Yes, An Orthodox Rabbi Can "Do" a Commitment Ceremony

Co-written by Rabbi Jason Miller and Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Our colleague and teacher, Rabbi Steve Greenberg, is an Orthodox rabbi who will go down in history as being the first Orthodox rabbi to officiate a Jewish commitment ceremony and civil marriage for two men. In a recent article in The Jewish Week, Rabbi Greenberg explained that this ceremony which took place in Washington D.C. was not a “gay Orthodox wedding” as was sensationally reported. He wrote, “I officiated at a ceremony that celebrated the decision of two men to commit to each other in love and to do so in binding fashion before family and friends. Though it was a legal marriage according to the laws of the District of Columbia, as far as Orthodox Jewish law (halacha) is concerned, there was no kiddushin (Jewish wedding ceremony) performed.”

Rabbi Reuven Spolter responded to Rabbi Greenberg’s actions in a blog post “Why Has My Yeshiva Not Revoked Steven Greenberg’s Semichah?” We write this as a response to Rabbi Spolter.

As two Conservative rabbis who were both ordained at the same rabbinical seminary, we also regard our semicha (rabbinical ordination) as a special honor whose legitimacy must be preserved. Like Rabbi Spolter and Rabbi Bernard Revel before him, we would hope that our rabbinical seminary would take back the semicha of a colleague who grossly violated either Torah law or civil law. However, Rabbi Spolter is mistaken in his characterization of Rabbi Steve Greenberg’s writings and actions.

Rabbi Greenberg has neither violated Torah law or civil law. He has used his rabbinate to help right a wrong. In officiating at a same-sex commitment ceremony between two men, Rabbi Greenberg may not have acted in a way that fits Rabbi Spolter’s belief structure, but he also did not violated any laws. The “to’eva” (abomination) in Leviticus speaks to a sexual act. No where does it discuss a life-cycle ceremony drawing upon the language of our sacred tradition to bless a relationship between two souls.

As to Rabbi Spolter’s concern with Rabbi Greenberg using the title “Orthodox Rabbi” (or more specifically: “Modern Orthodox Rabbi”), he should know that “Orthodox Rabbi” is not a halachic (Jewish legal) term. Rabbi Spolter would be hard pressed to point to any text in the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) in which the term “Orthodox Rabbi” is used. We are certain that rabbis in Agudath Israel of American (Haredi) do not consider Chovevei Torah (Open Orthodox) musmachim (ordainees) to be legitimate “Orthodox Rabbis”. I’m sure that any graduate of Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS), like Rabbi Spolter and Rabbi Greenberg, wouldn’t want to be lumped together with the “Orthodox Rabbis” of Neturei Karta (anti-Zionist Haredi). These are political distinctions with religious implications, but they are not halachic categories.

Rabbi Greenberg IS an Orthodox Rabbi in the sense that he received his semicha from RIETS. The way he uses his semicha is not “vulgar,” as you put it. To the contrary. Standing under the chuppah (wedding canopy) with two men who have committed to spend their lives together, raise a family and grow old with each other in a loving way does not negate a person’s ability to call himself an “Orthodox Rabbi.” Yeshiva University or RIETS could certainly yank Rabbi Greenberg’s semicha, but it wouldn’t be for a violation of halacha. Rather, it would be for his violating a social norm that makes some Jews like Rabbi Spolter uncomfortable.

The role of Judaism has always been to raise the mundane to touch the sacred. God’s world is full of opportunities for holiness. When two Jews find each other, and are prepared to enter into covenantal relationship, there is more than enough guidance that halacha provides to frame the moment. Furthermore, it is a responsibility we each carry as rabbis to stand with our People, person by person.

We hope that Rabbi Spolter and others will read these words from Rabbi Greenberg and try to understand why this Orthodox rabbi chose to courageously do what no other Orthodox rabbi before him had done:

Last December my partner and I returned from India with our newly born daughter. During the year of planning for her birth, I began to feel that I was failing as a rabbi to give young gay people hope in a religiously coherent future. As friends and students found spouses and decided to make families, it felt increasingly wrong to provide no context for commitment and celebration. Naming our daughter in an Orthodox synagogue and celebrating her birth there sealed my resolve.

