Friday, November 15, 2013

Reform Judaism's Evolution Regarding Gays

Here are excerpts outlining Reform Judaism's rabbis (Central Conference of American Rabbis) evolution on gay rights. I'm a little surprised they released these policy documents to the Berman Jewish Policy Archive since it makes them look really craven, but it's interesting. By the way the BJPA is an amazing resource and I just wish more older documents would get released to it.

American Reform Responsa: Judaism and Homosexuality, 1973, responding to a question about a West Coast Reform rabbi who organized a gay synagogue.

There is no question that Scripture considers homosexuality to be a grave sin. The rabbi who organized this congregation, justifying himself, said that being Reform, we are not bound by the Halacha of the Bible. It may well be that we do not consider ourselves bound by all the ritual and ceremonial laws of Scripture, but we certainly revere the ethical attitudes and judgments of the Bible. In Scripture (Lev. 18:22), homosexuality is considered to be "an abomination." So, too, in Leviticus 20:13. If Scripture calls it an abomination, it means that it is more than violation of a mere legal enactment: it reveals a deep-rooted ethical attitude. How deep-rooted this aversion is can be seen from the fact that, although Judaism developed in the Near East, which is notorious for the prevalence of homosexuality, Jews kept away from such acts, as is seen from the Talmud (Kiddushin 82a), which states that Jews are not "under the suspicion of homosexuality." In other words, the opposition to homosexuality was more than a Biblical law; it was a deep-rooted way of life of the Jewish people, a way of life maintained in a world where homosexuality was a widespread practice. Therefore, homosexual acts cannot be brushed aside, as the rabbi in the West is reported to have done, by saying that we do not follow Biblical enactments. Homosexuality runs counter to the sancta of Jewish life. There is no side-stepping the fact that from the point of view of Judaism men who practice homosexuality are to be deemed sinners.


It seems to be also that it is not unfair to ascribe an additional motive for their desire to be grouped together, to the exclusion of others: in this way they know each other and are available to each other, just as they now group together in separate bars and saloons in the great cities. What, then, of young boys who perhaps have only a partial homosexual tendency, who will now be available to inveterate homosexuals? Are we not thereby committing the sin of "aiding and abetting sinners" (Mesayea yedei overei avera)?


It is hardly worth mentioning that to officiate at a so-called "marriage" of two homosexuals and to describe their mode of life as "Kiddushin" (i.e., sacred in Judaism) is a contravention of all that is respected in Jewish life.

American Reform Responsa: Allowing Homosexuals to be religious school teachers/have leadership positions, 1981

We reject this type of individual as a role model within that Jewish community. We cannot recommend such an individual as a role model nor should he/she be placed in a position of leadership or guidance for children of any age.

American Reform Responsa: Homosexual Converts to Judaism, 1982

QUESTION: "In our community there is a small group of 'gay' Jews who have gathered together to form a havurah. ... Recently a few non-Jews have been attracted to the havurah. Several of them have indicated an interest in Jewish life, and one individual in particular has approached me in regards to the possibility of studying in order to convert to Judaism. In light of the strong antipathy of Judaism to homosexuality, should we accept a known and active homosexual who desires to convert to Judaism? (Rabbi R. Safran, Ft. Wayne, IN)

ANSWER: ... The entire matter is somewhat complicated by the fact that this group of homosexuals has organized itself into a havurah. We must ask ourselves whether it is simply for the purpose of companionship, or if this is a group who will seek to attract others to a homosexual lifestyle. In the case of the latter, we could certainly not accept a convert who intends to influence others in that direction. Otherwise, a homosexual who wishes to convert to Judaism should be accepted as any other convert.

American Reform Responsa: Officiate at a Gay Marriage, 1985

... [Reform Judaism] does not, however, understand [homosexuality] to be an alternative lifestyle which is religiously condoned.

Judaism places great emphasis on family, children and the future, which is assured by a family. However we may understand homosexuality,whether as an illness, as a genetically based dysfunction or as a sexual preference and lifestyle-we cannot accommodate the relationship of two homosexuals as a "marriage" within the context of Judaism, for none of the elements of qiddushin (sanctification) normally associated with marriage can be invoked for this relationship.

A rabbi can not, therefore, participate in the "marriage" of two homosexuals.

Reform Responsa: Gay Marriage officiation, 1996

The majority of the members of this Committee respond in the negative to this she'elah. In our opinion, a Reform rabbi should not officiate at a ceremony of marriage between two persons of the same gender, whether or not this ceremony is called by the name kiddushin.

A minority of us, whose names are indicated at the conclusion of this teshuvah, disagree, holding that a Reform rabbi may officiate at a wedding or "commitment" ceremony for two homosexuals, although for important historical and theological reasons, that ceremony should perhaps not be called kiddushin.

Resolution on Same Gender Officiation, March 2000

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