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About a month ago I posted regarding a survey I was asked to fill out regarding the Conservative movement and its recent ruling on gays in Judaism. (Click here for original post) At the time I argued that the confusing ruling was just another example of the lack of clear direction coming out of Conservative Jewry. That Conservative Jewry tries to be all thing to all people so that it will attract the most families as possible.Less than an united movement Conservative Jewry, is more like a loose confederation of Jews who don’t want to be Orthodox or Reform. The problem is– loose confederations don’t last
Today I received a copy of the full results of the survey I took last month and sadly, it confirmed my fears. The results show that the movement (which I am affiliated with) is all over the place in observance and belief. I am talking about issues that go way beyond Gays roles in Judaism, basic Jewish beliefs such as who wrote the Torah?
On the issue of Gay clergy the survey reported overwhelmingly that clergy, Shul presidents and other leaders support having Gay Clergy. According to a press release I received from the incoming Chancellor of JTS this was a decision constant with Conservative Jewry principals. The remarkably consistent support for gay ordination across the board among Conservative Jews in the United States, whether clergy or other Jewish professionals or lay leaders or students.

The no-less-striking consistency among survey respondents is concerning their commitment to a number of key principles of Conservative Judaism, notably the centrality of halakhah and egalitarianism; the need for a centralized Rabbinical Assembly Law Committee; and opposition to both patrilineal descent and rabbis officiating at mixed marriages. …I believe that as a movement we Conservative Jews do have a clear profile. It tells us, as well, that the vast majority of those on both sides of the ordination issue recognize the legitimacy of those who disagree with them and their rightful presence in the Conservative Movement.
After reading the full report, I realized that incoming Chancellor, Arnold Eisen may be living in a dream land with his analysis, there are sizable splits in the movement. Confusing Responses to a Confusing Gay Ruling

  • The survey showed an overwhelming majority of those polled supported gay clergy, just as overwhelmingly they supported Conservative Jewry being a Halakhic based movement (65-67%), how can we reconcile the two?
  • There is that “sticky” quote in the Torah about homosexuality being an abomination. The way that the rabbinical committee got around that is by saying that it is OK to be gay but males could not have “homosexual intercourse.” Over 50% of those who answered that question opposed that part of the ruling.
  • Across the board people felt embarrassed by the ruling—almost 70% of clergy almost 60% of other professionals and lay leaders.
  • Except for the clergy over half of those questioned felt the ruling was confusing (a third of the clergy)
  • Significant amounts of the respondents felt that the ruling was outside of acceptable halakich reasoning (35% of Clergy, 28% 0f lay leaders). True these numbers are less than half, but this sizable minority like this can end up splitting the movement.
  • Almost a third of all respondents feel that the “gay ruling” will lead to fewer committed Conservative Jews.
  • Two thirds of the respondents that answered felt that the committee should have circulated their decisions for interested members of the movement prior to releasing their decision.


Other Issues

  • Almost 40% of all respondents (including 36% of all clergy!!!!) believe that the Torah was written by man, not G-d. How can you be a Halakcha-based movement if you don’t believe one of the basic tenants of Judaism….that the Torah was written by G-d?
  • 41% of clergy believe that the 35 year-old ruling that it was OK to drive to Shul on Shabbos was a mistake. (I’l l bet they don’t change it)
  • Kashrut, only 65% percent of Shul’s lay leaders keep Kosher at home, and only 75% of other leaders.
  • Shabbos: Over 60% of Conservative Jewish Clergy Use Lights on Shabbos. I found this very surprising.

To be honest I am surprised and saddened by the results of this survey. Most of the respondents agreed with the decisions about gays overall, but were not happy with the way it was done. They felt that the ruling was confusing and were embarrassed by the way it was announced.

The diversity of belief and observance, especially between Clergy and lay leaders prove that there is no clear direction in the movement. After reading this survey you got to feel that Conservative Jewry is less about a “movement,” more about a compromise and not being Orthodox or Reform. What you are left with is polarization and confusion.

I have come to realize that the thing that disturbs me the most is the fact that there was a survey at all. You see, unlike those 36% of Conservative Rabbis, I happen to believe that the Torah was written by G-d. Not only where there more than 600 thousand souls there as witnesses that is one of the main differences between Judaism and other religions, G-d gave us the law directly, not to a prophet or a priest but to USThe Alsheich, in his commentary and explanation on the Song of Songs, brings down a medrash explaining a verse in the Torah that the people saw and heard every word. How can one see a word? As the words came out of Hashem’s mouth (and when the people became too terrified and asked after the first two commandments that Moshe continue instead), each word stood in front of each Jew and asked if he/she believed, if he/she understood. When the individual said yes, they kissed him/her.

