This just in via a press release from Keshet, “the organization of Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) community members advocating for the full equality of Jews of all sexual orientations in the Conservative Movement,” calling for equality for gays and lesbians in Conservative Judaism. The call to action was issued in anticipation of next week’s meeting by the Conservative Movement to discuss the issue and reconsider its current policies that deny gay Jews the right to commitment ceremonies and ordination as rabbis and cantors.

The release quotes a few people who left Conservative Judaism because of its policy on gay and lesbian Jews, including Zeek editor and frequent contributor to The Forward Jay Michaelson, who said: “I care about this issue because I spent a decade denying my sexuality. I know that the repression of homosexuality leads to lies, deceit, self-hatred, and self-mutilation, while the expression of it leads to love, stability, family, and sanctity. Which are the more Jewish values?”

Jay is also author of the new book “God in Your Body,” which I’m sure will be both brilliant and completely beyond my intellectual grasp.

About the author

Esther Kustanowitz

For more posts by Esther, see EstherK.com, MyUrbanKvetch.com and JDatersAnonymous.com.

34 Comments

  • There is no reason why Conservative Jews shouldn’t include Gays and Lesbians considering the Orthodox allow inclusion of those who frequent prostitutes, cheat on their taxes, beat their wives and have no problem with committing fraud on the non-Jews they do business with. Inclusion for everyone!

  • The Rabbi at my cong put it little differently: when you have congregation in which there are no sinners, then you can start excluding people based on the sins they commit. Applies all around, I suppose.

  • Nathan,

    I don’t think that’s an apt analogy.

    The Conservative Movement doesn’t hunt out sinners, or just kick out people who are homosexual.

    They do balk at having ceremonies and official recognition of homosexual relationships, because that runs counter to explicit Torah commandments. This makes it problematic. With Talmud, you can be lenient, but with Torah, you’re supposed to be strict. The Conservative Movement is about the evolution of Halakha, not the revolution (aka Reform). Its easy to be cynical and look at the long time that Conservative Judaism (CJ) has taken in getting to this point, but that’s because we don’t take Halakha lightly. Change has to be a rigorous, inclusive process where all voices in our Movement are heard. We don’t make such serious changes lightly.

  • Wasn’t it Jesus who said “let he who without sin cast the first stone”? Great reformer, that guy. As you can see from websites like Perverted Justice.com and those like it, people with a proclivity toward sexual “abberations”

  • JTS is NOT HALACHA!!! They arent JUDAISM this is their own form of Judaism! Their decision means nothing!

  • [cracking knuckles]

    Okay, Shlomo. Who “is” Halakha? Modern Orthodox? Yemeni Sephardim? The Litvak Mitnagdim? Chabad-Lubavitch Hassidim? Which one is in possession of the One True Halakha ™?

    Once you reconcile that, then come and talk to me about CJ.

  • Oyster,

    Have you noticed all those groups agree on 99% of things? They all agree Moses came down from Sinai with the Tablets and the Oral Law. They all believe Prophecy is Divine. they all believe the Written Torah is literal. You’re confused about Minhag and Halacha. Minhag is cultural tradition (food, dress, etc) and Halacha is the Mishna the Oral Law from Moses. Once you learn the difference between the two then we can truly have a debate on this.

    All those groups you quoted follow Halacha. They all have Authentic (Orthodox) Beit Din etc.

    Once you learn the difference then we can have an intelligent debte on this.

    Let me know when you’re ready!

  • “they all believe the Written Torah is literal.”

    The Modern Orthodox don’t all believe that. And even many of the ancient Commentaries didn’t insist on that when problematic, including not just the Rambam, but sometimes even the Ramban. Read R. Slifkin’s Challenge of Creation.

    Still, S. Weinbach is correct that the JTS decisions won’t affect the Orthodox Jewish world. Just the “post-denominational” world, but remember, they’re really Conservative anyway. 😉

  • DK, well there are differen theories on how Hashem created the world….

    LOL, There’s Judaism and there’s everything else – saldy 80% of the Jews in America are in everything else and have no idea what Judaism is… Baruch Hashem for that Bal Teshuva movement to start pentrating people to get them thinking it what is JUDAISM that comes from Torah and what isnt.

