The survey shows: Conservative Jews OK with gay ordination

A national “survey”: of clergy and lay leaders across Conservative Judaism has found widespread support for the ordination of gay and lesbian rabbis and cantors.

The survey was commissioned by the Jewish Theological Seminary in NYC, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (which represents congregations), and the Rabbinical Assembly (which represents rabbis).

Among the findings (released this morning):

*65 percent of rabbis favor gay ordination; 28 percent are opposed.
*Lay leaders split 68% to 22%.
*Conservative educators split 76% to 16%.

Here’s the interesting (if predictable) gender divide:
*60% of men favor gay ordination, with 33% opposed.
*86% of women are in favor, with 10 percent opposed.

According to the seminary, invitations to participate in the survey were sent to 18,676 email addresses for “rabbis, cantors, educators (including camp directors), United Synagogue Youth advisors, executive directors, USCJ board members, presidents, some congregational officers, and activists (including college students).”

Overall, 5,583 responses were received. Of these, 4,861 came from invitees. And 722 were responses to a public access website.

A committee of rabbinic legal scholars for the Conservative movement recently gave their blessing to the ordination of gay and lesbian rabbis. The group also said that it was okay for Conservative congregations to continue to prohibit gay rabbis, if they so choose.

In announcing the survey results, Arnold Eisen, Chancellor-elect of JTS, said this:

“Our intent was and is to know what Conservative Jews – rabbis and cantors, educators and executives, board members and students – think about this important matter: admitting and ordaining/investing openly gay and lesbian students in our rabbinical and cantorial schools. Of particular note is the remarkable unity of Conservative Jews nationwide in their support of the centrality of halakhah as a key principle of Conservative Judaism. The survey gives us data on this score as one factor among many to bear in mind as we consider a complex and controversial decision that will undoubtedly have a major impact on the future direction of JTS and the Conservative Movement. A final decision on this matter is expected this spring.”

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.