Category: Jewish Culture

Update: Also see the later and more detailed post How to Handle SIW points us to the OU’s new site dedicated to abstinence with the redirected link SIW…

Jewish Dating Jewish Thought, Theology, and Machshava

In a statement released yesterday, the Jewish Theological Seminary has officially changed its policy and will admit gay and lesbian students to its rabbinical and cantorial school. We have previously covered this issue with our initial reaction when the news broke, a detailed response to the Dorff teshuva which provided the halakhic basis for the policy change, and a brief survey of the reactions from other denominations.

For most observers the official decision to admit homosexual students was a forgone conclusion and largely anti-climatic. Given the history and hermeneutics of Conservative Judaism, it would of little suprise that the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) would eventually rationalize a dispensation, and once articulated the dispensation would likely be implemented.

However, this controversy is particularly interesting as not only exemplary of how Conservative Judaism functions organically, but also of its most recent trends and implementations. In our previous discussions, one of our recurring themes was that despite the specific innovation of ordaining homosexuals, the decision and process followed well established ideological, halakhic, and social patterns of Conservative Judaism. In his explanation of the decision, JTS Chancellor-Elect Arnold Eisen continues in the Conservative tradition through the lens of his own personal interpretations.

Jewish Culture Jewish Law / Halakha Jewish Thought, Theology, and Machshava

The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools (Kohelet 9:17)

Like all Jewish communities Washington Heights has its share of internal controversies, but rarely do they become publicized. Most discussions on the Maalotwashington message board did not get circulated and at times they were moderated when the discussion happened to get out of hand. In the rare instances that a significant problem arose, we have usually been able to achieve some resolution or at least mutual understanding and do so with minimal fanfare.
But as the community continues to grow and the transient community constantly changes, the internal dynamics will naturally have to adapt. Having more people in the community means more ideas and opinions among the congregation, but fewer outlets for an individual to express them. In Washington Heights this can be particularly frustrating since the community is ideologically diverse (relatively) there are more opinions and perspectives which would be ignored or in some cases suppressed. From the other point of view, it is likely that an established community would have confronted many of the “new” issues at some point and would not wish to repeatedly revisit old arguments every few years given the high turnover of members. The mutual question at hand then becomes how can individuals express themselves, and in turn, how does the community respond.
The past few weeks have been unusually eventful with a heated debate over women speaking in the synagogue and the formation of a new “progressive” minyan. While both could be considered controversial to varying degrees, the discussions surrounding them demonstrate different examples of expression within a religious community.

Jewish Culture Jewish Law / Halakha Jewish Thought, Theology, and Machshava

דרש בר קפרא, מאי דכתיב: “ויתד תהיה לך על אזנך?” אל תקרי אזנך אלא על אוזנך, שאם ישמע אדם דבר שאינו הגון יניח אצבעו באזניו -בבלי כתובות ה:א-ב Bar Kafra…

Jewish Culture News & Events

We have already written extensively about the Conservative decision regarding homosexuality. While there is still room to discuss the halakhic issues – including analyzing the other teshuvot, today’s focus will…

Jewish Culture Jewish Law / Halakha Jewish Thought, Theology, and Machshava

Update: Readers of this post may also be interested in my master’s thesis
When I made my preliminary comments on the Conservative movement’s recent decisions regarding homosexuality, the best source available at the time were press releases and either superficial or inaccurate coverage in the mainstream media. Fortunately, Steven I. Weiss has graciously posted the text of the actual teshuva. At 55 pages including footnotes, it is not exactly a light read but it is an important read nonetheless, given the serious nature of the topic discussed, and when others comment without having read the actual text. If you are new to this site, you may find my post “Lonely Men of Faith” a helpful context. This post will focus specifically on the Conservative teshuva itself.

Advisory: Normally YUTOPIA is a family blog, but given the topic of the post, some readers may feel uncomfortable with this discussion.

Articles, Papers, and Publications Jewish Culture Jewish Law / Halakha Jewish Thought, Theology, and Machshava

Conservative Judaism recently made headlines with their reevaluation of homosexuality in Jewish law. Although Conservative Judaism rejected homosexuality in 1992 (PDF), there was a request to reconsider the issue. When we covered homosexuality from an Orthodox perspective in “Lonely Men of Faith1 we referenced the debate between Rabbi Elliot Dorf and Rabbi Joel Roth, but there has obviously been significantly more discussion on the matter culminating in yesterday’s decision. From what limited information we have at this time, this new decision is hardly as groundbreaking as people might think.

Culture Jewish Culture Jewish Law / Halakha Jewish Thought, Theology, and Machshava News & Events

Be careful in your relations with the government; for they draw no man close to themselves except for their own interests. They appear as friends when it is to their advantage, but they do not stand by a man in his time of stress (M. Avot 2:3).

Despite being a demographic minority in America, Jews seemingly wield a disproportionate influence in American politics such that the “Jewish Vote” becomes an annual topic of interest. Politicians are concerned with this minority that both Democrats and Republicans equally compete for the “pro-Israel” label, and any missteps must be swiftly addressed. There has been some recent discussion as to the nature, significance, and future of the Jewish vote specifically mostly focusing on party affiliation and voting patterns. Today on YUTOPIA we will be reconsidering if partisanship is really the ideal context for defining the Jewish vote.

Jewish Culture Politics

The NYTimes had an article this past weekend about Wedding Fatigue brought on by the inordinate amount of time and money one spends to attend (and gift) the ever increasing…

Jewish Culture

Years ago at the Shabbat table my sister and I used to tease my father’s “selective” memory with the old joke “the memory is the second thing to go.” What…

Jewish Dating Personal