Decision draws mixed reviews
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Decision draws mixed reviews

Major Jewish religious organizations offered widely differing appraisals of Wednesday’s decision, some hailing the historic decision as overdue, and others describing it as deplorable.

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, executive vice president of the Union for Reform Judaism, issued a statement noting that the Reform movement —"which has long called for full civil rights for gays and lesbians and bestows full equality on them in the religious realm" — welcomed the decision.

Said Yoffie: "We recognize that other religious movements in the Jewish and non-Jewish world are struggling with these issues now, at a time when gays are subject to political attacks and restrictions on their rights, including their right to marry. Therefore, we welcome these actions as a step toward the achievement of full civil and religious equality for our gay brothers and sisters."

The Orthodox Union, however, depicted the decision as "clearly another example of the Conservative movement’s failure to adhere to any reasonable definition of halacha."

Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, executive vice president of the organization, said: "We lament a view of Judaism that allows for the rejection of the values dictated by authentic Torah traditions. From an Orthodox perspective, we have compassion and concern for those with homosexual tendencies. Nevertheless, homosexual behavior is against the Talmud, the Bible and the Codes. We cannot see ordaining as a rabbi anyone who flaunts well-established Jewish tradition."

Similarly, a statement from the Union for Traditional Judaism — co-authored by Rabbis Bruce Ginsburg and Ronald Price, president and executive vice president, respectively — held that "[t]he Conservative Movement’s decision to issue contradictory opinions on homosexual behavior should confuse no one. The only opinion that really matters is the one that endorses gay commitment ceremonies and the ordination of professing homosexuals as rabbis…. [T]he Committee on Jewish Law and Standards would have been more forthright had it acknowledged a blanket reversal of the biblical prohibition on homosexuality. Its endorsement of same-sex commitment ceremonies and the ordination of homosexuals while ostensibly maintaining the traditional ban on anal sex is not only disingenuous. It is ludicrous…. Our hearts go out to the dwindling corps of traditionalists who until now have remained within the Conservative movement. Any fig leaf of commitment to Jewish law within their institutions has now been utterly stripped away."

Leaders of the Reconstructionist movement said they "applaud" the decision and "hope that this will lead to a clearer position of welcoming openly gay and lesbian candidates for the Conservative rabbinate, and to the religious celebration of same-sex unions within the Conservative movement."

Finally, Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public affairs for Agudath Israel, which is Orthodox, noted "with sorrow the Conservative movement’s … shameless endorsement of a position permitting ‘commitment ceremonies’ between people of the same gender and the ordination as Conservative rabbis of people living openly homosexual lives."

"This ruling doesn’t conserve the Jewish tradition, it defies it," he said. "The entire corpus of halacha, or Jewish religious law makes abundantly clear that homosexual behavior is sinful. That a movement claiming to uphold the Jewish religious tradition can arrogate to stand halachic Judaism on its head is tragic. It will no doubt cheer those who place contemporary mores above the Jewish mandate, but in the end, it seals the fate of a movement long mired in muddle and malaise."

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