A Sad Day for Judaism

A Reform embrace of gay marriage would ignore Jewish law and further divide American Jews

All predictions are that on March 29, the Reform rabbinate will take another step toward doctrinal incoherence when it endorses having rabbis officiate at gay "marriages." It will be a sad day for American Judaism.

Jews, like Christians, have a concept of "holy matrimony," and the ceremony and status of marriage are infused with religious meaning. The legal committee of the Reform rabbis' organization, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, has ruled against allowing rabbinical officiation at same-sex unions. Now the Reform rabbis seem determined to ignore not only Jewish law in general but even their own version of it--overruling the "responsa" that their legal committee issued and tossing it into the dustbin of Reform history.

As it is, American Jewry is facing assimilation, intermarriage, and low birth rates. Fostering gay marriage can only worsen these problems.

And American Jews are deeply divided along denominational lines--especially since the Reform movement unilaterally abrogated 5,000 years of Jewish law and practice by throwing matrilineal descent out the window. Now American Jews can't even agree on who is a Jew: someone born of a Jewish mother, as had always been the case, or someone born of a Jewish father and gentile mother as well? The decision to officiate at gay sacraments will once again separate the denominations on a sensitive issue of Jewish law.


Moreover, it will hurt the Reform movement in Israel. Reform rabbis there, already struggling for recognition against the prejudices of the Orthodox rabbinate, have always opposed a gay-marriage resolution. They know it will invite mockery and abuse from their critics and will set back their fight for equal treatment. So why? What's the religious imperative that leads the Reform movement to overpower the dissenters in its own midst, and the traditional practices of Jews everywhere? What Jewish reason is there for the almost certain March decision? There is none. Instead, the Reform movement is once again responding not to Jewish problems but to the political zeitgeist. It seems liberal, advanced, progressive, enlightened to jump toward gay marriage, so that's where the Reform movement feels compelled to go. That's a shame, for it will stir up a good deal of debate but do nothing to address American Jewry's--and Reform Jewry's--real problems.

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