Views on homosexuality vary among the three major branches of Judaism. The Reform Jewish movement has been generally accepting of LGBT people and is socially liberal on a variety of other issues. In contrast, Orthodox Judaism hasn’t been very accepting of LGBT people and is socially conservative. The Conservative movement falls somewhere in the middle, both on gay rights and other social issues.
But this year, Conservative Jews took a step toward acceptance during the High Holy Days services. The prayer book, called a mahzor, for the High Holy Days — which include Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur — was changed to be more inclusive of LGBT people.
The committee that worked on modernizing the prayers was headed by Rabbi Edward Feld. The modernization process took twelve years, and was the first update in the Conservative movement’s prayers in almost 40 years. The new prayer book is called Lev Shalem, and while it remains close to traditional Hebrew texts, it adds commentaries and optional readings to help make the prayer book more modern.
The updates include a prayer for a deceased “partner,” an attempt to include gay Jews, and a prayer for “a parent who was hurtful.” While the changes are small, they show improvement and an attempt to be inclusive of LGBT people within the Conservative Jewish movement.
The revised prayer book also includes passages that are progressive on women’s rights issues, including the use of gender-neutral language and added commentary on female Biblical figures.
Hopefully, the Conservative Jewish movement will progress to become more and more accepting of LGBT people. While the changes to show acceptance of LGBT people were small, they show that the movement is headed in the right direction.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons