Friday, April 20, 2012

Conservative's to ordain gay & lesbian rabbis

Haaretz

The question whether or not to ordain gay and lesbian rabbis has been rattling 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 discussion led to two contradictory religious rulings in 2006, one requiring the ordination of gay and lesbian rabbis and another banning any such act. The two rabbinical seminaries affiliated with the movement in the U.S. move 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 movement. 

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, adding: “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.”

6 comments :

  1. Catholic=strict standards but lose enforcement
    Protestant= loose standards but strict enforcement
    reform Judaism = no standards and no enforcement.

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  2. Recipients and PublicityApril 21, 2012 at 1:40 AM

    The Reform movement sets the trends (actually it's the American Episcopalians who are the real trend-setters that Reform try to copy-cat) and whatever the Reform do the Conservatives will follow, so this is no surprise.

    There differences between Reform and Conservative are virtually zero nowadays. Once the Conservatives agreed to ordain women about 30 years ago, following the Reform lead of a few years earlier, they lost the last link they claim a connection with classical "Rabbinical Judaism" in any way.

    The Reform broke off from any type of Judaism of the last 2,000+ years once they officially accepted patrilineal descent about 35 years ago -- soon after they agreed to ordain women. Look for the Conservatives to officially accept patrilineal descent very soon as well and then that will be the final act of both de facto and de jure merger between the Reform and Conservative movements. As it is now -- there is no difference between the membership of Reform and Conservative temples, meaning the rate of intermarriage is the same and many gentiles are involved in their temples, if they come at all.

    Conservatives will go out of business, at least the Reform do not hide that they they are constantly breaking with everything while the some Conservatives still have an imaginary connection that is more of a fantasy and magical thinking than anything else. They don't like their own name (Name Game: How Traditional Is The Conservative Movement? - Forward. July 2010) obviously they must hate the politically incorrect (for them) "Conservative" label when they are anything but "conservative" and have called themselves by other names, especially "Egalitarian".

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  3. RaP, I'm sympathetic to your analysis, but I have a few comments. Reform broke off completely from the last 2,000 years of Judaism at its inception, by denying the authority of all Torah law other than things like do not murder. Conservatives did so decisively at least by the mid-20th century, hashkafically if not halalachically.

    The Reform and Conservative rabbinates are much different in both theory and practice (the congregations less so but there is still some difference). I think of the difference this way. Reform are basically Paulians -- the law is seen, as in the "New Testament," as an unnecessary burden to be cast off, or perhaps studied in case you feel like observing bits and pieces of it. So patrilineal descent is a no-brainer, and it only took them so long to approve it because intermarriage rates went up so high after the post-WWII reduction in racism in America.

    Conservatives, on the other hand, are more like the Episcopalians. Their assembly of rabbis sees itself as empowered to be a sort of modern-day Sandhedrin, authorized to change any rabbinic law they don't like, or even strike down a Torah law (though this has only been done so far with the laws of mamzerim).

    They feel authorized to do this because they don't believe the Oral Torah comes from Mt. Sinai -- they see it as rabbinically-invented and as just the beginning of an age-old "conversation." Given this theology it's difficult to motivate anyone to become completely observant, even according to their own standards. For example, I get the impression that the rabbis in many cases don't even try to encourage greater observance, even though technically the movement does believe that observance is required.

    This said, among the Conservatives there is a small group, including many of the rabbis and a certain proportion of some congregations, that are fairly observant, even though they completely disregard and ignore many areas of Jewish law (negiah, kol isha, mechitsa, yichud, etc.) and change some of them dramatically (they don't believe it's necessary to count seven days before going to the mikvah, for example -- if there's a mikvah in the picture at all).

    I don't think the Conservatives will ever go so far as to recognize patrilineal descent, both because it would be an unprecedented (even for them) abrogation of a major law, and because they are accustomed to converting people, and the necessity of conversion is not seen as an affront as it was among Reform Jews who felt themselves to be Jewish without a conversion. But it's likely they'll continue to go in the Reform direction by adopting more liberal practices.

    I also don't think the Conservative movement will fade away or merge with Reform. It may be getting smaller, but it has a ideology that is very convincing to its liberal adherents. The vast majority of American Jews are liberal Democrats, and it's natural for them to want their religion to mirror the liberal American conception of government -- particularly when it comes to gender equality and gay rights. The Conservative movement does exactly that, so whenever a liberal American Jew wants a more traditional and authentic version of Judaism than offered by Reform, they go straight to the Conservatives and they're (in most cases) satisfied. If we want more of American Jewry to rejoin Orthodoxy, it's important to be able to confront the Conservative ideology, debunk it piece by piece, and explain to liberal Jews why only Orthodoxy is legitimate, just as Rav Hirsch did with regard to the Reform at a time when most Jews had assimilated to the German intellectualism of the day.

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  4. Recipients and PublicityApril 23, 2012 at 1:03 PM

    RaP to yeshaya 1:

    "yeshaya said...RaP, I'm sympathetic to your analysis,"

    RaP: Thank you!

    "but I have a few comments."

    RaP" Sure, no problem.

    "Reform broke off completely from the last 2,000 years of Judaism at its inception, by denying the authority of all Torah law other than things like do not murder. Conservatives did so decisively at least by the mid-20th century, hashkafically if not halalachically."

