B’nai Amoona to tackle same-sex issue

BY MIKE SHERWIN, STAFF WRITER

Congregation B’nai Amoona could allow same-sex commitment ceremonies in less than three months, depending on the outcome of a congregational vote in June.

Members of B’nai Amoona discussed the issue of same-sex commitment ceremonies during a congregational meeting on Monday night, but no decision will be made until the next congregational meeting on June 4.

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The catalyst for the discussion was a December 2006 ruling of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards within the Conservative Movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, the international professional association of Conservative rabbis. The committee passed three, conflicting teshuvot, or halachic rulings on homosexuality.

Two rulings were in favor of the status quo, forbidding same sex commitment ceremonies and preventing homosexuals from being ordained as rabbis. The third ruling allows for gay and lesbian Jews to be ordained and for homosexual couples to have their relationship recognized by a commitment ceremony.

A previous 1992 ruling by the committee encouraged communities to permit homosexuals to become members of Conservative congregations, but it forbid them from sanctifying those relationships.

The conflicting teshuvot released last year allow individual congregations and rabbis to decide which rules to apply for their community.

Congregation B’nai Amoona Rabbi Carnie Rose said that the teshuva permitting same sex ceremonies, could serve as a “guidepost” for the congregation.

“For those of us who are looking for a halachic way to be more inclusive, this ruling allows us to determine whether allowing same sex ceremonies will be a good fit for this congregation,” Rose said.

However, Rose noted that the committee’s ruling maintains the ban on anal sex between men, and it specifies that commitment ceremonies will not be the same as weddings.

“We are not discussing Jewish weddings for gays and lesbians…we are talking about a different kind of ceremony, some kind of commitment ceremony, but not kiddushin, not weddings as we understood them in the past. What the ceremonies will look like, we really don’t know yet.”

Rose noted that homosexual couples would not need a get, if the relationship dissolves, unlike married couples.

Overall, the discussion at the B’nai Amoona congregational meeting was overwhelmingly in favor of allowing same-sex commitment ceremonies, and some questioned the need to wait until June to take a vote on the issue.

Congregation president Karen Grossman Tabak said the reason for the wait was partly procedural and partly to allow for all members of the congregation to voice their opinions.

“According to parliamentary procedure, the discussion and the vote are typically done at separate meetings, but we also just want to give ourselves plenty of time to make sure everyone who wants to talk about the issue can be heard,” she said.

Rabbi Rose told the audience even small changes at the congregational level can be a difficult and slow process.

“Whatever steps that we take as a congregation will be fraught with all kinds of interesting challenges, and despite our best attempts to do so, there is no way that what we decide will make every single person in the congregation happy,” he said.

Although the tenor of the conversation was generally positive, and in favor of changes to allow for same sex commitment ceremonies, Rabbi Rose said he had received a few letters and emails opposing the change.

Rose and Tabak said they hoped to hear more feedback from congregants about their views and concerns of allowing same-sex commitment ceremonies.

The congregation will vote on whether or not to allow the commitment ceremonies at its next congregational meeting on June 4.