By Rabbi David Londy Temple Israel Manhattan
Much as I applaud the Jewish Theological Seminary’s decision to accept gay and lesbian students to the rabbinical and cantorial schools, this decision underscores the fundamental weakness of the Conservative movement as a relevant voice of modern spirituality.
Historically, the Conservative movement and the Seminary were a source of innovation. The Ramah camping movement is one example of the Seminary leadership’s willingness to think outside the box and to come forth with innovative approaches to Jewish education and continuity.
But, in recent years, this creativity has all but disappeared. Instead of being innovative, the movement and the Seminary seem only reactive, following the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and Hebrew Union College in admitting openly lesbian and gay rabbis now (RRC in 1984 and HUC in 1989) and women rabbis in 1985 (Reform in 1972 and Reconstructionist in 1974).
Obviously, the next issue will be patrilineal descent. Reform and Conservative authorities have affirmed its legitimacy. In 10 years, Conservative Jewish scholars will be writing papers, utilizing historical studies already in existence, to affirm patrilineal descent as a legitimate halachic option. Legitimating that which already exists in the Jewish world is not a sufficient reason to have a movement.
The Jewish Week