By Anna Jaffray
The Schechter Rabbinical Seminary is now accepting gay and lesbian students beginning in the 2012-13 school year. The Board of Trustees of the Seminary school voted last Thursday to move forward in the allowance of gays and lesbians as Masorti seminary students, the conservative Israeli movement.
As parts of Israel, particularly Tel Aviv, become LGBT vacation and immigration hot spots, it seems the religious teachings of those areas are also becoming more inclusive. Although the Schechter Seminary described their decision as a “long process,” the school is committed to staying relevant and connected to its real world constituents.
In a statement released by the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary to JTA.org, the Seminary said, “The Schechter Rabbinical Seminary view the serious process leading to this decision as an example of confronting social dilemmas within the framework of tradition and halachah-Jewish law." Hanan Alexander, chair of the seminary’s Board of Trustees, said in a statement, "this decision highlights the institution’s commitment to uphold halachah in a pluralist and changing world.”
The Seminary trains students for a life of Jewish scholarship, “…fused with a deep dedication to social action and respect for the diversity of spiritual expression…providing a model for tolerant, inclusive and passionate Jewish commitment for Israel’s non-Orthodox majority,” according to their website. Upon completion of the program, the students will be ordained as Conservative rabbis.
Israel decriminalized homosexual activity over 20 years ago and has since supported further equal rights legislations. The Nathan Cummings Foundation and the Public Religion Research Institute released a survey in early April of this year that showed that more Jews, 46% of them, care about “a commitment to social equality," than worrying about support for Israel and religious observance.
As subscribers to the Masorti/Conservative movement of Judaism, the Seminary is taking great strides to remain inclusive and supportive of the modern world at large.