While the condemnation of many is strong, I have received the quiet encouragement (if not always agreement) of a number of my Orthodox colleagues. While I do not expect other Orthodox rabbis to perform a ceremony of this sort any time soon, I do expect that we come to earn their understanding and respect as we take the frames of halacha seriously in the constructing of our committed relationships. In my view, the ceremony was beautiful, halachically informed and religiously meaningful, and I do hope that through consideration of it, the Orthodox community (and perhaps beyond) will come to recognize the human issues at stake.

We offer our congratulations to the two men whose relationship Rabbi Greenberg has helped to make sacred in our Tradition. We also offer our highest praise to Rabbi Greenberg and pray that he will serve as a beacon of hope to those in the Orthodox gay community who never thought they could be in a committed, blessed partnership.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

Response to Rick Perry’s Campaign Ad

Like many millions of people, when I watched Texas Governor Rick Perry’s “Strong” Campaign ad for the first time on YouTube I was deeply troubled. “I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian,” Perry begins. “But you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.”

My first thought was of the gay men and women currently serving in uniform who are risking their lives in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere around the globe to protect our country. I immediately decided to film a parody of Rick Perry’s video. I wanted it to be a spoof of his video in order to show the ridiculousness of his message.

The response to my video has been great so far. After only 15 hours there have been about 800 likes and only 10 dislikes with almost 5,000 views. The most meaningful aspect has been the comments on the YouTube video. One viewer wrote, “i’m an atheist but i would sure would vote for rabbi jason over any of the idiots that are postulating themselves if i could.” Another wrote, “As a non religious person raised as a christian in the church, i strongly support this, I have friends of all religions and believe our differences is what makes this country great! THANK YOU FOR YOUR EDUCATED WELL THOUGHT OUT OPINION.”

I have been pleasantly surprised that there have not been more negative, hate-filled comments in response to my video. I will not censor any comments because I believe it’s important that everyone sees the hate that exists in some people’s hearts and the ignorance that exists in their minds. Here’s a comment that made me feel very good this morning: “Bless you, Rabbi! Thanks for retaliating in such an intelligent, focused, and humorous video! Every time I’m reminded that there are people like you in this country, I have hope for it again… Hope you and your family have a bright and beautiful Hannukah! Cheers! -from Agnostic, Gay, Christopher :)”

Here is the video, which was filmed and edited by Adam Luger:


Text:
I’m not ashamed to say that I’m a Jew — Heck, I’m even a Rabbi… but you don’t need to be in shul on every Shabbos to know there’s something wrong in our country when gays can serve openly in the military and yet they still can’t get married legally in most U.S. States.

Our Jewish kids in public school have to watch as their peers celebrate Christmas — a holiday they don’t observe. They have to sit quietly as the Christian students pray in school. That just seems uncomfortable.

As President, I will fight to end this crazy talk that there’s a war on religion. And I will fight anyone who discriminates against others simply because of their sexual orientation.

Intelligence made America strong. It can make her strong again.

I’m Rabbi Jason Miller and I think it’s too cold to film a video outside in Michigan in the winter. Who approved this?

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

Saying Kaddish Over "Don’t Ask Don’t Tell"

During the presidential race of 2000, an email was being sent around that showed a photo of Al Gore and his running mate Joe Lieberman. In large letters under their photo was the name “Gore.” And next to that photo was a photo of their opponent George W. Bush above the Yiddish word “Gornisht” (loosely translated as good for nothing).

Much has changed since that dramatic election and many in the Jewish community would now label Lieberman as gornisht. For some, however, Lieberman’s energetic lead in championing the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell might catapult him back into the good graces of politically liberal Jews. Many news organizations noted that Lieberman, a Sabbath observant Jew, made some exceptions in order to help pass this legislation. JTA wrote, “A number of gay activists noted in blogs that Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, thought the measure important enough to devote the Sabbath to shepherding it through.” And according to an article on the Daily Beast website, Andrew Sullivan, the gay Atlantic blogger who has championed repeal of DADT, dubbed Lieberman a “civil rights hero.”

Rabbi Steve Gutow, the president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, was quoted in a JTA.org article. He said, “With today’s vote, Americans may serve without being forced to choose between their commitment to our country and their integrity.”

A couple months ago, I was asked to respond to a question about DADT on the Jewish Values Online website. A Reform and Orthodox rabbi had already given their response and I was asked for my opinion as a Conservative rabbi. My answer was quoted on several websites including The Jewish Week. Now that DADT will be repealed it will be interesting to see how the Jewish community’s general feeling toward Joe Lieberman will shift.

