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Should I Join a Congregation with a Lesbian Rabbi?
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© Rabbi Jack Moline

Q: I was brought up Reform and am now married and searching for a new home in a Jewish community. One of the areas I have located has a Reconstructionist temple with a gay female rabbi who has a partner and has adopted a child. I have nothing against the gay community or female rabbis but the combination doesn't seem "kosher" to me. What are you thoughts? Does this matter? How do you think my children (in the future) will react?

A: The last condition is the problem -- nobody, including me, is objective on this subject. Homosexuality (in fact, sexuality in general) makes everyone uncomfortable on some level.

It seems to me that you have some considering to do on two levels. The first has to do with your approach to Judaism. Choosing a synagogue community is difficult. You have to like the rabbi, the people and the form of Judaism practiced. Reconstructionism affirms the equality of many kinds of sexual expression -- and equality means they are all of the same worth, value and desirability. To their credit, they offer more than lip service to that principle, as is evident from the rabbi in this particular congregation. Not all forms of Judaism are quite so open, and so the leadership will be more "traditional." The farther right you go on the spectrum, the more likely you will be to find rabbis who are men, married, etc. (whatever the etc. is!). The operating principles of the community you choose should refect the values you want to practice in your life and convey to your children, God willing. (By the way, there is more to Reconstructionism theologically than the approach to sexuality. You might want to read something by their founder, Mordecai M. Kaplan, to understand their approach to God, Torah and the Jewish people.)

The second thing to consider is far more difficult. How do you REALLY feel about homosexuality? (The question is not accusatory -- I don't have a good answer for myself!) On the one hand, you may consider it a second-best option, or an affliction of some kind, or an unfortunate twist of fate for some people. Far from being cause for persecution, homosexuality may cause a sense of compassion and sadness in you -- but make it difficult for you to deal with it "in your face." On the other hand, you may consider prejudice against gays and lesbians to be the contemporary equivalent of prejudice against Blacks, Hispanics and even Jews. In that case, confronting your own biases may be difficult, but like the courageous people who live in the South and have made the transition through the civil rights movement, you may want to live with your discomfort in order to set an example for the next generation.

In any event, should you choose to join the temple in question, of this much you should be glad: no matter what you think of lesbianism to begin with, the rabbi appears to have affirmed the most important values a family should promote within our tradition: a sacred commitment of two partners to each other and an equally sacred commitment to raising up another generation of committed Jews.

Wow, what a world we live in, huh?

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