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Israeli Conservative Movement Approves Ordination of Gay Rabbis

In a dramatic 18-0 vote with one abstention, the Israel's Masorti (Conservative) Movement voted to approve the ordination of gay rabbis, Haaretz reports:

BalterThe Schechter Rabbinical Seminary, affiliated with the movement, will admit gay and lesbian students for training as spiritual leaders as of the upcoming school year.

In doing so the Israeli Conservative Movement is joining the American branch of the movement, whose rabbinical seminaries have been admitting gay students for some years.

The question whether or not to ordain gay and lesbian rabbis has been rattling the Conservative Movement in Israel and the U.S. for the past decade. Unlike the Reform movement that took to the question with ease, deciding firmly on the acceptance of gay rabbis. The Conservative Movement, whose rabbis see themselves bound to Jewish law, has been caught up in heated debate over the subject.

Said Rabbi Mauricio Balter (pictured): "I see it as a very important development in Jewish law. It is the right thing to do. We were all made in the image of god, and as such we are all made equal. For me this is a very important value. I always said we should admit gay and lesbians into our ranks."

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  1. I applaud this move by the Conservative Movement in is a major developmnet for this historically slow-to-change religious body. No doubt, it's a step forward in justice for LGBT Israelis. It is also helpful to put this in context: unlike the U.S., where the Reform and Conservative movements make up the majority of affiliated Jews, the Conservative movement in Israel is a small minority and faces considerable obstacles.

    In Israel Judaism is established as the state religion...this is no surprise. However, due to the fractious coalition politics of the country, the Israeli religious establishment is controlled by Orthodox rabbis. Within the Orthodox world, LGBT Jews are marginalized and face discrimination similar to what LGBT people face in right-wing Christian denominations in America.

    So, the bottom line regarding the decision to ordain LGBT Conservative rabbis in Israel is an essential step towards justice for LGBT Israeli Jews, but in practical terms it will not impact very many people.

    Posted by: Chris in MN | Apr 20, 2012 9:02:06 AM

  2. Two things:

    1) It is important to note that "Conservative" is not a designation of political affiliation, rather it is a differentiation from the more fundamentalist "Orthodox." Conservative Jews fall between Reform (one of the more liberal denominations) and Orthodox.

    2) Yesterday, an Orthodox Jewish rabbi proudly "came out" as an LGBT ally:

    Posted by: Jack | Apr 20, 2012 10:48:02 AM

  3. What percentage of Israelis are Orthodox versus other movements/denominations?

    Posted by: Malcolm | Apr 20, 2012 11:03:50 AM

  4. Malcolm:

    Very hard to estimate due to the fluidity of self-identification and the like. One estimate, which isn't particularly meaningful, puts the number of Masorti/Conservative/Traditional at around 35-40%, Orthodox at 20-30%, and Secular at 30-45%

    Again, it's difficult to determine.

    Posted by: Jack | Apr 20, 2012 12:00:26 PM


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