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Chickcomics.com welcomes all opinions from any religion or viewpoint in the common appreciation of Chick tracts. This blog, however, will highlight religious events and controversies that would be of special interest to regular Chick readers. You don't have to agree with them or each other, but if you read Chick tracts or Battlecry, you might expect these type stories to be addressed. (Sorry, no personal attacks allowed.) All main postings are from ChickComics.com writers and any responses are from the public

Friday, April 20, 2012

An Israel Jewish Branch Approves Gay Rabbis

The "Conservative" Jewish seminary in Israel says it will allow gays and lesbians to become rabbis, overcoming years of opposition by many of its own leaders and setting up a new point of contention between the movement and Israel's Orthodox establishment.

The Schechter Rabbinical Seminary, affiliated with Israel's Conservative Jewish movement, announced it would begin accepting gay and lesbian rabbinical students in Jerusalem this fall. The decision late Thursday ended a rift with the Conservative movement in the U.S., which began accepting gay and lesbian rabbinical students in 2006 and ordained its first openly lesbian rabbi last year.

The move is especially controversial because the Torah condemns homosexuality. Like other branches of Judaism, Conservative Judaism -- a major denomination in the U.S. but a marginal force in Israel -- has faced calls for greater openness toward gays and lesbians, despite biblical prohibitions on homosexual conduct.

The wording of the movement's announcement hinted at the fiery debate that preceded it. "In the Conservative world, there are rabbis who accept ordination of gay and lesbian students as well as those who do not," the statement said. "The decision is the result of a long process that included broad consultation and a search to find a consensus among differing opinions that will allow continued cooperation." Professor Hanan Alexander, chairman of the seminary's board of trustees, said the decision "highlights the institution's commitment to uphold Jewish religious law in a pluralist and changing world."

The Conservative movement interprets Jewish law more strictly than the liberal Reform movement, but its ordination of female rabbis and other nontraditional practices are not accepted by more stringent Orthodox Jews. D'ror Chankin-Gould, 28, a gay student at the American Jewish University, the movement's rabbinical school in Los Angeles, said the decision was "something that we've been dreaming of for years."

 The Reform movement -- the largest Jewish denomination in the U.S. and considered very liberal-- and the much smaller Reconstructionists began ordaining gay and lesbian clergy decades ago. No Orthodox rabbinical institution currently admits gay and lesbian students.

 Israeli law gives exclusive jurisdiction over the ordination of clergy, marriage and divorce to Orthodox rabbis, who generally consider homosexuality an abomination. The Orthodox rabbinate here has strenuously resisted inroads by the liberal streams, refusing to recognize their rulings, conversions or ceremonies as religiously valid. 

The decision to ordain gay and lesbian clergy drew fire from the ultra-Orthodox community. "In my opinion, it's a grave mistake," said Shaar Yeshuv Cohen, the chief rabbi of the northern city of Haifa. "It's a violation of the Bible." See Chick's SIN CITY.

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