Conservative Judaism nearing decision(s) on gays

A judgment day of sorts may be coming next week for Conservative Judaism.

After years of wrestling with whether to change the religious status of gays and lesbians, a committee of rabbinic scholars is meeting next Tuesday and Wednesday to decide the question. We think…

Oddly, the location of the super-sensitive gathering had not been set as of this morning.

The Jewish Theological Seminary in NYC has an excellent “primer”: on the debate, its meaning and its ramifications.

When the movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards last met in March, it reviewed papers on homosexuality written by committee members and sent them back for revisions. The group also scheduled a vote for December, which must have seemed like a long time away.

Currently, gays and lesbians are not eligible for ordination and Conservative rabbis are not supposed to bless same-sex ceremonies.

Shira Dicker, a spokeswoman for the Rabbinical Assembly, the association of Conservative rabbis, told me today that the committee will review six papers — three that would keep the status quo and three that would recognize gay religious rights, at least to some degree.

The Conservative movement believes itself to be bound by halakhah — the body of jewish law and tradition. So the committee’s job is to say what is permissible under a Conservative interpretation of Jewish law.

The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards has 25 voting members. Any position that gets at least six votes of support becomes a valid position.

The committee may approve more than position, leaving it up to individual synagogues and their rabbis to decide what is right for them. In this case, synagogues may be able to choose from contrary positions — no gay rights or full gay rights.

Gary Stern

Gary Stern covered education in the Lower Hudson Valley for several years during the early 1990s. Now's he back on the beat. He believes that schools are one of the main reasons that people live around here and that educational issues -- from curriculum to financing -- are among the most challenging things that journalists can write about. He continues to be amazed by the complexity of educational jargon. Gary got his B.A. at SUNY Buffalo and his M.A. from the University of Missouri Journalism School (where his master's thesis was about the best ways to cover education). He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who attend public schools.