Here is the Jewish Values Online question and my response:

QUESTION: What is the Jewish view on “don’t ask, don’t tell” and gays serving openly in the U.S. military?

RESPONSE: The U.S. military’s policy of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” might have actually been the best policy at the time. However, the level of public inclusion for the GLBT community in our country has changed since Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was instituted under President Clinton. Like other groups that have been treated unfairly in our country (Blacks, women, the handicapped, etc.), over time the public has changed its treatment and its laws.

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was a “safe” way for the military to acknowledge that there were gays and lesbians in its ranks, but not to make too much “noise” about the situation. Today, in 2010, our nation is much more accepting of the GLBT community and I believe the military will follow suit.

From a Jewish perspective as well, GLBT inclusion has taken great strides in the past two decades. As a value, it is imperative that the military update its policy to allow gays and lesbians to be as honest with their comrades as they are with themselves.

Policies change over time. Our society, like our religion, is not stagnate — it is ever evolving. When I studied at the Conservative Movement’s academic institution, the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), out-of-the-closet gays and lesbians were not allowed to matriculate there. If a student came out as gay, they were asked to leave the school. I guess you could say that JTS operated like the U.S. military — Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. However, a ruling in December 2006 changed the Seminary’s position and granted admission to avowed gays and lesbians.

The times change. Our values change. Rules change.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

Religious Leaders Must Preach Tolerance & Compassion Toward LGBT Community

Last night, I saw the movie “It’s Kind of a Funny Story.” The movie, based on the 2006 novel by Ned Vizzini, deals with teenage depression and suicide in a very real and honest way. I might have reacted differently to this movie had I seen it before the recent wave of teen suicides in the LGBT community that have made national headlines. Each of the four teen characters in the movie suffer from depression in one way or another. And while none of them is homosexual, watching the movie I was forced to consider the responsibility that I, as a rabbi, have in preaching tolerance and compassion toward the LGBT community to eradicate this epidemic.

The high rate of suicide among gay and lesbian teens has been brought to light in the darkest way possible. Communities have been devastated by the news of gay teens being bullied to the point of taking their own lives. The reaction to these tragedies has been mixed, as have the reactions to the reactions. For example, I’m sure that Clint McCance, the vice president of the Midland, Arkansas School Board, never expected the reaction he received after posting his anti-gay rant on Facebook. That a leader in a school system could make such hurtful and shameful comments publicly on the Web about his fellow human beings is outrageous. It is up to religious leaders to shift the national conversation on LGBT issues to one that prioritizes human dignity and compassion.

On Tuesday, October 19, as Facebook users across the nation were changing their profile pictures to a purple hue to publicize the need for compassion toward the gay community and in memory of the gay teens that killed themselves, another tragedy was taking place. At Oakland University in Michigan, where I serve as a visiting professor of Jewish Studies, yet another gay teen ended his life after being bullied relentlessly since coming out a few months ago. Less than a week earlier on Oakland’s campus, a lunchtime program sponsored by the Gender and Sexuality Center screened the film “Bullied,” a teaching tolerance documentary. The banner advertising the event still hung in the hallway of the student union in the days following Corey Jackson’s death, as if to say “Something more must be done.”

To show my support to the LGBT community, along with millions of others, I added a purple tint to my Facebook and Twitter profile pictures on Spirit Day. All of the responses I received were positive and supportive, except for the comment left on my Facebook page by a politically conservative Orthodox Jew. He simply added the link to a New York Post article by Maggie Gallagher, president of the National Organization for Marriage, titled “Don’t blame me for gay teen suicides.” I read the article and then felt even sadder. Gallagher argues that she doesn’t have blood on her hands when gay teens are bullied and kill themselves. She conveniently shifts the conversation to the gay marriage debate, but at issue here is allowing gay and lesbian teens to feel pride and comfort in society so they don’t get bullied, fall into depression, and eventually take their own lives. Until this horrific trend ends, all Americans have blood on our collective hands.

