Conservative Rabbis Vote To Ordain Homosexuals

The Conservative Movement has voted to ordain gays. The Union of Traditional Judaism, the more traditional offshoot of the Conservative Movement, responds (via email, so no link):

"The Conservative Movement’s decision to issue contradictory opinions on homosexual behavior should confuse no one.  The only opinion that really matters is the one that endorses gay commitment ceremonies and the ordination of professing homosexuals as rabbis.

“In keeping with a decades-old pattern on a host of issues, the Conservative view which breaks ranks with Jewish law and tradition is the one which ultimately sweeps the movement.  Given this reality, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards would have been more forthright had it acknowledged a blanket reversal of the biblical prohibition on homosexuality.  Its endorsement of same-sex commitment ceremonies and the ordination of homosexuals while ostensibly maintaining the traditional ban on anal sex is not only disingenuous. It is ludicrous.

“Our hearts go out to the dwindling corps of traditionalists who until now have remained within the Conservative Movement.  Any fig leaf of commitment to Jewish law within their institutions has now been utterly stripped away.

“The issue of homosexual behavior in Jewish life is complex not because there is any doubt whether it is clearly prohibited by the Torah, but because Judaism also teaches compassion for human beings struggling with their contending impulses.  The Union for Traditional Judaism has addressed that complexity with an approach which is honest, caring, and faithful to Jewish law.  In contrast, the Conservative Movement has once again finessed the tradition to give its abandonment of Jewish law a patina of Jewish authenticity.  Let no one be fooled."

Rabbi Bruce Ginsburg, President; Rabbi Ronald Price, Executive VP; Union for Traditional Judaism

I haven’t read the Conservative teshuvot on this yet. But I will say this – maintaining the biblical ban on male-male anal sex while approving of other forms of homosexuality is neither "diseingenuous" or "ludicrous." Gays are born, not made, and they need companionship, closeness and sex just like the rest of us do. Judaism needs to come to grips with that.

 

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30 Comments

Filed under Jewish Leadership, Religion

30 responses to “Conservative Rabbis Vote To Ordain Homosexuals

  1. D

    Well, there is a problem of Tza’ar LeVa’alei Chayyim here. Basically, if you are gay, your lifestyle is officially recognized as legitimate and acceptable – with the caveat that Mishkov Zachar is forbidden. So, basically the gay male is forced into a position of “look but do not touch”.

    Now we know the Torah forbids muzzling an ox while threshing because it is patently cruel to place food in front of an animal while preventing it from eating. Is it any less cruel to tantalize a gay man’s libido but forbid him from consummation? Really, this decision is unconscionable.

  2. Not really. Poskim permit a husband and wife (or a husband and pelegish, sigh) to engage in anal sex, oral sex and mastubatory sex. In other words, within a relationship, seed can be spilled for sexual enjoyment (with a few caveats). Why not say the same for gays? Just ban anal sex but allow oral and mastubatory sex.

  3. Ma Rabbi

    “Poskim permit a husband and wife etc.” You dont know what your talking about. Stop pretending that you are a halachic authority. Go learn what it says in Shulchan Aruch about motzey zerah levatalah.

  4. No, I do know what I’m talking about and, as usual, you don’t. Go ask a real shaiylah or a real (non-Chabad, non-Satmer) posek.

  5. D

    Gadzooks…are we talking about 14-16 year olds here who want to “do it” while maintaining virginity!? :-/

    I am familiar with some of the “poskim” you cite and they are definitely a tiny minority. Nevertheless, I am sure that alone will give the movement enough basis to allow the sorts of activities you cite although I await further elucidation from the likes of Elliott Dorf and others.

  6. Normative halakha allows all that I wrote for maried couples. It is not a “few” poskim, it is rov poskim.

  7. Neo-Conservaguy

    No surprise here at all: they’ve been hinting at these joint “decisions” for many months. To me, the sad fact isn’t that JTS/RA will allow openly gay rabbis and commitment ceremonies, but rather that Orthodoxy has moved so far to the insane right that it offers no lifeboat to those that would leave the Conservative movement. UTJ is nice in theory, but they are more about being your father’s Oldsmobile rather than being willing to help traditional Jews find some new accommodation’s that would allow some women’s participation in services, etc. JTS at least had the balls to revisit certain issues in the past, but that same willingness to consider whether cheese needs a hekhsher has now lead to the present situation. The dichotomy of madness continues, with the radical center largely vacant of a movement.

  8. Anonymous

    Scotty why would you know anything about sexual matters? Did you ask these shailos because you wanted to know if you could have oral sex and masturbate within the realms of halacha?

  9. Anonymous

    “Normative halakha allows all that I wrote for maried couples. It is not a “few” poskim, it is rov poskim.”

    Scotty you’re not supposed to learn about that stuff until your ready to get married.