The other “witness” to the fact that G-d authored the Torah is that ONLY a divinely written document can be as relevant to the lifestyle of today as it was to the lifestyle of three thousand years ago.

When you look at Torah as divinely written, then Halakcha should not instituted via a random survey of clergy and people like me, observant maybe, but with little or no training. But unfortunately that is the Conservative way….be all things to all people—but one day it will be all things to NO people.

Detailed Results Your Position in Conservative Judaism

Clerical Leaders Professional Leaders Lay Leaders Other
Are members of the Board of Directors of the USCJ 1% 1% 8% 0%
Clerical Leaders Professional Leaders Lay Leaders Other
Hold positions of leadership with respect to JTS 6% 1% 2% 2%

Your Views on the Issues What are your views on the relevant issues and related matters, recently addressed by the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards?

Clerical Leaders Professional Leaders Lay Leaders Other
Ordination of gay rabbis Favor 65% 74% 66% 68%
Oppose 27% 18% 24% 23%
Investiture of gay cantors Favor 66% 75% 67% 69%
Oppose 26% 16% 23% 20%
Rabbis performing same-sex commitment ceremonies Favor 63% 76% 68% 70%
Oppose 28% 16% 23% 21%
Rabbis marrying same-sex couples in a Jewish marriage ceremony Favor 31% 48% 36% 48%
Oppose 52% 33% 46% 36%
Prohibiting “male homosexual intercourse” Favor 36% 21% 30% 27%
Oppose 44% 55% 45% 51%
Banning homosexual physical intimacy Favor 13% 7% 12% 10%
Oppose 75% 83% 76% 79%
Advocating “reparative therapy” Favor 6% 3% 5% 3%
Oppose 83% 89% 84% 87%

Your Initial reactions In which of the following ways did you react when you heard of the CJLS decisions?

Clerical Leaders Professional Leaders Lay Leaders Other
Relieved 43% 38% 32% 35%
Confused 36% 51% 52% 53%
Marginalized in the Cons. Movement 26% 20% 23% 22%
Proud to be a Conservative Jew 37% 36% 38% 33%
I could not defend the stance of the Conservative movement 36% 34% 36% 36%
Somewhat embarrassed 67% 59% 58% 57%
CJLS decisions did not go far enough in legitimizing gay relationships 39% 49% 35% 43%
Pleased that the Committee had endorsed multiple opposing opinions 38% 34% 34% 34%
The decisions were an interim step towards full equality of gays in the Conservative Jewish community 63% 63% 60% 60%
The decisions were an accommodation to political correctness 41% 43% 49% 44%


Your views on the CJLS Decisions – and Related Issues Do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements?

