There are three main “movements”, “denominations”, or “branches” of Judaism in North America called Orthodox, Reform, and Conservative. From Canada comes a report of same gender relationships now receiving blessings in a Conservative synagogue in Winnipeg.
Winnipeg’s largest synagogue is moving toward full inclusion for gay and lesbian Jews by offering to bless their same-sex unions. Since Jan. 1, 2010, rabbis at Shaarey Zedek synagogue have been willing to bless Jewish same-sex couples in commitment ceremonies.
Rabbi Alan Green says the Winnipeg synagogue is thought to be the first Conservative movement synagogue in Canada to offer blessings to same-sex unions. In December 2006, the movement’s New York-based Committee on Jewish Law and Standards approved extending blessings to same-sex unions, a move that carries a great deal of weight among Conservative congregations, but is not binding, says Green.
Although this is a new step for Conservative Judaism, considered more middle of the road, Winnipeg’s lone Reform synagogue has offered the ritual for a decade, says Rabbi Karen Soria. “We are still the only synagogue in Winnipeg where a gay or lesbian couple could be married Jewishly,” says Soria, who divides her time between Winnipeg and Ottawa, where her female partner is a chaplain in the Canadian military. “Reform Judaism has taken very seriously the need to open doors and be welcoming. Historically, Reform Judaism has been very aware of and studies the seismic changes in Jewish life over the centuries.” The Reform movement is considered one of the more liberal Jewish groups.
Meanwhile, an Orthodox Rabbi, Steven Greenberg, has been out for over a decade, and he has been pushing back against the Orthodox policy that prohibits homosexual behavior.
Rabbi Steven Greenberg is not shy about proclaiming who he is, though it raises eyebrows.
He is, he says, the world’s first openly gay Orthodox rabbi.
And since he came out in 1999, Greenberg has traveled the world, speaking at Jewish organizations, community groups, forums. His latest stop is the Seattle area, where he’s conducting several workshops through Saturday.
His aim: To get congregations to be more welcoming and understanding of gays and lesbians — which sometimes means just helping them learn how to even bring the topic up.
Ultimately, he hopes the work he’s doing can, over time, lead to changes in people’s hearts, and to corresponding changes in Jewish theology and law.
“By addressing the realities of human life, Jewish law does move,” Greenberg said. “It just moves slowly.”
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC), headed by Rabbi David Saperstein, is a well-known advocacy group that:
has been the hub of Jewish social justice and legislative activity in the nation’s capital for more than 40 years. The RAC educates and mobilizes the American Jewish community on legislative and social concerns, advocating on issues from economic justice to civil rights to religious liberty to Israel.
The RAC’s work is mandated by the Union for Reform Judaism, whose 900+ congregations across North America include 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), whose membership includes more than 1,800 Reform rabbis.
The RAC has long promoted LGBT rights.