  • The problem is that many Jews, myself included, do not wish to become Orthodox. The main reason isn’t theology. The reason is that we don’t want to have to wear a kippah 24 hours per day and thus stick out among the population in the Diaspora. Why not? Because in some places I could be mugged. And in other places, if I am wearing a kippah 24 hours per day, people will judge me without getting to know me as a human being.
    I do wear a kippah when I pray and when I study the Torah, and believe it or not for the last 6 months or so I actually do study the Torah almost every day.
    My compromise would be to wear tzizeet and no kippah, which is technically correct according to Biblical Judaism, but of course that”s not good enough for the Orthodox.
    Another problem is that for many Orthodox people that I”ve met, their attitude is “”my way or the highway””. Unfortunately this attitude is quite prevalent among many although not all Orthodox people.
    Furthermore, the current policy on Shabbat observance among most Orthodox people means that not doing work on the Sabbath leads to a person almost having to live in a self-imposed invisible ghetto.
    I like other Jewish people, but not 24 hours per day. I want to have other friends as well.
    I love the prayers and the religious poetry and the ethics of Judaism, and I do feel that some observance is worthwhile, and I am not going to join the Conservative movement, after their pro-gay rulings, but I cannot become Orthodox.
    And do you know what, I think that there are many people in my situation.

  • Shlomo,

    1. In my Conservative shul, the rabbis don’t teach anything but that the Torah is from Moshe Rabbeinu at Sinai, that the Oral Law is the pair of the Written Law. Honest question, have you ever spoken to a Conservative Rabbi about their theology?

    2. All those groups you quoted follow Halacha. They all have Authentic (Orthodox) Beit Din etc.

    Haha, just my point. They all have Rabbinical courts that don’t agree with and don’t abide by one another’s rulings!. If they are 99% in agreement, then why don’t they follow each other’s posekim?

    The answer is that you can be a Halakhic movement, yet not have your rabbis’ authority accepted by other Halakhic movements.

    The ball is in your (rabbinic?) court, Shlomo.

  • David,

    I’m a C Jew who wears a kipah 24/7. I’ve had people swear at me in Arabic, but B”H haven’t been beaten up (yet…). Then again, I don’t exactly live in the South or Detroit…

    Just as Orthodox Judaism isn’t monolithic, neither is Conservative Judaism. Some shuls will accept the (possible upcoming) rulings on being more inclusive to gays in the movement. Others will not. You can simply choose to attend the latter. Or you can check out the Union for Traditional Judaism (UTJ). 🙂

  • Shlomo,
    Having lived in the BT community for over 11 years I can tell you that they ALL are secretly breaking your “etched in stone” halakah in one way or another. Whether it be taking a vacation where no one is looking so they can go mixed swimming or going through the drive through at an out of the way fast-food restaurant or just plain old “hating their non jewish neighbors” and “disrespecting their parents”… trust me, these people are no angels. They may have the external trappings and be paying full tuition at yeshiva using their secular careers which they developed from their secular education which their secular parents paid for,but they are just as screwed up as any otrher branch of Judaism, whether it be “authentic” according to you or not. They all have t.v.s in the basements and the husbands can be found on internet porn just as much as any other orthodox man.

  • “They all have t.v.s in the basements and the husbands can be found on internet porn…”

    Or worse, found on the internet reading blogs. I don’t do that myself, but I know plenty of guys who do.

  • I’m sure there is a special place reserved in the world to come for secret bloggers, DK

  • I don’t quite understand how this is an issue. A Jew is a Jew, regardless of orientation.

    Now, as for Orthodox Jews and brothels, such exists with a very small portion smaller than that of the other branches. That being said, I do hold higher expectations and find it extremely repulsive, not to mention a chillul Hashem of shocking proportions.

    Chutzpah, you seem to speak of one sort and no other. Most of us work hard for what we have. I know quite a few baal teshuva and gerim and we aren’t getting a thing paid for by anyone else. We pay our ways through college and some of us manage to find our ways into yeshivot, often with scholarships.

    Everyone messes up to some degree, but most are not messing up in quite the way that you reference. You don’t like generalizations, but seem fast to label others. Your experiences do not spell it out for everyone, especially in other communities.

  • Netanya, the issue isn’t whether gay people are Jews, just whether they should be allowed to be rabbis and get married Jewishly (in the Conservative movement). And any move in that direction would therefore officially recognize and accept homosexuality.

  • Netanya, how do you know that the percentage of Orthodox men who visit brothels or prostitutes is smaller than men in other Jewish denominations?

  • Netanya, Perhaps not ALL as she stated, but she does live in a very well known, Yeshivish community, that is considered at this point, a top locations to move to for Orth. people.

    I think it is likely that most of those men do look at internet porn however. It is less obvious than if they buy it at a newstand or go to a strip club, which they wouldn’t risk I don’t think.

    The reason for this is that most of their wives are not accomodating to their normal sexual needs, not only bec. of that 2 week separation but even w/ in the 2 weeks, they do not
    participate in sexuals gratification or passion, or affection in a way that will satisfy the husbands needs. This is why the men DO go to brothels, and internet porn.

    this is why there are so many sexual predators in that community which I also live in btw, as well as other criminals of various stripes, deviants, violence.

    The facade or what they call the Achdus, is a veneer which shields you from seeing everything.

