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June 29, 1990 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-06-29

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Reform's Gay Rabbi Vote
Reopens Old Divisions


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FRIDAY, JUNE 29, 1990

he decision by the
Central Conference of
American Rabbis this
week to allow qualified gay
and lesbian rabbis to serve
as members of the Reform
rabbinate has reopened
longstanding divisions
among the major movements
of Judaism.
Orthodox leaders were
quick to condemn the deci-
sion, calling it an "outright
distortion" of Jewish tradi-
tion and a "deeply disturb-
ing move."
Leaders of Conservative
Judaism, while less
outspoken, disclaimed any
affinity with the Reform
On Monday, more than
500 rabbis attending the
101st CCAR convention in
Seattle adopted the
unanimous recommendation
of its committee on
homosexuality and the rab-
binate that "all rabbis,
regardless of sexual orienta-
tion, be accorded the oppor-
tunity to fulfill the sacred
vocation which they have
The decision makes
Reform Judaism one of the
first major Jewish or Chris-
tian religious bodies in the
United States to include ac-
knowledged homosexuals
among its clergy.
Only the Reconstructionist
movement in Judaism and
the Unitarian Universalist
Association have formally
chosen to include lesbian
and gay men among their
clergy, though other Protes-
tant denominations have or-
dained gay ministers on an
ad-hoc basis.
The vote caps four years of
CCAR study and discussion
on the subject.
The outcome of the vote
was expected but never-
theless greeted with a great
sense of relief by leaders of
the CCAR, which is the rab-
binical body of Reform
"The issue has been
discussed with great
earnestness, with some am-
bivalence and with a sense of
inner struggle," the CCAR's
president, Rabbi Samuel
Karff of Houston, said
following the vote.
"The report is an attempt
to be both supportive of our
gay and lesbian colleagues,
and respectful of Judaism's
norm of heterosexual,
monogamous, procreative

marriage," he said.
"For the majority of the
committee," Karff said, "the
critical issue is the matter of
choice. For some Jews, the
heterosexual norm is not a
viable option. Such persons
not only merit respect as
God's children and as Jews,
but should not, on the basis
of sexual orientation alone,
be denied the right to be our
rabbinic colleagues."
Noting that other
movements of Judaism were
grappling with the issue,
Rabbi Selig Salkowitz of
Brooklyn, chairman of the
committee that wrote the
report, said, "Perhaps we, as
a conference, will present a
model that others can
But leaders of the other
Jewish movements cast
doubt this week on that hap-
pening, at least at any point
in the near future. And some
said the stance taken by the
Reform movement would
damage already tense rela-
tions among the various
strains of Judaism.
The decision to admit gay
and lesbian rabbis "will un-
doubtedly worsen the rela-
tionship" between the
Reform and Orthodox
movements, said Rabbi Marc
Angel, recently elected pres-
ident of the Rabbinical
Council of America, the rab-
binical arm of the modern
Orthodox movement.
"The decision is exceeding-
ly insensitive to religious
tradition and will create a
breach that is hard to
bridge," he said. "There will
be a subtle increase in
alienation between Or-
thodox and Reform rabbis
that will make it hard to
work together."
Agudath Israel, represent-
ing European-style Or-
thodoxy, used stronger
language. This is "just an-
other tragic step of Reform
down the road of completely
disregarding Jewish law and
tradition," it said in a
statement issued Tuesday.
It added caustically that
the CCAR move "underlines
the absurdity of a movement
that calls itself Judaism
while rejecting basic tenets
of Torah."
At issue is a passage from
Leviticus 18:22 that calls
homosexuality "an
abomination." Under
Halachah, or traditional
Jewish law, homosexual ac-
tivities are strictly pro-
hibited. ❑

Jewish Telegraphic Agency

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