My teacher, Rabbi Steven Greenberg, recently wrote a powerful opinion piece in The New York Jewish Week, titled “The Cost of Standing Idly By.” The first article of Greenberg’s I ever read was in a rabbinical school class at the Jewish Theological Seminary when he was still a closeted gay man using the pseudonym “Jacob Levado” (a reference to the patriarch Jacob of the Hebrew Scriptures feeling alone). Here, Greenberg relates what happened when he and his partner relocated from New York City to Cincinnati. Soon after they arrived, the rabbi of the local Orthodox congregation called apologetically to inform him that he and his partner were not welcome to attend the synagogue based on a ruling from another rabbi. Greenberg contacted the rabbi who issued the ruling and shared with him that “people who are gay and lesbian who want to remain true to the Torah, are in a great deal of pain. Many have just left the community. Some young gay people become so desperate they attempt suicide.”

Most people would expect the religious leader to respond to that last sentence with some amount of compassion, perhaps deep sadness. However, he replied, “Maybe it’s a mitzvah (commandment) for them to do so.” The speechless Greenberg asked for clarification and was told that what he heard was precisely what the rabbi intended to say. In other words, since homosexuals are guilty for capital crimes according to the Torah, perhaps it might be a good idea for them to do the job themselves. Wow! I wonder how many Jewish people will read that statement and question if this is the right religion for them.

Rather than let this uncompassionate individual silence him or force him to find a more inclusive community, Greenberg came up with a list of three steps his colleagues in the Orthodox rabbinate, and leaders in Orthodox institutions, can and should take at this time. He encourages them to sign the Statement of Principles, which says that “embarrassing, harassing or demeaning someone with a homosexual orientation or same-sex attraction is a violation of Torah prohibitions that embody the deepest values of Judaism.” Second, he calls on Orthodox institutions to sign a letter, initiated by the LGBT advocacy group Keshet, condemning bullying and homophobia in the Jewish community. Third, he states that Orthodox institutions must immediately cut off any support or endorsement of so-called “reparative therapy.”

I would take Greenberg’s call to action a step further and call upon all religious leaders, regardless of faith, to advocate for tolerance and compassion toward the LGBT community. We all stand firm in trying to eradicate the other stressors leading to teenage depression and suicide. Why should the bullying of gay teens be any different? This epidemic is only made worse by the inflammatory comments of people like the Orthodox rabbi in Cincinnati who proposed that it’s a mitzvah for gay teens to kill themselves and Clint McCance, a school board official who wrote on Facebook, “It pisses me off though that we make special purple fag day for them. I like that fags can’t procreate. I also enjoy the fact that they often give each other AIDS and die.”

At this stage it is no longer about the heated and divisive issues like gay marriage or “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” It is now a matter of life and death. Teens being bullied until they commit suicide isn’t a political issue; it’s a human issue. Religious leaders across this country: Please stand up and put an end to this national tragedy.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

NJ Jewish Standard & Carl Paladino

While last week’s decision by the New Jersey Jewish Standard to apologize for the inclusion of a gay wedding announcement and then retract the apology made big news, I didn’t have a chance to weigh in on it. But now, that New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino has essentially done the same thing regarding the anti-gay comments he made to a group of Hasidic Jews, I thought I’d comment on both matters.

Newspapers, and especially Jewish newspapers, will never be able to please everyone. Stating that the newspaper is for the entire community is actually a shortsighted mission statement because every Jewish community will have its factions that neither read nor care about what is published in certain Jewish newspapers. Whether it is the decision to run advertisements for non-kosher restaurants or print interfaith wedding announcements, the Orthodox community will boycott the paper. And a Jewish newspaper that has a bias toward the Orthodox won’t be of much concern to a progressive audience.

Ultimately, what happened at the NJ Jewish Standard was neglect. The paper’s editorial board and staff neglected to have a thoughtful process about whether to publish gay wedding (and engagement) announcements in the first place. And when there was backlash from the Orthodox, they should have debriefed on the matter, gathered information, and sought counsel from local rabbis and Jewish leaders before issuing an apology. The quick decision to apologize for publishing the engagement of Avi Smolen and Justin Rosen (who, by the way, seem like a very nice couple and will be married by my colleague Rabbi Josh Gruenberg) and then making the statement that the paper will never again run such an announcement turned into a public relations nightmare. It took days until James Janoff, the publisher, issued a retraction of the editor’s statement which said, “The Jewish Standard has always striven to draw the community together, rather than drive its many segments apart. We have decided, therefore, since this is such a divisive issue, not to run such announcements in the future.”

