December 10th, 2006

magen david

Good News for Gay Conservative Jews?

So, there have been some changes in the Conservative Movement's view of gay and lesbian Jews. I belong to a Conservative shul and am a lesbian, so this has been a topic of particular interest to me. I've been following developments in the Movement for years, and very actively these past few months, leading up to the decisions of this past week. There's some good news in what happened, but on the whole I'm pretty disappointed.

The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) met this past week to consider the role of gay and lesbian Jews in the Conservative movement. The CJLS is a panel of 25 rabbis who vote on issues of Jewish law. They were considering making changes to a 1992 Consensus Statement of Policy Regarding Homosexual Jews in the Conservative Movement.

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So What Happened?
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The third is the "good one". What's good about it? What's not so good?

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So, why anal sex in particular?

It's all because of two verses in the Torah, in Vayikra, the book of Leviticus. Two verses that are to my mind rather cryptic. Here they are:
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The Conservative Movement is a halakhic movement. It believes that halakha - Jewish law - is binding on Jews. It also believes that halakha can and does change over time as we gain new understandings of the Torah and of the human condition. It believes in a careful, slow, measured approach to change. There's some good news in the potential for out gay rabbinical students, in the ability of same sex couples to have acknowledgement in more Conservative shuls than we do now, in an acknowledgement - if only in one out of three acceptable stances to take - that even gay and lesbian Jews are entitled to kvod habriot (human dignity). Still, even the best of the accepted teshuvot sees our lives and our roles as secondary to that of heterosexuals, tells bisexual people to follow the "superior" heterosexual lifestyle, and allows our men full acceptance within the movement only if they put what I consider a completely unreasonable and very stringent restriction on their sexual expression.

I will add that not all Conservative shuls follow the "Consensus Statement" and not all will follow any of the new teshuvot. There is a growing number of synagogues within the Conservative movement that fully include gay men and lesbians in all aspects of synagogue life and honor our relationships equally with those of heterosexuals. My shul is among them. So, this development at CJLS won't change what happens in our shul, since we've already gone further than the more progressive of the teshuvot accepted. Still, I'm disappointed the movement as a whole couldn't go a little further on the path we've already traveled.

Obfanfic connection: In the series I am currently writing, Adam Greenfield reflects on his brief religious period, during which he was the lover of an observant Jew who believed in restricting their sex life in just that way.
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