The highest legal body in Conservative Judaism, the centrist movement in worldwide Jewry, voted yesterday to allow the ordination of gay rabbis and the celebration of same-sex commitment ceremonies.
The decision, which followed years of debate, was denounced by traditionalists in the movement as an indication that Conservative Judaism had abandoned its commitment to adhere to Jewish law, but celebrated by others as a long-awaited move toward full equality for gay people.
“We see this as a giant step forward,” said Sarah Freidson, a rabbinical student and co-chairwoman of Keshet, a student group at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York that has been pushing for change.
But in a reflection of the divisions in the movement, the 25 rabbis on the law committee passed three conflicting legal opinions — one in favor of gay rabbis and unions, and two against.
In doing so, the committee left it up to individual synagogues to decide whether to accept or reject gay rabbis and commitment ceremonies, saying that either course is justified according to Jewish law.
“We believe in pluralism,” said Rabbi Kassel Abelson, chairman of the panel, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly, at a news conference after the meeting at the Park Avenue Synagogue in New York. “We recognized from the very beginnings of the movement that no single position could speak for all members” on the law committee or in the Conservative movement.