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Traditional Judaism considers particular common homosexual sexual activities as an abomination (see Question 12.28). The more liberal movements (such as Reform) make no statements about the sexual acts, but do not feel that homosexuals should be discriminated against due to sexual orientation. Great debates have raged on S.C.J regarding the extent to which Jewish practices and congregational life should include homosexuals.
Nevertheless, as with society as a whole, there are members of the Jewish community who are homosexual. A support page (<http://www.usc.edu/Library/oneigla/tb/>) has been established on the web for those individuals.
For additional information, readers might want to consult the following links:
Orthodox Jewish responses to homosexuality: http://shamash.org/listarchives/mail-jewish/Special_Topics/Homosexuals
Essay by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Oxford, UK: http://www.shamash.org/listarchives/oxford-judaism/homosexuality
http://www.gayjews.org/. This is a web page and resource for Orthodox/Traditional Jews who are homosexual. It also maintains some resources from non-Orthodox rabbis, both official positions as well as personal position papers.
Conservative Judaism has issued four separate teshuvot (responsa) on homosexuality, all of which were used as backing sources for a unified movement consensus position. The CJLS consensus position is that given the current state of scientific, psychological and biological information on the origin and nature of homosexuality, homosexual relationships nevertheless can not be judged to be in accord with halakha (Jewish law). Some of the responsa note that there are certain leninencies in the law and potential legal novellae which may be utilized, depending on new information which may be discovered.
The Conservative movement does not ordain homosexuals as rabbis or cantors, because these positions are considered to be the most important halakhic role models.
The Conservative movement does not approve of homosexual marriages or committment ceremonies.
The Conservative movement does allow homosexual men and women to otherwise participate fully in synagogue life and the Jewish community. It sees homosexuality as the non-fulfillment of one mitzvah - but there are 612 other mitzvot that are open to be fulfilled. Conservative Judaism affirms that homosexual men and women may lead prayers, have an aliyah to read from the Torah, and may even serve as youth group counselors or Hebrew school teachers.
The specifics of the Conservative responsa may be seen at http://communities.msn.com/JudaismFAQs&naventryid=118.
Reconstructionist Judaism has rejected the traditional view in all areas relating to this issue: they view all restrictions on homosexualiy as null and void. As such, they ordain homosexual Jews as rabbis and cantors. The Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association permits Jewish homosexual marriages and homosexual intermarriages.
The American Reform movement has rejected the traditional view in all areas relating to this issue: they view all restrictions on homosexualiy as null and void. As such, they do not prohibit ordination of homosexual Jews as Rabbis and Cantors (although they don't really make a point of asking anything about sexual preference beforehand). With respect to same-sex union ceremonies, in 2000, the Central Conference of American Rabbis issued a resolution that says:
WHEREAS justice and human dignity are cherished Jewish values, and
WHEREAS, in March of 1999 the Womens Rabbinic Network passed a resolution urging the Central Conference of American Rabbis to bring the issue of honoring ceremonies between two Jews of the same gender to the floor of the convention plenum, and
WHEREAS, the institutions of Reform Judaism have a long history of support for civil and equal rights for gays and lesbians, and
WHEREAS, North American organizations of the Reform Movement have passed resolutions in support of civil marriage for gays and lesbians, therefore
WE DO HEREBY RESOLVE, that the relationship of a Jewish, same gender couple is worthy of affirmation through appropriate Jewish ritual, and
FURTHER RESOLVED, that we recognize the diversity of opinions within our ranks on this issue. We support the decision of those who choose to officiate at rituals of union for same-gender couples, and we support the decision of those who do not, and
FURTHER RESOLVED, that we call upon the CCAR to support all colleagues in their choices in this matter, and
FURTHER RESOLVED, that we also call upon the CCAR to develop both educational and liturgical resources in this area.
Details on the history of this position may be found in Section 18.3.8 of the Reform FAQ. You can search for the CCAR resolutions at http://www.ccarnet.org/reso/
Progressive [Reform] Judaism in Israel does not permit homosexual marriages.
The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.
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Daniel P. Faigin <firstname.lastname@example.org>