JTS Chief Opposes Policy Change

By Elli Wohlgelernter

Published February 13, 2004, issue of February 13, 2004.

JERUSALEM — Rabbi Ismar Schorsch, chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, told the Forward that he opposes any change to the Conservative movement’s prohibition against ordaining gay rabbis or sanctioning same-sex commitment ceremonies.

Schorsch outlined his position this week while attending the annual convention of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly in Jerusalem. It appeared to be the first time that the rabbi had spoken out on the issue since Judy Yudof, president of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, called for a review of the policy, and the movement’s top lawmaking body agreed to reconsider the issue.

Schorsch said he worried that any change would split the movement, but also because an endorsement of same-sex commitment ceremonies would mean that “there is very little to prevent us halachically from officiating at [interfaith] marriages, or accepting the matrilineal principle.

“The principal reason for not ordaining [homosexuals] and not performing commitment ceremonies is that there is simply no halachic justification for it,” Schorsch said.

Elsewhere at the gathering, much attention was focused on Rabbi Baruch Zeilicovich, the Conservative rabbi from Texas who was arrested and briefly detained by Israeli police Tuesday after trying, along with fellow rabbis, to unfurl a banner near the Western Wall reading “The wall belongs to us all.” Zeilicovich, who leads a congregation in Fort Worth, was among some 200 Conservative rabbis from around the world protesting construction that will nearly double the gender-segregated prayer area adjacent to Judaism’s holiest site, the Kotel. Officials said Zeilicovich did not have a permit for the sign.



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