  10. No, moron, because I learn.

  11. Anonymous

    Why don’t you learn something more applicable to your life?

  12. S.

    >maintaining the biblical ban on male-male anal sex while approving of other forms of homosexuality is neither “diseingenuous” or “ludicrous.”

    Uhm, Rabbinic Judaism isn’t Karaism. Halakhah encompasses texts in addition to the Torah.

    As for “”Poskim permit a husband and wife etc.” that is 100% true–but also there are poskim who have couples spend decades in the dark in the missionary position. Their loss.

  13. avrohom

    scotty,

    you are an ignorant bohr. You barely know how to read aleph beth and you become an authority on everything…especially when it comes to malign frum jews and to change religion…

  14. Scam Alert

    yeh! scotty can now get married in a conservative church!

  15. Yochanan Lavie

    “UTJ is nice in theory, but they are more about being your father’s Oldsmobile rather than being willing to help traditional Jews find some new accommodation’s that would allow some women’s participation in services, etc”

    Remember what happened to Oldsmobile?

    I have to agree. I like Rabbi Price and UTJ (even though I have problems with all normative rabbinic Judaism in some areas), but Neo is on the money. I think people are born gay, and they have to be treated humanely. The conservative movement’s compromise decision is a good one.

  16. Moshe

    Rabbis for whom? thier numbers are dwindling…!!!

  17. Steve Weiss

    I respectfully disagree with you. I do not think people are born with a homosexual gene. Please read the following articles with an open mind.
    http://www.drsorotzkin.com/light_on_gay_issue.html
    http://www.drsorotzkin.com/same_gender_attraction.html

    Have a good day.

  18. Lawrence M. Reisman

    Neo-Conservaguy bemoans the fact that “Orthodoxy has moved so far to the insane right that it offers no lifeboat to those that would leave the Conservative movement.” Should Orthodoxy provide a place for Conservative jews who want to continue practicing their version of Conservative Judaism? It’s open secret that in the last 40 years, huge numbers of people raised as traditionally-minded Conservative Jews have chosen to affiliate as Orthodox adults. Have they become Orthodox, or are they just practising Conservative Judaism in an Orthodox environment? The answer is in the eye of the beholder.

  19. Nigritude Ultramarine

    Is it any less cruel to tantalize a gay man’s libido but forbid him from consummation? Really, this decision is unconscionable.

    Not to nitpick, but gays are human beings, not animals.

  20. C-G

    Steve, I read your links with a very open mind, as you requested. All I can say is that some people desperateley need to believe that homosexuality is not natural and people like Dr. Sorotzkin are more than happy to indulge their fantasy with pseudo- psych-babble. It’s very sad for everyone.

  21. Neo-Conservaguy

    “It’s open secret that in the last 40 years, huge numbers of people raised as traditionally-minded Conservative Jews have chosen to affiliate as Orthodox adults. Have they become Orthodox, or are they just practising Conservative Judaism in an Orthodox environment? The answer is in the eye of the beholder.”

    Is that “open secret” tracked with actual numbers anywhere, or is it merely the fantasy of Orthodox supporters? Given the generally acknowledged rightward trend in Orthodoxy over the past 20+ years, it’s hard to imagine many people from even non-egalitarian Conservative shuls migrating in that direction. Who wants to be told that the way your parents generation kept kosher was OK for them, but not for you?

    Anecdotally, Orthodoxy is only thriving in large urban areas; in the smaller cities one sees many an Orthodox shul closing and merging with others, sometimes in different towns nearby. Some of the giant Conservative mega-shuls are rather empty these days as well. If anything, it appears that the path of choice for too many Jews is straight to non-affiliation, perhaps with a brief landing in the Reform movement on the way – a result that no one should find acceptable, regardless of movement affiliation.

  22. Lawrence M. Reisman

    Neo-conservaguy asks:

    Is that “open secret” tracked with actual numbers anywhere, or is it merely the fantasy of Orthodox supporters?

    It’s a phenomenon that has been acknowledged by officials in the Conservative movement and reported in newspapers. In 1991, Rabbi Jerome Epstein gave a public address, reported by the NY Jewish Week, in which he noted that the Conservative movement was losing its “best and brightest” (his term) to Orthodoxy and bemoaning the failure of the Conservative movement to convince their people to stay. There have been other studies and reports that have said pretty much the same thing.

    It should be noted that the defection has not been for ideological reasons; most of the time it’s because Orthodox synagogues provide an environment where the entire membership is observant.

  23. D

    >most of the time it’s because Orthodox synagogues provide an environment where the entire membership is observant.

    An anecdotal observation of mine. I attended a family Bar-Mitzvah at a Conservative temple some time ago. While I davened ahead of time I still tried to participate in services by singing along with the Chazzan when I knew the tunes. During this time I was approached by one of the ushers who told me to tone it down because others could not hear the Chazzan’s voice over my singing!

