Lifestyle & Belief

Israel: Jewish seminary to allow gays and lesbian rabbinical students


Ultra-Orthodox rabbis, wearing sack-cloths in a Biblical sign of mourning, lead a protest against a gay pride parade in Jerusalem.


Uriel Sinai

A Conservative Jewish seminary in Israel has voted to allow gays and lesbians to become rabbis, the Associated Press reported.

The decision by the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary -- affiliated with Israel's Conservative Jewish movement -- to accept gay and lesbian rabbinical students in Jerusalem from this fall ends a rift with the Conservative movement in the US.

Conservative Judaism -- a major denomination in the US but a marginal force in Israel -- responded to calls for greater openness toward gays and lesbians by accepting gay and lesbian rabbinical students in 2006. It ordained its first openly lesbian rabbi last year.

Conservatives interpret Jewish law -- and its prohibitions on homosexual conduct -- more strictly than the liberal Reform movement, but the ordination of female rabbis and other practices are rejected by more Orthodox Jews.

According to the Jewish Press, Schechter trains educational and spiritual, non-Orthodox leaders for positions in Israel.

Students are ordained by members of the seminary's Rabbinic Advisory Committee, all of whom are members of the Rabbinical Assembly of the Masorti/Conservative movement.

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The Jerusalem Post cited the seminary as saying in a statement that the decision came following a "long process."

“The Schechter Rabbinical Seminary views the serious process leading to this decision as an example of confronting social dilemmas within the framework of tradition and halacha,” or Jewish law, Hanan Alexander, chair of the seminary's Board of Trustees, reportedly said in the statement.

“This decision highlights the institution’s commitment to uphold halacha in a pluralist and changing world.”

The wording of the statement hinted at the fiery debate that preceded it, the AP wrote.

"In the Conservative world, there are rabbis who accept ordination of gay and lesbian students as well as those who do not," the statement said.

"The decision is the result of a long process that included broad consultation and a search to find a consensus among differing opinions that will allow continued cooperation."

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