Halakhah & Homosexuality: Legal Change in the Conservative Movement

Over the last few months, the Conservative Movements body for deciding Jewish law (known as the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly) has been considering a number of Tshuvot (legal papers) on the status of Homosexuals in Jewish law. This committee is often abbreviated as CJLS and is sometimes referred to as the "Law Committee" (from an earlier name).

The Jewish Theological Seminary--the institution from which I was ordained a rabbi and received an MA in Jewish studies--has created a web page to deal with the issue. It includes opportunity to offer feedback to the JTS Chancellor-Elect.

Institutions that ordain Rabbis and Cantors may use the result of the CJLS deliberations to allow admission of openly gay and lesbian students in their Rabbinical and Cantorial schools (as far as I know, all such institutions are required by law to not discriminate in all other program s such as Undergraduate and Graduate programs). Each institution has its own processes in place for dealing with any outcome. Additional full disclosure: I am a member of the Rabbinical Assembly and a member of Keshet Rabbis (Gay-Friendly Conservative/Masorti Rabbis and Cantors) so I should be considered partisan in this effort.

I applaud Chancellor-Elect Eisen and JTS for the informative introduction to the issues and their frank description of the process they will take. In my personal (1993 - present) and historical knowledge of the institition, the institution (usually known for its tight administration and top-down style) is proceeding in an almost unprecedented, open manner. In the end, its faculty, administration, and lay leaders will make any decisions, but explaining the process and asking for input is a big step for JTS.

Smith/Amherst students/alumni: please send me copies of any feedback you give. Also, I am willing to write a group letter to Chancellor-Elect Eisen with any members of our community.


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