Clerical Leaders Professional Leaders Lay Leaders Other
The CJLS will help Conservative Judaism appeal to younger Jews Agree 49% 51% 50% 50%
Disagree 28% 22% 25% 23%
In the long run, the CJLS decisions will mean fewer committed conservative Jews Agree 30% 27% 29% 31%
Disagree 52% 51% 50% 48%
My close friends seem to largely support the CJLS decision permitting ordaining gay rabbis Agree 61% 62% 52% 56%
Disagree 20% 15% 19% 17%
My fellow congregants seem to largely oppose the CJLS decision Agree 22% 15% 20% 18%
Disagree 49% 46% 44% 37%
The CJLS decisions blur the boundary between Conservative and Reform Judaism Agree 44% 34% 39% 39%
Disagree 50% 55% 49% 48%
The CJLS decisions widen the gap between Conservatism and Orthodoxy Agree 84% 81% 85% 80%
Disagree 11% 11% 8% 10%
If my congregation employs gay rabbis and cantors I will join another synagogue Agree 16% 10% 15% 14%
Disagree 76% 83% 74% 74%
If my congregation employs gay rabbis and cantors I will join another movement Agree 12% 9% 11% 13%
Disagree 80% 85% 79% 77%
It doesn’t matter to me if my rabbi or cantor would be openly gay Agree 62% 72% 61% 64%
Disagree 30% 21% 28% 26%
I would not attend a same-sex Jewish commitment ceremony Agree 25% 13% 19% 16%
Disagree 65% 79% 71% 74%
I hope the 4 rabbis who resigned from the CJLS will return Agree 62% 48% 55% 45%
Disagree 20% 18% 12% 17%
The CJLS should have circulated the draft teshuvot for study by interested members of the Conservative movement Agree 51% 52% 51% 59%
Disagree 31% 22% 25% 13%
CJLS members who voted to liberalize the stance on gays were strongly influenced by family, friends and congregants Agree 41% 26% 26% 28%
Disagree 21% 19% 15% 12%
CJLS members who voted to keep the previous stance on gays were strongly influenced by family, friends and congregants Agree 20% 16% 17% 19%
Disagree 39% 26% 23% 19%
Homosexuality is in-born, not chosen voluntarily Agree 77% 82% 78% 80%
Disagree 7% 4% 7% 6%
With reparative therapy, many homosexuals can change their sexual orientation Agree 5% 2% 3% 3%
Disagree 82% 89% 86% 88%
The legal reasoning in the permissive paper that was approved by the CJLS was outside the pale of acceptability of halakhic reasoning Agree 35% 25% 29% 28%
Disagree 50% 42% 41% 35%
Those who walk to shul on Shabbat are really orthodox Agree 4% 7% 8% 10%
Disagree 94% 88% 87% 83%
It was a mistake for the CJLS, years ago, to have legitimated driving to shul on Shabbat Agree 41% 22% 13% 27%
Disagree 50% 70% 81% 61%
Conservative Judaism would be better served if there were no centralized Law Committee Agree 15% 8% 7% 8%
Disagree 68% 65% 69% 60%
Conservative Judaism is a halakhic movement Agree 65% 64% 67% 59%
Disagree 20% 16% 12% 16%
Conservative Judaism should stop pretending it is a halakhic movement Agree 24% 20% 14% 19%
Disagree 62% 60% 65% 55%
The torah was written by people and not by God or by Divine inspiration Agree 36% 39% 42% 36%
Disagree 53% 42% 38% 41%
I would not want a women to serve as rabbi of my congregation Agree 8% 9% 8% 14%
Disagree 89% 86% 87% 80%
I would not want a women to serve as cantor of my congregation Agree 10% 9% 8% 14%
Disagree 87% 86% 88% 81%
Conservative congregations that are not fully gender egalitarian should leave the movement Agree 18% 25% 19% 24%
Disagree 75% 64% 72% 60%
Conservative congregations that won’t hire gay rabbis or cantors should leave the movement Agree 11% 17% 11% 17%
Disagree 80% 69% 77% 66%
Conservative Judaism should adopt “patrilineal descent” Agree 15% 27% 27% 24%
Disagree 76% 56% 54% 58%
Conservative rabbis ought to be allowed to officiate at marriages between Jews and non-Jews Agree 6% 17% 21% 21%
Disagree 89% 70% 66% 63%

The Seminaries Would you favor or oppose the following actions by three of the movement’s training institutions?

Clerical Leaders Professional Leaders Lay Leaders Other
Accepting gay and lesbian students at the JTS rabbinical school Favor 65% 76% 68% 70%
Oppose 27% 15% 21% 20%
Accepting gay and lesbian students at the UJ’s rabbinical school Favor 67% 77% 68% 71%
Oppose 24% 14% 20% 19%
Accepting gay and lesbian students at the Machon Schechter rabbinical school Favor 59% 74% 67% 68%
Oppose 29% 16% 21% 20%
Accepting gay cantorial students at JTS Favor 66% 78% 70% 73%
Oppose 26% 14% 20% 18%

Gay and Lesbian Jews in Positions of Conservative Leadership Would you favor or oppose engaging an openly gay or lesbian person in the following positions?

Clerical Leaders Professional Leaders Lay Leaders Other
Congregational rabbi Favor 65% 74% 62% 65%
Oppose 28% 18% 27% 24%
Cantor Favor 66% 75% 65% 68%
Oppose 27% 16% 23% 20%
Head of religious school Favor 72% 76% 65% 74%
Oppose 19% 13% 21% 16%
Executive director of a congregation Favor 84% 84% 78% 82%
Oppose 7% 6% 9% 8%
President of the congregation Favor 83% 85% 77% 82%
Oppose 8% 6% 9% 8%
Schechter principal Favor 72% 76% 66% 74%
Oppose 19% 13% 20% 16%
Schechter teacher of general studies Favor 82% 82% 72% 81%
Oppose 10% 8% 14% 9%
Ramah camp counselor Favor 72% 75% 63% 76%
Oppose 18% 12% 21% 13%
USY director Favor 73% 76% 64% 78%
Oppose 18% 12% 21% 13%

