Conservative movement too conservative

Nothing happens in the Conservative movement without years of discourse and discord.

It seemed to take forever for the movement to ordain female rabbis. It took even longer for the movement to ordain female cantors. And the decision to accept women into a minyan dragged on for what seemed an eternity.

Maybe it's good the movement is so deliberative. It shows the rabbis don't give short shrift to major decisions. On the other hand, it also shows the Conservative movement can be out of step with much of its membership.

This definitely is the case as the movement weighs whether to ordain gay rabbis and whether its rabbis can officiate at same-sex commitment ceremonies.

The Reform and Reconstructionist movement embraced gay and lesbian Jews years ago. But in 1992 the closest the Conservative movement could come was to approve a "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Not surprisingly, it is hard to find a Conservative rabbi in the Bay Area who won't perform a commitment ceremony. It's also hard to find a Conservative rabbi here who doesn't want the movement to adopt more welcoming language toward gay and lesbian Jews.

Currently, the movement can expel a student rabbi who comes out of the closet. But it can't eject an ordained rabbi who comes out. And it can't stop a rabbi from officiating at a gay or lesbian commitment ceremony.

Even if the rules are changed, the movement still can't force a rabbi to do a commitment ceremony. But the broader acceptance of alternative orientations by the Conservative movement would be a symbolic act that gay and lesbian Jews feel is critical. Otherwise, they feel like second-class citizens in the eyes of the movement.

The leadership of the Conservative movement can be too conservative. And in these times it is more important to embrace Jews than turn them from our doors. Conservative gays and lesbian Jews ache for acceptance. Let's hope they don't have too wait much longer to get it.