    RaP: There are the de facto and de jure perspectives. While Reform broke away de jure from classical Judaism at its inception (one way it did that was to invent the label "Orthodox" for the traditionalists who opposed it), it still retained a de facto connection and "umbrella" for its members to be Jews as long as the members did not take the next step and apostasize and getting baptized as Christians. Reform was also not keen on converts joining them either. Reform was created when Jews were still not fully accepted into society, being in the Germany of the 19th century or America of the twentieth century. They were and still are regarded as part of "rabbinic Judaism" and de facto UP UNTIL REFORM SWITCHED TO PATRILINEAL DESCENT IT WAS NOT UNUSUAL IN AMERICA that members of Reform were basically married to other Jews and Reform, Conservative, secular and many modern traditional Jews all married each other pretty much safely because they were all working with the basic premise that a Jew is someone born from a Jewish mother.

    BUT ALL THAT CHANGED FOREVER when about forty years ago once Reform broke with the formula that it had followed de facto that a Jew is someone from a Jewish mother and came up with the new invention that it's enough to have only a Jewish father to be "Jewish" -- that put Reform beyond the pale and caused the final schism that cannot be healed in the spiritual and physical body politic of Klal Yisrael.

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  5. Recipients and PublicityApril 23, 2012 at 1:19 PM

    RaP to yeshaya 2:

    "The Reform and Conservative rabbinates are much different in both theory and practice (the congregations less so but there is still some difference)."

    RaP: That may have been true in the past, but if anything, today's ultra-Modern Orthodox such as those coming out of YCT (Yeshiva Chovevie Torah) are actually more to the left of the old time alumni of the original JTS that started out as a traditionalist even Orthodox school and gradually drifted leftward. Even Solomon Schechter was a pretty frum guy, he had a penchant for history, but his Yiddishkeit was a lot frummer than most of today's YCT grads.

    The way things stand today there is hardly any difference between Reform and Conservative clergy. In fact the young Reform rabbinate has been moving to the right and many Israelis have joined it and added to its "authentic" appearance.

    But yes indeed, once upon a time there was that old line as some rosh yeshivas would say that "there is no such thing as 'Reform' and 'Conservative' Jews -- there are ONLY Reform and Conservative RABBIS" meaning that while the lay Reform and Conservative people were of a muchness, the clergy was busy putting (basically artificial self-deluding and artificial) layers of "theological differences" between each other (like the crusty and cruddy professors they were trying to imitate, more along a Harvard-Yale split than a real "machlokes leshem shomayim" if you know what I mean) while in reality they were just the two sides of the same coin.

    The proof is that Rav Moshe Feinstein does not regard Conservative clergy as kosher witnesses for kiddushin purposes, he paskens that Conservative ideas are equally heretical as Reform and that a Conservative rabbi is not a valid witness and hence the kiddushin he performs is meaningless. This has saved many innocents from mamzerus, that how far it goes. Meaning a woman married by a Conservative rabbi who then remarries without a get and has kids they are not mamzerim because the kiddushin was null and void ab initio.

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  6. Recipients and PublicityApril 23, 2012 at 1:42 PM

    RaP to yeshaya 3:

    "I think of the difference this way. Reform are basically Paulians -- the law is seen, as in the "New Testament," as an unnecessary burden to be cast off, or perhaps studied in case you feel like observing bits and pieces of it. So patrilineal descent is a no-brainer, and it only took them so long to approve it because intermarriage rates went up so high after the post-WWII reduction in racism in America."

    RaP: You misread and underestimate some of the appeal of Reform. Reform stuck very seriously to the notion of observing the morals and ethics and refinement, even the MIDDOS TOVOS, of Judaism, something they did very well. They wished to go back to the visions and ideals of the Jewish Prophets, while Christianity totally rejected the old visions and wanted to set up a new religion based in a new "Messiah"! There is no Messiah in Reform, not even a Jewish one and no Bais HaMikdash ("Berlin is Jerusalem") to them it is the Jewish People per se, without the nitty-gritty of ritual laws, who are the light unto the nations.

    Scholars have noted that Reform shares a commonality with Chasidism. They both sprung from suppressed groups of Sabbateans who preached a new message of supra-observance that goes beyond the mere rituals of the mitzvos (for Chasidim there is the new Rebbe-worship of the holy men, for Reform THEY are the "holy men"), just that in the West where Reform sprung up, the emphasis was on morality and humanism, while in the East where Chasidism sprung up it was in mysticism. They share a core of Panentheism and even Pantheism!

    So your comparison to the New Testamnnat of the Christians is wrong and off base. While Reform rejected rituals, unlike the New Testament which preached a new doctrine, Reform preached a re-newed higher moral order, and they did succeed in many ways, but unfortunately without real practice of "simpler" practical hands-on mitzvos like kashrus and traditional limmud HaTorah (you cannot teach children grandiose albeit valid moral visions, they need simpler teachings) Reform thus ensured their slide to assimilation, intermarriage and eventual apostasy by leaving the faith (of Reform Judaism) and becoming Christians or Atheists.

    I will stop here, even though I have much more to say on your comments.

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