Personal Patterns of Observance and Belief

Clerical Leaders Professional Leaders Lay Leaders Other
Dine in restaurants without a kashrut certificate 87% 94% 98% 93%
(If yes) Eat warmed food (e.g., fish) prepared at such restaurants 81% 90% 97% 89%
(If yes) Eat cooked meat at such restaurants 9% 36% 57% 40%
Keep kosher at home 96% 75% 65% 73%
Fast at least part of the day on Tisha b’Av 90% 62% 43% 63%
Say daily prayers at least 3 times a week 83% 40% 33% 33%
Attend Shabbat services at least 3 times a month 95% 79% 82% 69%
Refrain from shopping on Shabbat 94% 60% 43% 49%
Clerical Leaders Professional Leaders Lay Leaders Other
Refrain from turning lights on, on Shabbat 37% 17% 6% 19%
Refrain from driving to shul on Shabbat 64% 27% 11% 31%
Engage in Jewish text study more than once a week 86% 55% 44% 48%

With respect to other conservative leaders in similar position or status as yourself, do you see yourself as…

Clerical Leaders Professional Leaders Lay Leaders Other
Theologically… Conservative 24% 29% 31% 32%
Moderate 41% 32% 41% 33%
Liberal 35% 38% 28% 34%
Observance… Conservative 39% 32% 30% 32%
Moderate 41% 37% 43% 37%
Liberal 20% 31% 27% 31%


Background Information You are…

Clerical Leaders Professional Leaders Lay Leaders Other
Male 74% 35% 59% 46%
Female 26% 65% 41% 54%

You are…

Clerical Leaders Professional Leaders Lay Leaders Other
Under 25 8% 10% 0% 53%
25- 44 36% 36% 16% 17%
45- 59 38% 39% 59% 19%
60+ 18% 15% 25% 12%

You are…

Clerical Leaders Professional Leaders Lay Leaders Other
Married 76% 67% 88% 34%
Never married 12% 16% 3% 47%
Clerical Leaders Professional Leaders Lay Leaders Other
Divorced or separated 5% 6% 3% 2%
Widowed 1% 1% 2% 1%
In a committed relationship with a person of the opposite sex 5% 7% 2% 13%
In a committed relationship with a person of the same sex 2% 3% 1% 2%

You live in…

Clerical Leaders Professional Leaders Lay Leaders Other
The U.S. 90% 93% 96% 93%
Canada 3% 4% 3% 3%
Israel 5% 3% 0% 3%
Elsewhere 2% 0% 0% 1%

About how many families belong to the synagogue with which you are affiliated?

Clerical Leaders Professional Leaders Lay Leaders Other
0- 99 9% 6% 8% 10%
100- 249 21% 18% 20% 21%
250- 499 31% 30% 35% 30%
500- 749 17% 19% 17% 16%
750- 999 10% 12% 8% 8%
1000 or more 13% 15% 11% 15%

Ever attended…

Clerical Leaders Professional Leaders Lay Leaders Other
Jewish day school 38% 28% 16% 42%
Camp Ramah 46% 28% 15% 36%
Active in USY or LTF 50% 51% 38% 59%
Studied for a summer or more in Israel 80% 54% 25% 46%
JTS 75% 20% 3% 11%
UJ 17% 7% 1% 3%
Machon Schechter 33% 3% 1% 2%

Are openly gay…

Clerical Leaders Professional Leaders Lay Leaders Other
Members of extended family 34% 38% 35% 34%
Close friends 61% 64% 48% 64%
Friends’ children, grandchildren, or parents 55% 54% 50% 43%
You 2% 5% 2% 6%

The Instrument Dear respondent to the JTS Study: The three teshuvot accepted by the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards embrace a wide range of conclusions. They may be described succinctly in simplified form as follows:

  • One teshuva reaffirmed the prior position of the CJLS, which denied ordination as clergy to active homosexuals and also prohibited same-sex commitment ceremonies or marriage.
  • One teshuva, while retaining the Torah’s explicit prohibition as understood by the rabbis banning male homosexual intercourse, argued for the full normalization of the status of gay and lesbian Jews. Under this ruling, gay and lesbian Jews may be ordained as clergy and their committed relationships may be recognized, although not as sanctified marriage.
  • A third teshuva upheld the traditional prohibitions, argued that homosexuality is not a unitary condition, and urged the development of educational programs within the community to achieve understanding, compassion, and dignity for gays and lesbians.

Each of these positions is now valid within Conservative Judaism, and individual rabbis will choose which position to follow

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