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Conservative Rabbi school allows gay admission

Amy Bourke March 27, 2007
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A prestigious Conservative Jewish seminary in New York has taken a step towards equality by opening its doors to gay students.

The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) announced on Monday that it would begin to accept applications from LGBT students, but that the decision was not taken lightly.

The change in policy comes three months after the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards voted to allow the ordination of gays and lesbians.

The committee also voted that seminaries should decide independently whether they will allow gay students.

That decision paved the way for the seminary to consult with staff and students, hold a meeting of the schools trustees and take a survey of opinions.

Founded in 1886, the JTS is one of the most well-regarded seminaries in America.

Arnold Eisen, incoming chancellor of the school, told AP: “The larger issue has been how we can remain true to our tradition in general and to halakah [Jewish law] in particular while staying fully responsive to and immersed in our society and culture.

“We recognise more than one way to be a good Conservative Jew, more than one way of walking authentically in the path of our tradition and of carrying that tradition forward.

“We respect those who disagree with us and understand that in the context of all that unites us, diversity makes us stronger.”

Predictably, not all of the staff at JTS are happy about the decision.

Rabbi Joel Roth told WABC-TV that Jewish law forbids homosexual acts.

He said: “To have rabbis who reflect something that Jewish law forbids is almost an oxymoron. And it is on those grounds that I oppose the ordination of gay rabbis.”

But seminary students seem to be in support of the decision, which will be effective immediately.

Elizabeth Richman told WABC-TV: “Jewish law has never stood still. And we know from looking at our history that even things that it says in the Bible, Jewish tradition has changed according to its own legal traditions.

“We’re confident that the conservative movement has found a way according to Jewish tradition to make changes.”

The Conservative branch of Judaism is the most popular denomination in America. It follows tradition while allowing change for modern developments in society.

Although the new policy allows for gay men and women to become Rabbis, a loophole also allows them to be rejected from synagogues if the congregation believes that the move would violate scripture.

Gay men and women can become rabbis in both the Reform Jewish movement and the smaller Reconstructionist wing of the faith.

But the Orthodox denomination still holds a complete ban on the ordination of women or gay men and lesbians.

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