“In the Image of God: A Dissent in Favor of the Full Equality of Gay and Lesbian Jews Into the Community of Conservative Judaism” by Howard Handler

Reference: Rabbinical Assembly

This paper was submitted as a dissent to the CJLS “Consensus Statement on Homosexuality and the papers by Rabbis Roth, Kimelman, Rabinowitz, and Dorff. Concurring and dissenting opinions are not positions of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards.

The Committee on Jewish Laws and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly provides guidance in matters of halakhah for the Conservative movement. The individual rabbi, however, is the authority for the interpretation and application of all matters of halakhah.

The policies recently passed by the Rabbinical Assembly Committee on Jewish Law and Standards directly contradict the resolution passed by the Rabbinical Assembly convention in May 1990. The Rabbinical Assembly Convention Resolution:

…affirms that the Divine image reflected by every human being must always be cherished and affirmed, and
WHEREAS Jews have always been sensitive to the impact of official and unofficial prejudice and discrimination, wherever directed, and
WHEREAS gay and lesbian Jews have experienced not only the constant threats of physical violence and homophobic rejection, but also the pains of anti-Semitism known to all Jews and, additionally, a sense of painful alienation from our own religious institutions, …
Reiterate that, as are all Jews, gay men and lesbians are welcome as members in our congregations, and
Call upon our synagogues and the arms of our movement to increase our awareness, understanding and concern for our fellow Jews who are gay and lesbian.

However, the policies affirmed on March 25, 1992, by the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards prohibit rabbis from performing commitment ceremonies for gays or lesbians, and they prohibit avowed homosexuals’ admittance to our rabbinical and cantorial schools or to the Rabbinical Assembly or the Cantors’ Assembly. In addition, individual rabbis may with full support of the CJLS deny to gay or lesbian Jews the opportunity to be teachers, youth leaders, the recipients of honors in worship and lay leaders.

The CJLS has made gay and lesbian Jews second-class citizens or, even worse, a tolerated minority. Gays and lesbians will not feel welcomed by these recent policies of the CJLS. The policies are discriminatory at best and profoundly oppressive in any event. There is no reason for us to hesitate in accepting gays and lesbians into our community with complete equality. If a gay man or lesbian is qualified to serve as a rabbi or cantor, we should encourage them. If a gay or lesbian couple want to mark the holiness of their committed relationships to each other, we must assist them and celebrate with them.

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