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Jewish seminary picks first gay student

Jewish seminary picks first gay student

A long-standing religious barrier fell Tuesday when a Conservative Jewish seminary announced its acceptance of its first openly gay cantorial student. Marisa Elana James will attend the Jewish Theological Seminary after years of membership with the Congregation Beth Simchat Torah in New York City, which identifies itself as the world's largest synagogue for LGBT Jews.

"My rabbis, cantor, and music director work to instill in congregants a love of yiddishkeit [Jewishness], music, and social justice," James said in a statement. "I'm excited to have been given the opportunity to learn to do the same for others, and it gives me great pleasure to be part of the first class of students at JTS who will never have to hide any part of our identities. My dream is to bring my own love of music and yiddishkeit and social justice to the generations of Conservative Jews for whom gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender rabbis and cantors are a blessing, not a controversy."

The Jewish Theological Seminary, based in New York, is considered the top school for training of Conservative Jewish rabbis and cantors. Conservative Judaism occupies the middle ground among the three primary Jewish movements, between the highly traditional Orthodox and the liberal, gay-friendly Reform. The seminary announced in March that it would begin accepting openly gay and lesbian students.

"This has been a long struggle, and we are very proud that one of our members will break this barrier," lesbian rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of the Congregation Beth Simchat Torah said of James's acceptance into the seminary. "This is a bold step toward justice for all." In April, Kleinbaum was named one of the most influential rabbis in America by Newsweek. (The Advocate)

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