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The Myth of the Cultural JewCulture and Law in Jewish Tradition$
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Roberta Rosenthal Kwall

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780195373707

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195373707.001.0001

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(p.157) 6 Homosexuality
The Myth of the Cultural Jew

Roberta Rosenthal Kwall

Oxford University Press

Chapter 6 explores how each of the three major Jewish denominations grapple with the tradition’s ban on homosexuality that is derived from the Torah. The discussion highlights the progression and nature of the discourse in the denominations, particular in recent decades. Within Judaism, the most visible disputes about homosexuality relate to matters that are very public in nature, such as the performance of same-sex commitment ceremonies and the rabbinic ordination of openly gay individuals. The analysis reaffirms the main thesis of this book that halakhah and the culture from which it has been derived are inextricably intertwined. Specifically, when law and culture are seen as separate domains, it becomes impossible to maintain a shared language and continuity of the tradition. On the other hand, when there is a complete resistance to incorporating a consideration of current cultural norms in legal interpretation, the tradition may suffer from paralysis.

Keywords:   Jewish denominations, homosexuality, Torah, Reform Judaism, Conservative Judaism, Orthodox Judaism, same-sex commitment ceremonies, rabbinic ordination, Jewish law, halakhah

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