JTS Poll Out


Bloggers are having a field day with a survey e-mailed last week to rabbis, cantors, educators and lay leaders of the Conservative movement to learn their views on same-sex marriage and whether active gays should be ordained as clergy.

The eight-part confidential survey, compiled and distributed by the movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary asked whether the respondents felt “proud to be a Conservative Jew” when they learned that the movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards had adopted two conflicting opinions on those issues — one in favor and one opposed. The same question asked also if they “felt confused” or even “somewhat embarrassed.”

The survey also asked broader questions, including whether it was a mistake for the Law Committee years ago to have sanctioned riding to shul on Shabbat; whether Conservative Judaism is a halachic (Jewish law) movement; whether the Torah was written by people and not by Divine inspiration; whether Conservative rabbis should be permitted to perform interfaith marriages; and whether those who walk to synagogue on Shabbat “are really Orthodox.”

It also sought to learn how the respondents believed the decisions would influence the movement, and also about their personal observance and beliefs. Among the questions asked was whether they eat in non-kosher restaurants, eat warmed fish or meat in such restaurants, keep a kosher home, fast at least part of the day on Tisha b’Av, attend Sabbath services at least three times a month, refrain from shopping and turning on and off lights on Shabbat.

The survey is expected to guide the incoming JTS Chancellor Arnold Eisen in deciding the seminary’s gay ordination policy.

One blogger known as Yid with Lid wrote that he completed the survey and then wrote a response in which he said the Conservative “movement tries to be all things to all people, and there is no consistency between shuls. When you try to please everyone, you please no one. … The leaders of the Conservative movement need to sit down and define itself.”

“Is it going to continue to be a hodgepodge, a little of this, a little of that with no clear halacha” or Jewish law? he asked.

Another blogger called “Frum with Questions,” said he too completed the survey and found the questions “straightforward,” but he said he did not “understand what they are trying to accomplish.”

Another blogger named Jill who said she is a board member of a Conservative synagogue in Cleveland said she questions the movement “all the time” and is “encouraged to do that, and for me that’s exactly what I love about it.”