February 16, 2005

by Reb Yudel
Countdown to April: Cohen calls for Conservative Judaism to welcome gays

Rabbi Ayelet Cohen in Forward Newspaper Online:

I have heard many times the claim that full inclusion of gay people in the Conservative movement and in Judaism in general is of concern only to a small number of “activist rabbis” and outsiders. These critics forget that the movement has made gay and lesbian people outsiders by closing them out of its institutions while offering them an empty welcome.

It is time for the “insiders,” the heterosexual Jews whose participation in Jewish life is not called into question by the movement’s policies, to raise our voices to call the Conservative movement toward justice. The Reconstructionist and Reform movements have moved more swiftly to embrace the diversity of our Jewish families and call for civil and religious equality for gay and lesbian people. The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards has the opportunity to do so this spring in a way consistent with the process of the Conservative movement. It is time for the Conservative movement to stand behind its promises of welcome within the movement’s institutions and support for civil equality of gay and lesbian people in this country.


Good for her, but I'm still troubled about the opportunism I sense in her "recent struggle" with the RA. The following sentence is mischievous at best, because if you didn't know the whole story, you would assume that her "struggle" was based on her work at CBST, which the RA adamantly denies and even she has seems to have retreated from:

"I am proud that despite my recent struggle with the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, I can continue serving Congregation Beth Simchat Torah — the world’s largest synagogue serving gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Jews — as a member of the Rabbinical Assembly. But let us not forget that the privilege of membership was only available to me at the outset because I am heterosexual."

I think it would have been clearer, and maybe more honest, had she written, "I am RELIEVED that the R.A. has allowed me to continue to serve CBST as a member of the organization, resolving our dispute over its rules for placing rabbis in non-RA -affiliated synagogues. But let us not forget that the privilege of membership was only available to me at the outset because I am heterosexual."

Posted by: Silow-Carroll at February 17, 2005 10:08 AM


Are you accusing the daugher of Peres-and-Arafat-confidante Steven P. Cohen of out-strategizing the Rabbinical Assembly?

It seems a safe assumption that she deliberately gamed the system. I would guess the formal paperwork from the RA came, asking her to reapply for an extension, and she let it sit in her in-box. (Descriptions of the bureacratic process here are all supposition).

The RA, for its part, I assume never picked up the telephone to settle it informally prior to it becoming enough of a crisis for her to contact the press.

The brilliance, though, is that she underlined the legalistic mentality that at's play; had they treated R. Cohen as a person, there would have been no news story.

And if the Conservative Movement were to treat homosexual Jews as people -- or for that matter, to recognize that sex is a halachic issue for all Jews -- then we wouldn't have this self-fulfilling prophecy that the question of homosexuality will split the movement.

Posted by: Reb Yudel at February 17, 2005 10:25 AM
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