Monday, March 26, 2007

JTS Decision to Admit Gay Students

The Jewish Theological Seminary officially announced today that it will admit qualified gay and lesbian students to its rabbinical and theological schools.

Chancellor-elect Eisen's letter to the community announcing the decision is quite eloquent and worth reading in its entirety. I particularly liked this bit:

The debate over ordination of gay and lesbian students has served to highlight the need for serious discussion and resolution of these key issues of principle concerning what halakhah means for Conservative Jews. Such disagreements are particularly vexing to Conservative Jewish laypeople frustrated at the movement's inability to decide this and other matters quickly and unequivocally. Others, myself included, while no less impatient at times, actually take pride in the fact that our movement struggles over issues such as these. We do so as the heirs to Frankel's founding declaration of our purpose: "the reconciliation of belief and life, the assurance of progress within our faith, and the refining and regeneration of Judaism from and through itself." Both sides of the current debate have acted in accord with Frankel's call for "maintaining the integrity of Judaism simultaneously with progress." This remains, as he wrote in 1844, "the essential problem of the present." We cannot, any more than he could, "deny the difficulty of a satisfactory solution." But we must find a solution.

. . .

The proper way to do so, I believe, is not for JTS to promulgate a set of standards for Conservative belief and behavior. It is, rather, to engage Conservative Jews in discussion of what matters to them and why. Many of us are convinced, on the basis of numerous conversations with clergy and laypeople alike, that many Conservative Jews do feel a keen sense of mitzvah, in all the connotations stored up in that word by the Bible and the sages. They feel that there are deeds they should perform, activities in which they should engage, loyalties they should cherish. . . .It is my hope and belief that getting Conservative Jews to talk about these matters will be a step toward greater commitment and consensus.

Then he writes this:
JTS has already taken on the responsibility for leading this discussion. Working with the Chancellor's Rabbinic Cabinet and with the RA and the United Synagogue, we have set in motion a process that we hope will eventually include every arm of the movement as well as professional and lay leaders. Our faculty and students will be actively involved. Stage Two of that process — logically and pedagogically dependent on the first — will be reclarification of the place of halakhah in the movement: the nature, authority, and scope of Jewish law in relation to other sources of authority and guidance. We will embark on that stage in the upcoming two years.

The position of halakhah in Conservative Judaism is going to be clarified over the next two years? Good luck!

Anyway, I would like to get back to commenting on the teshuvot at some point. (I'd also like to comment on the teshuvot on mikvah that were released at the same time.) It's just that for some reason, posting about halakhah uses up a lot more of my time and energy than it should. Good thing DH has been on top of it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

this one may help you