Conservative Movement Seen Ending Ban on Gays
Nah, no one saw this coming:
In what will be a watershed moment for the Conservative movement — akin to admitting women into the rabbinate a generation ago — the ordination of openly gay and lesbian rabbis and the sanctioning of same-sex unions are likely to be approved by the denomination’s legal scholars, according to movement leaders.
Upon the founding of JTS in 1898, Rabbi J.D. Eisenstein, an Orthodox scholar, objected as follows: “in my opinion, the objective of Conservatism and the law of the Radicals [Reform -YM] lead to the same path, the only difference between them is time.” Eyzehu Chacham? HaRo’eh Es HaNolad. Who is wise? He who foresees the results. Rav Eisenstein was a chacham.
In discussion of previous posts about Kehillat Orach Eliezer, the “Orthodox” synagogue that appointed a woman as spiritual leader, the affiliation of its past Rabbi was part of the discussion. David Weiss HaLivni was a scholar at the right wing of JTS, who left the Conservative movement in the aftermath of the JTS decision to ordain women in 1983. He was instrumental in the formation of the Union for Traditional Judaism.
The Conservative Movement’s Committee on Law and Standards did not approve the ordination of women — JTS took the unprecedented step of putting the matter to a vote before the entire faculty, equating the vote of Rabbi HaLivni with that of a secular Israeli Hebrew instructor. Once that passed, the Rabbinical Assembly then changed its rules: recognizing that traditionalists might block the admission of a woman as a member (which required a two-thirds vote), they instead changed the rules to automatically admit any new graduate of JTS (which required only a majority vote).
Some commenters to earlier posts discussed why UTJ might or might not merge with the left wing of Orthodoxy, found in Yeshivat Chovevei Torah / Edah — since, after all, the UTJ departed to move to the right. In my opinion, that is very much mistaken: HaLivni did not move to the right at all; he was marginalized as the Conservative movement slid to the left. If a merger is conceivable, it only demonstrates how far YCT and Edah have departed from normative Orthodoxy. The UTJ remains where the Conservative movement was 25 years ago, and says this on their own web site:
WHAT DISTINGUISHES THE UTJ FROM THE CONSERVATIVE MOVEMENT?
The UTJ is committed to the primacy of Halakhah in the formulation of all religious policy decisions. Historically, Conservative Judaism affirmed a similar commitment. Sadly, many policy decisions of recent decades indicate that today’s Conservative Movement is, at best, selectively loyal to Halakhah in general and the halakhic process in particular.
Examples of the Conservative Movement’s new attitude include prayer book revision, egalitarianism, redefining halakhic boundaries of sexual relationships, and advocacy of Israel accepting conversions that are non-halakhic even by Conservative standards. Moreover, these changes often proceeded without prior review by the Conservative Movement’s own halakhic authorities. The Conservative Movement thus appears to endorse the notion that changing societal norms can supersede the proper application of halakhic sources.
The following needs no comment:
But in a step unique to the Conservative movement, a contradictory religious opinion that would continue the prohibition against gay ordination and same-sex unions will also come up for a vote. Each view only has to receive a minimum of six votes from the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, which has 25 voting members, to be accepted. That means both opinions, for and against, could pass…
In the meantime, movement leaders are working fast to lay the groundwork for dealing with the law committee’s final decision as well as any confusion likely to result if both positions are approved.
Predicting confusion when the same body issues two contradictory decisions… well, that doesn’t take a chacham.