Ordination Regardless of Orientation

When I examine the reasons that I don’t identify myself as being part of any particular religious denomination, the fact that Conservative Judaism is not as accepting and inclusive of gays and lesbians is certainly near the top of my list.

Yesterday I was almost tempted to change my religious affiliation on popular social networking site)to Conservative, thanks to my excitement over a decision made about increasing inclusiveness for gays and lesbians. Arnold Eisen, Chancellor-elect of the Jewish Theological Seminary, one of two U.S. Conservative rabbinical schools, announced that the Jewish Theological Seminary would begin admitting gay and lesbian students to its rabbinical and cantorial programs. The Zeigler School of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles began admitting openly gay and lesbian students shortly after the Committee on Jewish Laws and Standards (the Conservative body that makes decisions about Jewish law) passed several decisions in December 2006 about the status of gay and lesbian Jews in the Conservative movement, one of which allowed for gay and lesbian ordination.

As someone who wants Judaism to be an “open tent” where everyone can feel welcome, I am thrilled. Not only does this decision make it possible for people of all orientations to take on greater leadership in the Conservative movement, it also enables many people who felt estranged from the movement because of its stance on homosexuality to view it as being more relevant to their lives and beliefs. When describing why the seminary was making its decision, Eisen said:

Core Jewish teachings such as the imperative to treat every human being with full respect as a creature in God’s image urge us strongly in this direction. We do not alter established belief and behavior casually. But we are convinced that change in this case is permitted and required, precisely in order to preserve the tradition charged with guiding us in greatly altered circumstances.

I wonder what other issues the Conservative movement will become more liberal about as they struggle to reconcile Jewish law with compassion and the realities of contemporary society.

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