    THere is truly a lack of humility and humbleness that they espouse, the stories of the Chofetz Chaim, Rav Yisroel Salanter, these sweet and true stories, are not practiced by the great masses, only by a very tiny minority of them, usually a true malach a dedicated Rebbe who will move to some cold wintry hamlet to start a Yeshiva. Most are onto some kind of scheme somewhere in a very profound way they are hypocritical and worse, they turn people off from a Jewish life and experience.

    But on the main, hehe, Chutzpah is very correct on this post.

    I wish that I could say she is all full of bullshit, but I cannot.

  • For example, before my wife started hanging out w/ some of these BT’s and she became what she considers more religious, we would have intimate relations on various days and times of the week, as the mood and fancy hit. I used to enjoy passion, I used to touch and caress her around the waist, at that lovely female curve here and there. None of this is allowed now.

    Everything is regulated to a certain time and place. As often as not, the time for this is delayed, forgotten, not done. not have at.

    Why is this, I feel because the religious like to not enjoy themselves in this world too much.

    I am not sure why this is, maybe the Rabbi here can expound on this.

    For them to put down others who, find fullfillment as being in a relationship w/ another human being, is really shameful.

    In many European countries they are more accepting of Gay persons accross the board.

    Perhaps less so imo in the USA and perhaps this is the cause for the ire that they have.

  • Esther – I refuse to accept that Jay’s book is beyond your intellectual grasp… and thanks for not coming through on your threat to leave Jewlicious simply because you’re ovaries have not been donated to the greater good.

  • Ramon, appreciate your faith in my purported intellect, and as for leaving? If I left everywhere that told me the declining population rate was my fault, I wouldn’t be Jewish anymore. Which might actually be a really interesting writing exercise.

  • Not your fault, but we would like to know, what do you do about your issue besides blab about it?

  • I seriously doubt if anyone can name a bal or balus tshuva who hasn’tashed their families to give tzedaka to the outreach organization of their choice; help pay for their children’s yeshiva education or mortgage who then doesn’t sit around and complain over the shabbat table over how their parents don’t like the way they dress or don’t like the education their grandchildren are getting ( if they are not busy remembering the good ol’ days when they could go on vacation and eat wherever they want). Bal Tshuvas are the most ungrateful and disrepectul people of their parents that I have ever met and often say right in front of them “He who teaches one torah is as his Father” and then go on to espouse how much they love their Rabbi to their biological father.
    My father paid $250.000 for my Get, good thing I never let my newfound religion get in the way of my love for him.

  • steves rick:

    what do you do about yours except complain about how it’s all your wife’s fault? did it ever occur to you that it’s not that she’s uninterested in sex, that maybe, just maybe she’s uninterested in sex with YOU?!

    did you ever bother asking her if she was fulfilled in the relationship…???

  • Esther – you haven’t left!! There is a G-d!!

    I get enough guilt about non-parenthood from my parents to have enough energy to worry about how people I don’t even know judge me.

    What’s more Jewish than that? 🙂

    Speaking of writing excercises, I wrote “you’re ovaries”. Which is not only crass but a horrible typo. Perdoname por favor…

  • Esther,
    Please explain to Ms. 5th daughter not to bother on the Ricks issues less she find herself in blogger troll land.

  • eventhough he is a troll, he does bring up a very real issue that is constantly swept under the rug… i started my blog b/c of shmucks like him… (yes, i had better reasons too.)

  • It is a shame that the choices people are going to be forced to make will be between a Conservative Judaism close to Reform and an Orthodoxy they do not want to join. The way out is to create minyanim of like minded people, each group according to it’s own ideas and let the denominations with their Rabbinical organizations and Seminaries do whatever they do. Shteiblech for everyone!

  • Well Anon and Fifthdaughter, y’all are one up on me ’cause I have no idea what the heck Mr. Ricks is talking about. Kinda Yoda-speak but I think it’s about sex. Or maybe sex and the Orthodoxy. Anyways, beyond my intellectual grasp.

  • I think it was a decent ruling, and one that reflects well upon the real divide in the MiddleEast. I was thinking of this yesterday as Teri Gross on NPR’s Fresh Aire was interviewing Brian Whitaker author of ‘Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East’. Only in Israel does an open gay culture thrive, free from almost all aspects of state or official repression. No place else in the Arab Middle East is this true. And Yes, this is part and parcel of the heritage of the West. In one corner we have the culture of laws, of respect for the rule of law & legal rights & yes, human rights. On the other hand we have a 2000+ year almost unbroken tradition of tribalism, discrimination and an overweening obsession with clan & family honor, which leads to the murder of unwed daughters and sons for the unpardonable crime of possessing their own sexuality. If there were only one single distinction between Arabs & Jews, and it was this, it would be enough to tell humanity where the true course of justice would lay. Cheers, ‘VJ’

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