The Conservative Judaism Jewish denomination has ordained its first openly gay rabbi two years after clearing the way for gay and lesbian Jews to serve as religious leaders.
British born Mikie Goldstein, 49, became the first openly gay man to become a Conservative Jewish rabbi after finishing his studies for the rabbinate earlier this year at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.
Last week he was installed as rabbi at the Adat Shalom Emanuel Synagogue in the city of Rehovot in Israel.
Rabbi Goldstein has been married to veteran Israeli diplomat Isi Yanouka for 20 years and his husband is currently Israel’s ambassador to the Ivory Coast.
Israel’s Schechter Rabbinical Seminary only began admitting openly gay and lesbian students in April of 2012 and Goldstein is the first openly gay person within the Conservative Judaism religious movement, also known as the Masorti Movement, to be ordained.
He served as a rabbinical intern at two New York synagogues before returning to Israel to lead the Adat Shalom Emanuel synagogue.
Goldstein told The Times of Israel that he had wanted to become a rabbi to counter the hold of Ultra-Orthodox Judaism over Jewish culture.
‘My motto is to give Judaism back to the people,’ Goldstein said.
‘I feel that the Orthodox establishment in this country has hijacked Judaism and decided there is only one way to be Jewish … I realized that if someone is going to make a stand, it’s going to be me. So I got off my behind, and I went to study.’
‘I’m not interested in the ultra-Orthodox, who don’t think our way of Judaism is the right way … I’m interested in the millions of Israelis who are turned off completely from Judaism. I want to make sure they at least have the chance to feel at home inside a synagogue, be it in the shul or in the library. I don’t want people to feel threatened to cross that threshold, and right now many people do.’
Conservative Judaism has been slower to embrace LGBTI people than the liberal Reformed Judaism and Reconstructionist Judaism movements who have both ordained openly gay rabbis and celebrate same-sex unions for many years.