CCAR Puts off a Decision on Admission of Gay Rabbis

After prolonged deliberation at the six-day centennial convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the issue of whether gay men and lesbians should be allowed to serve as Reform rabbis remained in the closet.

The CCAR’s ad hoc committee on homosexuality, which has been studying the matter for three years, produced a report on the convention’s final day.

But to the surprise of some delegates, it agreed unanimously not to introduce a resolution on homosexual ordination, according to the committee chairman, Rabbi Selig Salkowitz.

The committee did, however, recommend a process of dialogue and education for members and congregants. “This is not the time for parliamentary resolutions but for sensitive and considered study,” Salkowitz said.

He said the committee’s primary disagreement was over “the nature of homosexuality” — whether it is a genetic or acquired trait, “and therefore a matter of personal choice.”

Another question was the sanctity of homosexual marriages. “We struggled with the question of the reaction of Klal Yisrael,” Salkowitz said.

“Would a support resolution be seen as a further wedge between Reform and non-Reform Judaism?” he asked.

CONCERN OVER SCHISM

“We should be concerned about the total Jewish community and not become a schism outside the mainstream of American Jewry,” Salkowitz added.

Rabbi Yoel Kahn, spiritual leader of Sha’ar Zahav congregation in San Francisco, asked whether the Jewish community can affirm “the place of the homosexual Jew in the synagogue and the Jewish people.”

Kahn, whose 425-member congregation maintains an outreach effort to gay men and lesbians, asked, “If the goal of Jewish life is to live in ‘kedushah’ (holiness), can we sanctify and bless homosexual relationships without compromising the integrity of our tradition?”

Leonard Kravitz, a professor of Midrash at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the Reform seminary, said, “The notion of homosexual marriage is not just something which has just come up. It is discussed in the tradition. It is mentioned in the Midrash.”

He quoted Rabbi Walter Jacob, chairman of the CCAR’s Responsa Committee, as saying that Reform rabbis cannot officiate at the “marriage” of two homosexuals because “none of the elements of kedushah normally associated with marriage can be invoked for this relationship.”

But HUC has “decided that homosexuality per se is no longer grounds for non-acceptance into the rabbinic program,” Kravitz said.

HUC President Alfred Gottschalk disputed that interpretation at a later discussion group.

“Sexual orientation is one of a set of factors that are taken into consideration upon admission,” he said.

“We do not admit homosexuals. We don’t admit heterosexuals. We try to admit individuals on the basis of a total profile,” he said, “and that is the college’s policy.”

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