    Orthodox shuls are participatory experiences while Conservative and Reform are for show.

  24. D

    > Not to nitpick, but gays are human beings, not animals.

    Yes, that is true. I meant to make a Kal VeChomer comparison. I do apologize if that did not get across properly.

  25. Yochanan Lavie

    “Orthodox shuls are participatory experiences while Conservative and Reform are for show.”

    That was certainly true when I was growing up. That’s one reason I left reform for orthodoxy. However, I have since found conservative shuls that are participatory and where a decent proportion of the membership are observant.

    Having said that, the conservative movement is showing signs of tiring. An article in Conservative Judaism magazine called “Historical Positive Judaism- exausted” said that its traditional paradigms no longer speak to its members.

    I try to ignore the labels and find a place I can live with. It’s usually either conservative or old-school MO. WHo knows what the ultimate solution is. Denominational Judiasm is a failure. The whole rabbinic paradigm is unraveling, too (in my biased opinion). We need to seriously rethink the future of Judaism.

  26. Neo-Conservaguy

    “Orthodox shuls are participatory experiences while Conservative and Reform are for show.”

    I think that varies widely, although it’s certainly more true in Reform shuls in my experience. Than again, there were famous choirs in Orthodox shuls over the last century (some of them mixed, but that’s a different topic). “My” Conservative-affiliated shul has no professional hazan or baal korai – it’s all handled by the laity. Your millage may vary.

  27. > -but also there are poskim who have couples spend decades in the dark in the missionary position

    Decades in the dark? Where do you find poskim who will let you go years without talmud torah, tfila b’tzibur, parnasa or eating? More importantly, where do you find such stamina?

  28. traditionwithmeaning

    “UTJ is nice in theory, but they are more about being your father’s Oldsmobile…”

    i joined the UTJ several years ago after seeing Orthodoxy leave the dock and go adrift. the UTJ is far from perfect but having been to # of their programs it is one of the more dynamic environments where people of different hashkafot actually listen to each other…

    the problem with too many people is they stand on teh sidelines and bitch about the Cs and Os… the UTJ actually has attracted many from both worlds and creates a synthesis that may look to some as an Oldsmobile, but is a restoration of civil halakhic discourse that is sorely lacking.

    one quick example is a few yrs back they actually broached the subject of being gay and observant…. the rabbi, Pinchas Klein, while holding the mainstream halakhic viewpoint on some points, also raised the thought that if a gay person has no chance to be “converted” to straight, suggested that rabbis should work with such people to create parameters of permissable behavior. The alternative — and risk — he feared was that gay people who have a religious commitment would be tossed as pariahs and given little incentive not to completely assimilate.

    while those in the audience challenged R. Klein, the discussion was mature and respectful, not brazen and dismissive.

    not trying to be a UTJ commercial but i think they can be that middle ground that many are looking for.

  29. justayid

    “Uhm, Rabbinic Judaism isn’t Karaism. Halakhah encompasses texts in addition to the Torah.”

    Yes, and if you actually READ R. Dorffs tshuva, you’ll see that that is at the core of it. The ban on gay acts OTHER than those banned in the written torah is of rabbinic origin, and according to MANY CJLS decisions of long standing (and, in the CJ view, many traditional decisions as well) the rabbinate has the authority to change RABBINIC law, when we come to realize that it conflicts with other key principles. In this case the key principle if dignity (kavod) and the nature of that principle, the textual cites, and the way it relates to rabbinic origin halacha are addressed in some detail in the Dorff tshuva. The problem that remains is that todays rabbinate does NOT have the same authority over biblical Halacha (well Gordon Tucker says they do, but his view was rejected by the CJLS) so the key question between R. Dorff and R. Roth was the nature of the BIBILICAL prohibition.

    I havent read the two tshuvot in enough detail to judge, and Im not sure even if I did that I have sufficient learning to make a judgement between them. My strong sense is that the Dorff position, even IF incorrect, does not deserve the attacks thrown on it by Orthodox or UTJ critics, and at the same time, R. Roth is sincere in his compassion toward gays, and that everything possible should be done to keep his perspective in the movement.

    Im glad that UTJ exists BTW – I dont think we would ever join, but I think they should be part of the dialogue. I think theres still room for respectful discussion with C though (and there are still some voices in MO that conduct respectful discussion as well) One of the dilemmas going forward, is that IF Roth leaves C, and C goes farther left than someone like me wants to go, those of us who follow Roth in wanting to maintain the halackhic seriousness of C (my concern is not Dorff but the position of Tucker) will still insist for a great many reasons in keeping the gender changes that C has made, and so there will be no room for us in UTJ. Is there really room for TWO movements in between MO and leftwing C? I doubt it.

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