Conservative Movement Ordains First Openly Gay Rabbi


(JTA) – The Conservative movement ordained its first openly gay rabbi during ceremonies at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.

Rachel Isaacs, 28, was ordained at JTS on May 19. She told the Forward that she began her rabbinical training at the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, but switched to the Conservative seminary after it began admitting openly gay and lesbian students in 2007.

Isaacs will serve as the half-time rabbi at Beth Israel Congregation in Waterville, Maine, where she has already served as a rabbinic intern. She will also work part-time as the Jewish chaplain of Colby College, where she will be on the faculty as well, the Forward reports.

Other gay and lesbian rabbis have been ordained by JTS, but they kept their sexual preference under wraps to avoid expulsion. In recent years, some gay and lesbian students say their sexual identity was known to other students and faculty, but could not be openly acknowledged until the college officially changed its policy.

Following a 2006 decision by the Conservative movement’s Law Committee to accept gay rabbis, JTS and the American Jewish University in Los Angeles began admitting openly gay students. The movement’s Israeli seminary does not.

The Reform, Reconstructionist and Renewal seminaries also ordain openly gay and lesbian clergy. Orthodox seminaries do not.