Israel gets its first gay Conservative rabbiAround the World, Online Only, Top Highlights Monday, September 8th, 2014
ISRAEL — A gay rabbi from England living in Israel was installed as the leader of Adat Shalom Emanuel in Rehovot, the only non-Orthodox synagogue in the city, reports GayAsiaNews.com.
Rabbi Mikie Goldstein, a native of Liverpool who has been living in Israel since 1989, belongs to Israel’s Masorti (Conservative) Movement that approved the ordination of gay and lesbian rabbis only two years ago, according to timesofisrael.com.
Goldstein, now 49 came out at the age of 24, when he was living in Israel where he attended rabbinical school in a bid to help loosen the hold that the ultra-religious have over Judaism in Israel.
“My motto is to give Judaism back to the people,” Goldstein told timesofisrael.com. “I feel that the Orthodox establishment in this country has hijacked Judaism.”
He attended the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary that trains rabbis in Israel for the Masorti movement, and since they were not admitting LGBT students he went to New York to be ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary that was ordaining openly gay and lesbian students in the Conservative Jewish movement.
However, Israel’s Masorti Movement changed its own stance two years ago allowing for Israeli-trained lesbian and gay rabbis to join the Conservative movement in the country and committed itself to supporting and embracing gay and lesbians at every level.
Goldstein’s partner is Izzy who serves as Israel’s ambassador to the Ivory Coast and who served as a rabbinical intern at two New York-area synagogues during his studies there.
Goldstein says being a rabbi had nothing to do with his sexuality but that he was interested in the millions of Israelis who are turned off completely from Judaism because of Orthodox rabbis.
He now heads the Adat Shalom Emanuel synagogue with a congregation of some 150 families, many of them English-speaking immigrants. Rehovot, where the synagogue is located, is a city in the Center District of Israel, about 20 kilometers south of Tel Aviv and home to one of the first communities founded in modern Israel.
“It’s not easy to find a Masorti rabbi who can lead a congregation here. It’s a very difficult job. It involves a love of people, it involves teaching and prayer, and it’s hard to find someone who can do everything. Mikie just fits the bill perfectly,” says Ruth Lavie, chairperson of Adat Shalom Emanuel.
Lavie said Goldstein’s sexuality was a non-issue because Jews need to have a place where they can feel welcome.
Goldstein said he does not think his presence in the synagogue will draw more LGBT members because “Any LGBT person who goes to a Masorti synagogue will be accepted, and we have plenty of LGBT members at Masorti congregations in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem already.”
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