Israeli Conservative Movement approves ordination of gay rabbis (HA´ARETZ NEWS) By Revital Blumenfeld and Yair Ettinger 04/20/12)
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Israel´s Masorti (Conservative) Movement decided to approve the
ordination of homosexual rabbis, in a dramatic vote Thursday.
The Schechter Rabbinical Seminary, affiliated with the movement will
admit gay and lesbian students for training as spiritual leaders as
of the upcoming school year. In doing so the Israeli Conservative
Movement is joining the American branch of the movement, whose
rabbinical seminaries have been admitting gay students for some years.
The question whether or not to ordain gay and lesbian rabbis has been
causing a storm in the Conservative Movement in Israel and the U.S.
for the past decade. Unlike the Reform movement that took to the
question with ease, deciding firmly on the acceptance of gay rabbis.
The Conservative Movement, whose rabbis see themselves bound to
Jewish law, has been caught up in heated debate over the subject.
Years of debate led to two contradictory religious rulings in 2006,
one requiring the ordination of gay and lesbian rabbis and another
banning any such ordination. The two rabbinical seminaries affiliated
with the movement in the U.S. adopted the ruling allowing the
ordination, while the seminaries in Jerusalem and Buenos Aires
adopted the ban on ordination. The issue nearly caused a rift in the
The debate continued to wage at the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary,
with two female rabbis quitting the institute, one in opposition to
the ordination of gay rabbis; the other over the hesitation shown by
the organization in accepting gay and lesbian students into its ranks.
On Thursday, the institute’s general council held another vote on the
subject. Out of the 18 rabbis that attended, all voted to admit
homosexual students, with one rabbi abstaining.
Rabbi Mauricio Balter, President of the Israeli Conservative Movement
Rabbinical Assembly expressed his support of the move.
“I see it as a very important development in Jewish law,” Rabbi
Balter told Haaretz. “It is the right thing to do. We were all made
in the image of god, and as such we are all made equal. For me this
is a very important value. I always said we should admit gay and
lesbians into our ranks.”
“I’m glad we had the vote and that it went the way it did,” Rabbi
Balter continued. “The decision to hold a vote was correct as can be
seen by the fact that there wasn’t a single dissenting vote.”
The seminary’s rabbinic program – a two year study program
incorporating a MA in Jewish studies that ends with an examination by
a council of conservative rabbis, who authorize the ordination,
similar to the examination exams in Orthodox Judaism.
As of next year the students will select their testers, as long as
their choice is authorized by the school’s dean, thus avoiding the
possibility that rabbis that opposed the integration of homosexual
students will thwart the ordination of candidates based on their
The Schechter Rabbinical Seminary stressed that the students ordained
as rabbis will continue to meet the institute standards and will be
committed to a moral, Jewish, and Zionist lifestyle. In addition,
applicants are expected to have a extensive background in Jewish
studies including the Talmud, Jewish law, bible studies, rabbinic
teachings, and Jewish philosophy, as well as an express willingness
to participate in public works, such as working in the community, in
Jewish education or spiritual counseling.
People working at the seminary admitted that over the years, members
of the American Conservative Movement have been applying pressure to
accept gay and lesbian students, as the American seminaries have been
doing for some years now.
The institute also stressed that the decision was mostly a formality
since it had never checked for the sexual orientation of its
applicants. (© Copyright 2012 Ha´aretz 04/20/12)
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