bad teshuvahs passed, and the third, as i understand it, still forbids anal sex. far from an embrace as equals. it is certainly a step in the right direction (or left direction as it were), but not big enough to cause a major realignment.

  23. Yes, but after they decided half-heartedly to ordain women, most of the women stayed and have worked for the last 30 years to make the movement more egalitarian. Now, I’m hoping it doesn’t take that long for all the fabulous GLBTQ people to change the movement, but who knows? I’m already a lost cause…

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