BREAKING: Jewish Theological Seminary to accept openly gay and lesbian students for rabbinate

Here is today’s announcement from JTS itself. Here is the Chancellor-elects letter to the community and here are more official links to information on the issue.

Following the completion of a thorough and deliberate review process, The Jewish Theological Seminary has decided, effective immediately, to accept qualified gay and lesbian students into its rabbinical and cantorial schools.

JTS also announced that in recognition of the significant implications of this decision on the nature and future of Conservative Judaism, it intends to embark on two new initiatives:

  1. JTS will lead a dialogue – working with the Chancellor’s Rabbinic Cabinet, and through liaison with all arms of the Conservative Movement – engaging Conservative Jews about the belief and behavior that should guide JTS and the movement. These discussions – focusing on our shared dedication to mitzvah and halakhah – will be conducted over the next two years with the ultimate goal being a re-clarification of the principles of Conservative Judaism and a recommitment to its practices.
  2. JTS will intensify contact with the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism in California, the Schechter Institute in Israel, and the Seminario Rabínico Latinoamericano in Argentina, and encourage an increased number of joint missions of lay leaders and more exchanges among the faculty and students at these institutions. JTS will also take special steps to strengthen the relationship between Canadian and American Conservative Jews.

What does this mean for your average Cleveland Conservative Jew? Well, that depends on what it means to the average Cleveland Conservative Jew’s synagogue and that synagogue’s rabbi and board of trustees and officers. I’m on the board of my shul. Our rabbi has made his views known, he’s held a forum already with congregants and has addressed it from the bima.

Me? I don’t know – it’s too new for me to think about. I just don’t know. As many of us might imagine, it’s one thing to say that it’s fine – that it should be allowed. It’s another thing to define how close you want it to your life and how you observe.

Like a lot of issues, I need to think about this one – a lot.

7 thoughts on “BREAKING: Jewish Theological Seminary to accept openly gay and lesbian students for rabbinate

  1. Joseph – Not only don’t I believe everything in sacred texts, I’ve written before about how I’m not even sure if I believe in God.I don’t think it’s okay for some people to be enslaved and I don’t believe that animal sacrifice appeases God.What I’m saying is coming from my heart and being honest. It’s not fair to pigeon-hole someone into a stereotype when she’s out here writing that she’s twisting in the wind because of her upbringing.I’m admitting here what is difficult for me, that’s all. Let me put it this way:When I went shul-shopping, I needed to understand how each rabbi at the different synagogue’s interpreted things for his congregation. The same would apply for a gay or lesbian rabbi – I would need to shul-shop them exactly the same way.What I’ve written here is that I have no idea how that shopping experience would be with a gay or lesbian rabbi.But, I can speculate that most likely, I’d ask the exact same questions and be looking for the same types of qualities that I currently prefer.So – really? I’m saying, I’ve never faced this so I don’t know. But imagine I’d proceed precisely the same.I just think I’m being honest, not unsupportive of gay and lesbian rights in Judaism. That said though, Joseph, I don’t think it’s fair to disparage caution – if anything, if I discovered that Judaism was immovable when it came to gays and lesbians and that I couldn’t live with that, then I would indeed switch my allegiance – either to a different branch of Judaism or to another faith – if I thought I needed to belong to a faith at all.

  2. Daniel – I don’t know that I’d describe what might happen as eloquently as Jeff, but for sure there will be NO merging of Reform and Conservative. They really are very, very different – and I feel confident in saying that since I was raised Reform and only joined a conservative shul after getting married (though I was married in my Reform shul in Connecticut). And we didn’t even join a synagogue until our first child was of age to attend religious school I think.No – no merging anticipated.

  3. Jeff – Interesting thoughts. I’ll have to check the Jewish News – I don’t subscribe.I think the Orthodox community will carry on as it has and if Conservative shul members are unhappy with their clergy’s interpretations, I would guess they’ll leave for shuls that better meet their beliefs, right?

  4. You’re killing me here, Jill.How can I defend you against Eric and Jerid and the rest of the lefty bloggers if you aren’t going to support basic rights for gay and lesbian people in your religious community.All religious text is wishy-washy- and most is completely outdated, at best.The best thing any of us can do is try to live the best life we can- and try to help others do the same.The anti-gay aspects of Judaism and Christianity are based on the same outdated logic. If you want to go go all the way and say you believe in EVERYTHING ever written in all of the sacred texts- then I’ll shut up.Otherwise- you are going to have to explain why you also belive that:1. It’s ok for some people to be enslaved?2 Animal sacrifice will appease God.etc.

  5. Shalom Daniel,Actually, I see the opposite happening. I expect further and further fragmentation as people adjust their understanding of religious teachings to conform to their World view.And I see this as a good thing because it means that more people will engage the text rather than ignore it. Remember, the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.B’shalom,Jeff

  6. Shalom Jill,I don’t think there’s any need to think about this at all. It is the right thing to do.And given the conduct of Cleveland’s heterosexual Jewish clergy in recent weeks, I think any concerns about who we let into our lives has nothing to do with sexual orientation.The interesting response will be from the Orthodox community. It can disregard the Reform, Reconstructionist and Renewal communities as somehow not really Jewish, but the Conservative movement is very different. It is a rigidly Halachic (Torah/law-driven) community that directly challenges the opinions of Orthodox rabbis.I will also be interesting to see if the Cleveland Jewish News with have the integrity to ask the local Conservative rabbis what the position of their congregation is going to be.B’shalom,Jeff

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