Conservative Movement organizes an evening of study and reconciliation

Jewish holiday of love chosen to bridge divides.

gay vigil jerusalem 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi)
gay vigil jerusalem 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi)
The Masorti (Conservative) Movement will hold an evening of learning, song and reconciliation that will coincide with Tuesday evening's Jewish "holiday of love" - Tu Be'av - in response to the fatal shooting attack on the LGBT community in Tel Aviv. Events in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and Beersheba will use Jewish texts and melodies to encourage discussion about "unconditional love," "tolerance" and "bridging the divides" in society, said organizers. On Saturday night, an unidentified man opened fire at a Tel Aviv center that helps young people grapple with their sexual identity. Two were killed and some 12 were wounded, including two seriously. Rabbi Barry Schlesinger, president of the movement's Rabbinical Assembly in Israel, said the events were being held because "we could not celebrate Tu Be'av and sing and dance while the families of those killed were mourning their dead. "I thought it was much more fitting to have an evening of Torah study and introspection as a way of beginning to process of repentance ahead of Yom Kippur." Schlesinger's synagogue, Moreshet Avraham in the East Talpiot neighborhood, will host the Jerusalem event. Rabbi David Lazar, leader of the Tiferet Shalom Congregation in Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv, and a trailblazer among Conservative Israeli rabbis in conducting same-sex commitment ceremonies, was one of the main figures behind the organization of the event. "It is important that a different Jewish voice on homosexuality is heard," said Lazar. "The more people hear a traditional Jewish voice that says it is all right to be gay, the less the other Jewish voices of hatred will be heard." Other organizations will also participate in the evening of study in Tel Aviv, at the city's LGBT youth center. These groups include Beit Tefila Yehudi, a prayer group of secular Jews; the Reform Congregation Bat Ayin; Chavurat Tel Aviv, a Conservative minyan; and Bat Kol, a group of Lesbian Orthodox women. A liberal Orthodox rabbi will also take part. However, he requested that his name not be publicized out of concern that his participation would arouse controversy. One of the issues that has threatened to split the Conservative Movement in recent years has been its approach to homosexuality. In North America, "out" homosexuals can now be ordained as rabbis as a result of a recent change in halachic interpretation. However, in South America and Israel the policy of barring homosexuals from rabbinical training has remained unchanged.