The struggle over gay rights in the Jewish community heated up this week in the Conservative and Orthodox movements. At the Jewish Theological Seminary on the Upper West Side, a group of rabbinical students are launching an effort to gain grassroots support to change the Conservative ban on ordaining gay and lesbian rabbis. The action follows a heated meeting between the students and Chancellor Dr. Ismar Schorsch, who reiterated his long-standing opposition to overturning the ban against openly gay rabbinical students.
In the week since gay-friendly Conservative rabbis organized themselves, for the first time, into a public group (called Keshet Rabbis) their numbers have nearly doubled.
Last week, 75 members of the movement's Rabbinical Assembly signed up to offer counseling and consultation to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Conservative Jews. This week the number stands at 137, just under 10 percent of the RA's 1,500 members.
The first case testing a decade-old policy permitting Conservative rabbis to serve gay and lesbian congregations has illuminated the movement's many struggles and inconsistencies in connection with homosexuality-related issues.
A day before her ordination this spring at the Jewish Theological Seminary, Ayelet Cohen informed the Rabbinical Assembly that she had been offered a job at New York's gay and lesbian synagogue. She had served at Congregation Beth Simchat Torah as a rabbinic intern (placed there by the seminary) for the past two years.