The engagement announcement of former Camp Ramah in Nyack staffers
Avi Smolen & Justin Rosen, who will be married this month.

In a statement posted to the paper’s website, Janoff said the New Jersey Jewish Standard probably should not have reversed its policy so quickly, “responding only to one segment of the community.” He said he is now holding meetings with local rabbis and community leaders, and will be printing many of the letters “that have been pouring in” on the issue. Without saying that the paper will print same-sex marriage announcements in the future, my sense is that in time they will.

Now on to Carl Paladino, who I’m convinced is a wish that was granted to Jon Stewart for his last birthday. Today’s New York Times reports that the alliance between Republican Carl Paladino and Yehuda Levin, an Orthodox rabbi from Brooklyn, has fallen apart, with the rabbi denouncing Paladino on Wednesday for his apology over remarks he had made about homosexuality on Sunday. It turns out that Rabbi Levin wrote Paladino’s anti-gay speech, so he was obviously angered when Paladino did a 180 and apologized for his “poorly chosen words” and said he would “fight for all gay New Yorkers’ rights” if elected governor.

I’m not really sure how Paladino could be so naive to think that, in the 24-hour news cycle era, his offensive anti-gay remarks wouldn’t be broadcast all over the country within hours. During a meeting with a small Orthodox congregation that was arranged by Rabbi Levin, Paladino said that children should not be brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality was acceptable, and then he criticized his Democratic opponent, Andrew Cuomo, for marching with his daughters in New York City’s gay pride parade. While his comments obviously went over well with the Hasidic group, they didn’t play very well for the rest of the world.

There are some pretty funny lines in the NY Times story including Rabbi Levin explaining where he was and what he was doing when he learned of Paladino’s apology (emphasis is mine):

Rabbi Levin said he was especially upset that Mr. Paladino gave him no notice that he planned to back away from the comments. “I was in the middle of eating a kosher pastrami sandwich,” Rabbi Levin said. “While I was eating it, they come running and they say, ‘Paladino became gay!’ I said, ‘What?’ And then they showed me the statement. I almost choked on the kosher salami.”

So, was it a kosher pastrami or kosher salami sandwich, Rabbi Levin? And I love how he had to mention that it was “kosher.” Did he think that folks would question whether he was eating a non-kosher sandwich?

The Times then had to clarify that Paladino hadn’t actually become gay (of course):

Mr. Paladino, of course, had not become gay, but had announced that he wanted to clarify that he embraced gay rights and opposed discrimination. In explaining his views, Mr. Paladino and his aides noted that he had a gay nephew who worked for the campaign.

So, what did Rabbi Levin have to say about Paladino’s gay nephew?

“He discovered now he has a gay nephew?” the rabbi said. “Mazel tov! We’ll make a coming-out party!”

So, my question is: If the Hasidic Rabbi Yehuda Levin makes a coming-out party for Carl Paladino’s gay nephew, will the New Jersey Jewish Standard announce it in their paper? You just couldn’t make this stuff up!

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

The Conservative Movement and Homosexuality

The Michigan Daily published an article in today’s edition on the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) meeting in which four teshuvot (responsa) were presented regarding Gay commitment ceremonies and the ordination of Gay rabbis and cantors at Conservative seminaries.

I spent quite a bit of time on the phone with the author of the article (Andrew Grossman, a Catholic) but never told him that there were enough votes “to support the ordination of gay rabbis and the blessing of same-sex union ceremonies.” I am not sure how he could have known that information unless it was published elsewhere. I certainly do not know if that is true and I am not sure that anyone knows how the members of the committee will vote in December on any of the teshuvot that have been presented. Some members of CJLS have been public about their viewpoint but most have kept their personal views to themselves.

Jewish group might allow gay rabbis

Conservative Jewish leaders delay vote on gay rabbis, but issue up again in December
By Andrew Grossman (Michigan Daily)

When he was growing up, LSA junior Dan Marcovici struggled to reconcile his homosexuality with his Jewish faith. Religious tradition had always pointed him toward a wife and children.

“It was difficult. My Jewish family was always very family-centered. I was going to marry a woman, carry the family line,” said Marcovici, the chair of Ahava, a group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Jews at the University.

Now, he has brought his faith and his sexuality together.

“My religion is a part of my life,” Marcovici said. “My sexual orientation is part of my life. One doesn’t preclude the other.”

