Conservative Judaism and Homosexuality: Understanding the New Debate

A few weeks ago I received the relieving news that my master’s thesis from the University of Chicago finally passed after several years and several attempts. The approved version was actually a draft and needed some degree of editing for typos, grammar, and a few structural changes. After mulling it over for a while and getting some positive feedback I’ve decided to post the thesis here with a few explanations.

The title of the thesis is “Conservative Judaism and Homosexuality: Understanding the New Debate” which may remind some loyal readers of my JIB finalist post A Response to the Conservative Teshuvot on Homosexuality. While there is some minor overlap between the post and the thesis, there are significant differences. Obviously, the thesis is more substantial and better documented, but there area also differences in terms of style and tone. As a blogger I was writing as an Orthodox Rabbi and arguing against Dorff’s arguments on halakhic grounds to a fairly knowledgeable audience. For the thesis I was writing as a researcher for readers with little to no background in Jewish law or Conservative Judaism’s approach to halakha and as such there are more explanations of definitions, principles, and concepts. Furthermore, while I do point out internal halakhic inconsistencies of both R. Joel Roth and R. Elliot Dorff, I do not take a position as to the halakhic merits of either Dorff’s or Roth’s teshuva. Rather, I try to explain how they are inconsistent and provide a framework for why they are inconsistent within their own respective systems of halakha.

I should also point out that this was not entirely my choice for a topic, but due to the difficulties I had with my previous attempts, my new advisers pointed me in this direction.1

Finally, I was under and extremely tight deadline and the entire thesis was defined, researched, and written in approximately one (very intense) month. This may explain the relative shortness of length (the thesis is only around 50 pages) and any lack of precision, omissions, or general carelessness in the final draft.

Still, I do think the paper stands on its merits, and as always, I welcome the insightful comments and criticism of my readers. Without futher ado, I present my A.M.2 thesis:
Conservative Judaism and Homosexuality: Understanding the New Debate (PDF)
(Please link to this post and not the PDF itself)

1. If anyone is interested I can fill in the sordid details privately. However, I do want to extend my gratitude to the new advisers for their patience and guidance in a sub-optimal circumstance.
2. It’s a U of C thing to call M.A.’s A.M.’s.


  1. Philip
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