Skip to content

Celebrating 20 years of Ordination

Last night at the annual convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis we celebrated 20 years since the passage of a resolution allowing the ordination of openly gay and lesbian rabbis. In a beautiful evening service written and coördinated by Rabbi Yoel Kahn of Berkeley, CA, more than a dozen gay and lesbian and transgender colleagues led the convention in worship.  The service consisted of many original prayers and poems taken from the congregations and communities that have primarily served the GLBT community.  It also had some writings by colleagues of their experiences before during and after that time.,

As one of the rabbis who was in rabbinical school in the era when you could not be out ,it was a joy to celebrate that milestone from our 1990 convention in Seattle. I was already out in 1990 serving a gay and lesbian congregation.  But it was the acceptance of a report by the Ad Hoc Committee on Homosexuality that said, ” all rabbis regardless of sexual orientation be accorded the opportunity to fulfill the sacred vocation that they have chosen” that changed the rabbinic world. And it brought hope to so many. 

But this resolution was far from perfect. In 1990 it still stated in the resolution “that heterosexual, monogamous, procreative marriage is the ideal human relationship for the perpetuation of species, covenantal fulfillment and the preservation of the Jewish people.”

It wasn’t until 1996 that the CCAR voted to endorse and support civil marriage for Gay men and lesbians.  And in the year 2000 the Conference passed a resolution on “Same Gender Officiation” resolving that the relationship of a Jewish, same gender couple is worthy of affirmation through appropriate Jewish ritual.”  The Conference did commission the creation of liturgy ceremonies modeled on kiddushin which I had the privilege of co-authoring with Rabbi Kahn.

But to see so many colleagues on the pulpit last night. Many who were not out at the 1990 vote.  And a few of us who were was a beautiful sight. Especially with the wave of younger colleagues who have been ordained since then. Wow!   We certainly have come a long way since Seattle. 

How wonderful to celebrate together. It was a moving experience for me personally to have been a part of all of it.