Marcovici is part of the Conservative Jewish movement, which has recently experienced tension over the status of gays and lesbians in religious life.

Earlier this week, members of the movement’s Committee on Laws and Standards – a group of 25 rabbis who interpret Jewish law for the movement – had enough votes to support the ordination of gay rabbis and the blessing of same-sex union ceremonies.

But while religious organizations across the nation grapple with the issue of faith and homosexuality, the committee did not make a decision, adjourning Wednesday’s meeting without a vote.

The issue is likely to resurface in December at a meeting of the movement’s international association of rabbis.

Conservative Jews fall in the middle of three major Jewish groups in the United States. The more liberal Reform movement passed a resolution in 2000 supporting rabbis who choose to preside over same-sex marriages and commitment ceremonies. The traditional Orthodox movement maintains that the Torah’s prohibitions on homosexuality must be respected.

According to the National Jewish Population Survey of 2000, 38 percent of Jews affiliated with a temple or synagouge were Reform, 33 percent Conservative and 22 percent Orthodox.

The Conservative movement is “a centrist movement in which there is a tension between Jewish law and modernity,” said Rabbi Jason Miller, a Conservative rabbi and the associate director of the University’s chapter of Hillel. “Living within that tension means trying to strike a balance between the two.”

The Torah, the Jewish holy book, mentions homosexuality in Leviticus 18:22, stating, “You shall not lie with a man as with a woman; it is an abomination.” Leviticus 20:13 states that the punishment for such action should be death.

Openly gay applicants are currently prohibited from enrolling in the Conservative movement’s rabbinical and cantorial schools.

“To some extent, it’s a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell policy,’ ” Miller said.

The debate over the role of gays in Conservative Jewish life has been at the forefront for the movement’s rabbis.

“For rabbis in the Conservative movement, this is the hot issue,” Miller said.

Miller was optimistic about the future of gay and lesbians in Conservative Judaism. He said he is confident the committee will “come to an answer that respects the human dignity of all Jewish people,” including gay rabbis and Jews in a committed homosexual relationship.

He added that he is certain the committee’s decision will reflect a “commitment to Jewish law and tradition.”

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller

No Vote from the Conservative Movement’s Law Committee on Gay Rabbis or Commitment Ceremonies

Jewish Theological Seminary Homosexuality Rabbi Jason MillerBelow is the “Breaking news” from JTA.org that no vote was made on any of the teshuvot (responsa) presented. This was no surprise for me having sat in on several Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) meetings while a student at The Jewish Theological Seminary. Teshuvot are presented, studied, debated, and then re-written or just tweaked before being voted on. I would have been shocked had they actually voted on any of these four papers during this meeting at an undisclosed location in Baltimore. It shows they are being mindful of how the halakhic (Jewish legal) process works and that this decision cannot be made based on social pressure or politicking from both sides of the debate.

The authors of the four response are our Conservative rabbis and members of the CJLS:
1) Joel Roth;
2) Elliot Dorff, Daniel Nevins, Avi Reisner;
3) Leonard Levy;
4) Benzi Bergman, David Fine, Robert Fine, Myron Geller, Gordon Tucker.

Here’s the breaking news blurb from JTA.org (The full JTA.org article is here and the Forward article is here):

Conservatives delay gay policy decision

The Conservative movement’s policy on homosexuality will remain unchanged until at least December.

During a two-day meeting of the Rabbinical Assembly’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, which ended Wednesday, authors of four responsa on the status of homosexuality in the movement were asked to make revisions in advance of a vote on the issue in December.

The decision means that the movement’s 1992 decision barring openly gay and lesbian individuals from its rabbinical schools and forbidding its rabbis to perform same-sex marriages will remain in place for now.

“The pain that so many real people are experiencing because of their love for tradition and their hope for a supportive community clearly hasn’t moved the Rabbinical Assembly as an institution to move more quickly,” said Rabbi Menachem Creditor, one of the founders of Keshet Rabbis, a group supporting gay and lesbian rights in the Conservative movement.

Rabbi Joel Meyers, executive vice president of the assembly, urged patience. “I am urging my colleagues who promote change to realize that there are an equal number of colleagues who are in favor of welcoming gays and lesbians in the Conservative community but who do not wish to change halachah,” he said.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | http://blog.rabbijason.com | Twitter: @RabbiJason | facebook.com/rabbijasonmiller