So much for a quiet retirement.
About the time last month that Rabbi David Lincoln, senior spiritual leader for 21 years at Park Avenue Synagogue on the Upper East Side, stepped down from the pulpit, he appeared on a Jewish cable television show. Part of an interdenominational panel of Jewish leaders, he offered his comments on the series of scandals that have struck the Orthodox community in recent years.
Declaring that New York State's kosher laws excessively entangle government with religion, a Brooklyn federal judge has struck down the 118-year-old statutes as unconstitutional.
Orthodox kosher law advocates immediately said they would appeal the July 28 decision by U.S. Eastern District Court Judge Nina Gershon, who ruled in favor of a Commack, L.I., butcher whose 1996 lawsuit claimed that the state's kosher laws violated church-state separation.
Like the biblical prophets Samuel and Nathan, who admonished their kings for sinning, the spiritual head of the Conservative movement found himself a lone Jewish voice in the nation this week following his daring call for President Clinton to resign.
Ismar Schorsch, chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, last week thus became the first national Jewish religious figure to urge Clinton to quit because of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. He said the president’s moral authority has been “destroyed” and in effect cannot be recovered.
As Israel’s fourth prime minister in four years begins to stitch together a new parliamentary coalition, some American Jewish leaders are cautiously optimistic that Ehud Barak will fulfill campaign promises and usher in a new era of religious pluralism in the Jewish state.
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.
Bella Zuzel is Sabbath observant but plans to break tradition to march in Saturday's rally against the war in Iraq.
"For me this is pikuach nefesh, with many lives at stake," she said, referring to the Jewish provision allowing one to break Jewish law in order to save a life.
The job looked like a perfect fit. A Solomon Schechter day school had offered a Judaic studies teaching job to an experienced Conservative rabbi, and had wrapped up negotiations over salary and benefits. Signing the contract was all that was left.
But just before signing, the rabbi wanted to make sure the principal knew she was a lesbian.
The next day the school's rabbinic authority informed the rabbi that the job offer was being revoked on the basis of that information.
In what will be a watershed moment for the Conservative movement — akin to admitting women into the rabbinate a generation ago — the ordination of openly gay and lesbian rabbis and the sanctioning of same-sex unions are likely to be approved by the denomination’s legal scholars, according to movement leaders.