Jewish Theological Seminary to Accept Openly Homosexual Students

The Conservative Movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary announced Monday it will accept homosexual students for rabbinic and cantorial studies.

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Hana Levi Julian,

The Conservative Movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary of America announced Monday that openly homosexual students will be accepted for rabbinic and cantorial studies.

The decision by Chancellor-elect Arnold Eisen was made after meetings with faculty, students and trustees and a movement-wide survey showed the majority of members endorsed the change.

"The larger issue has been how we can remain true to our tradition in general and to Halakhah [Jewish law] in particular while staying fully responsive to and immersed in our society and culture," Mr. Eisen said in a statement distributed to the school community and its supporters.

A homosexual and a lesbian have already been accepted for the fall semester at the Los Angeles-based Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the Seminary's University of Judaism.

The school's new policy stems from a pivotal Conservative movement meeting last December in which the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the movement’s Rabbinical Assembly voted by a narrow 13-12 vote to permit ordination of openly homosexual rabbis, both male and female. The resolution also permitted a form of same-sex marriage, called a “commitment ceremony.”

At the same time, the Committee voted 13-12 to reaffirm the movement’s policy of denying ordination of active homosexuals, but left the final decision up to individual seminaries.

The third resolution which passed at the December meeting supported “reparative therapy” to help homosexuals learn to live as heterosexuals. Proposals to normalize or otherwise approve of homosexual acts were rejected.

Individual congregations are permitted to make their own decisions as to whether to hire homosexual rabbis or cantors, and the resolutions are considered to be “guides”, rather than movement-wide policy.

According to Committee Chairman Rabbi Kassel Abelson, the resolutions were passed “so that the gays and lesbians can be welcomed into our congregation and communities and made to feel accepted.”

Four committee members resigned after the meeting in which the new policy was approved.

Rabbi Joel Roth, a professor of Talmud at the Jewish Theological Seminary said the decision was "outside the parameter of halakhic [Jewish legal] legitimacy and reasoning.” Rabbi Leonard Levy of the Jewish Center of Forest Hills in Queens, Rabbi Mayer Rabinowitz, a JTS Talmud professor, and Rabbi Joseph Prouser of the Little Neck Jewish Center on Long Island also resigned from the Committee.






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