Now that I have your attention...
There are lots of issues in our world we would like to ignore, and one of them is homosexuality.
Same-sex orientation raises all sorts of uncomfortable conflicts for just about everybody, including the gay and lesbian members of our community and their families. Frankly, I am no different. Grappling with my own prejudices and human rights principles has led me to a resting place: when it comes to civil rights, no one should suffer any infringement on the basis of any private orientation. But let us be honest: there is more to the matter than equal pay for equal work or the right to affiliate with a synagogue.
Our tradition is completely unsympathetic to homosexual behavior between men, and disdainful at best when it comes to such behavior between women. It is unclear as to whether a same-sex orientation was ever considered as normative by Jewish tradition. It is unlikely; religion in general in rarely avant-garde in its perspectives.
Our congregation has never shied away from learning. Rooted firmly as we are in the tradition, we have been able to address the most difficult of issues, halakhic, programmatic and financial, with a clear sense of who we are and what we need to do in order to maintain our personal and organizational integrity. As gay and lesbian members of the Jewish community seek a higher profile within our community, we should be able to respond clearly about those opportunities and their limitations within the synagogue and the Conservative movement.
But where are we to find guidance? Both the Rabbinical Assembly and United Synagogue have clear public policy statements on civil rights, supporting the most inclusive positions. Both have rejected the possibility of employment for Jews who are otherwise qualified on professional and religious grounds if they are openly homosexual.
We must begin the process of educating ourselves and struggling with the issues which we would rather avoid or circumvent. We are far from the point of referendum, but neither can we pretend that somehow someone will address the matter for us. Let us look to develop a consensus within our congregational family on issues surrounding homosexuality before we are confronted with an open challenge.
I have invited an extraordinary young man to speak to us on Saturday, February 1, during services. His name is Jonathan Draluck; he is an observant Conservative Jew and he is gay. The questions he posed to me, and which he will pose to you, will help you in the process of learning. And, he will help us put a face on the issues.
Personally, I find it distressing when there is dissonance between my Jewish sensibilities and the cultural norms to which I subscribe. Please join me as we take the first few steps this open-ended exploration.