The struggle for Reform and Conservative legitimacy in Israel remained clouded this week as the chief rabbinate studied the recommendation of a government committee to effectively recognize them yet preserve Orthodox hegemony over conversions in Israel.
Chief Rabbis Yisrael Lau and Eliahu Bakshi-Doron were to meet this week with members of the Knesset Absorption Committee, who favor the Neeman Committee’s proposals, and with the chairman of the government committee, Finance Minister Yaakov Neeman.
Rather than risk further violence from ultra-Orthodox Jews at the Western Wall, the Conservative movement is on the verge of agreeing to an Israeli government proposal to move its egalitarian prayer services to the southern end of the wall known as Robinson’s Arch.
“It’s the same wall, the same stones, the same holiness,” said Rabbi Ehud Bandel, president of Masorti, the Conservative movement’s arm in Israel.
Philadelphia — The government of Israel is on the verge of recognizing “the legitimate rights of Conservative Jews,” the movement’s president in Israel, Rabbi Ehud Bandel, revealed here this week.
The breakthrough would come over the right of Conservative Jews to hold religious services with mixed seating at the Western Wall, one of Judaism’s most sacred sites.
Philadelphia — A project hailed as the “most exciting Jewish educational idea in a generation,” one that would mark a radical departure from the way young children are taught, was unveiled here this week by the chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary.
“If it works, it would effect a systemic change in the entire educational system,” said Rabbi Ismar Schorsch at the annual convention of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly.
While an emerging grassroots network of Conservative Jews met in Manhattan on Sunday to reinvigorate their movement with new leadership, a senior Conservative legal scholar warned that ordaining gay rabbis could lead to an onslaught of other potentially schismatic issues being brought to the law committee.
Concluding her impassioned remarks at a panel Sunday on the future of the Conservative movement, Judith Hauptman, a rabbi and professor of Talmud at the Jewish Theological Seminary, issued “an open call to the next chancellor” — an issue of great interest since the announcement that Ismar Schorsch was stepping down from the post after two decades this June and with no successor chosen yet.
Bloggers are having a field day with a survey e-mailed last week to rabbis, cantors, educators and lay leaders of the Conservative movement to learn their views on same-sex marriage and whether active gays should be ordained as clergy.
Saying that children of non-Jewish mothers would benefit from a Jewish day school education, a Conservative leader has proposed that such children be admitted to the movement’s Solomon Schechter Day Schools with the understanding that they are expected to eventually convert to Judaism.
As the Conservative movement began grappling this week with the implications of the landmark Law Committee ruling paving the way for gay ordination, thousands of Conservative Jewish leaders are to shortly be polled for their opinion on the issue.
Homosexual Jews may now be ordained as Conservative rabbis and rabbis now may perform same-sex unions, according to a landmark ruling Wednesday by the movement’s rabbinical committee that interprets Jewish law.
At the same time, the committee also upheld the current ban on gay rabbis or teachers, or other leadership positions.
The split decision, rendered after two days of deliberations here by the 25-member Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, was made possible because five position papers were considered and each needed only six votes to be considered valid.