Ordaining Gays and Lesbians: Denominational Approaches

Among each of the movements, admitting gay and lesbian students has been a cause of debate, concern...and learning.

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·The teshuvah written by Rabbis Eliott Dorff, Danny Nevins, and Avram Reisner received 13 votes and used the principle of k'vod habriot (human dignity) to override rabbinic prohibitions on homosexuality. The teshuvah permits gay ordination and same-sex unions, but stops short of overturning what it considers the biblical prohibition on anal sex between two men.  

· Rabbi Joel Roth's teshuvah, which also received 13 votes, refuted the conclusions of Rabbis Dorff, Nevins, and Reisner, and upheld his earlier position from 1992 banning gay ordination and same-sex unions.

· Rabbi Leonard Levy's teshuvah focused more on the current state of knowledge about homosexuality, but endorsed the same general policy conclusions as Rabbi Roth's paper and offered the suggestion of reparative therapy for gay Jews.

In the aftermath of the CJLS vote, four rabbis, including Roth, resigned from the law committee, saying the committee had overstepped the bounds of Jewish law.

The Conservative movement's Los Angeles-based seminary, the American Jewish University, permitted gay students to apply immediately, as it had promised to do once the CJLS paved the way for the change. The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), the movement's New York-based seminary, waited until it had surveyed the opinions of faculty, students, rabbis, and other Conservative leaders before taking further steps.

On March 26, 2007 it announced that "effective immediately, [JTS] will accept qualified gay and lesbian students to our rabbinical and cantorial schools." Reaction to the announcement was mixed. Advocates of gay ordination were jubilant about the policy change, though many also expressed disappointment that the Dorff-Nevins-Reisner teshuvah did not go far enough in promoting full equality. Opponents of gay ordination were upset and disappointed, viewing the change as too extreme and concerned that their views might become less welcome in the movement.

Openly gay students are now studying at both JTS and AJU. However, the movement's two non-American seminaries, Machon Schechter in Israel and the Seminario Rabinico Latinoamericano in Argentina, have indicated that their admissions policies will not change following the CJLS vote.

Orthodox Movement

Social attitudes toward gay Jews have begun to shift in the Orthodox community, due in part to movies like Trembling Before G-d, a documentary about the lives of gay Orthodox Jews,and books such as Rabbi Steven Greenberg's Wrestling with God and Men.

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Elizabeth Richman

Elizabeth Richman is a rabbinical student at JTS.