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Rabbinical Assembly Agrees to Establish Commission to Study Accepiance of Women As Rabbis

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Establishment of “an interdisciplinary commission to study all aspects of the role of women as spiritual leaders in the Conservative movement” was proposed last night by the Rabbinical Assembly and accepted by the Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS), the Conservative institution which now bars women as rabbinical candidates. The Conservative rabbis at the As- sembly’s 77th annual convention approved the resolution at a midnight session, which urged that the proposed commission’s membership “reflect the pluralism and diversity of the Conservative movement.” Chancellor Gerson Cohen told the delegates he would personally advocate the decision of the commission.

The resolution was adopted after an earlier resolution, calling on the JTS to admit women to its rabbinical school, was tabled after lengthy debate. The tabled resolution called on the JTS to consider and admit to its rabbinical school all qualified candidates, regardless of their sex. The proposed commission on women would be instructed to present a progress report with its findings to the Assembly’s executive council in the spring of 1978 and “a final report and recommendations at the 1979 convention” of the RA.

The stronger resolution was tabled after indications that some Rabbinical Assembly members would feel compelled to resign as a matter of conscience if it was adopted. That resolution contended that admission of women as rabbinical students was logically in accord with the stance of the Conservative movement in liberalizing the status of women in the synagogue by their acceptance as members of a minyan, calling them to the Torah for aliya, and offering them equal religious education opportunities.

A related development was a petition presented to Cohen signed by 42 of the 117 rabbinical students at the JTS, supporting the call of the tabled resolution for admission of women candidates to the rabbinical school.

Earlier, the Assembly Committee on Jewish Law and Standards acted on two other controversial issue. The committee removed from its current agenda a proposal to confer Jewish ness on children of non-Jewish mothers who had Jewish fathers It also referred for further consideration a decision on a proposal for “ethical wills,” wills made by living persons stating they wished to die peace-fully and naturally when terminally ill.

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