New York, December 28 – On the heels of its youth organization’s decision not to discourage romantic relationships with non-Jews, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism will also eliminate its insistence that spouses maintain a faithful sexual relationship with each other.
“Given that it would be discriminatory against all the people who happen not to be part of the marriage not to allow them sexual intimacy with either member of the couple, we hereby recommend against active discouragement of so-called ‘extramarital liaisons’,” the movement said in a statement.
The move away from exclusivity stems from similar concerns as the move away from discouraging intermarriage, experts say. “It all really boils down to the same thing in the end,” says Jeff Sheygetz, Professor of Jewish Life and Culture at the Jewish Theological Seminary, the movement’s flagship institution. “Consistency is the name of the game – if discrimination is bad, then it’s bad – you can’t decide it’s OK to start discriminating against people just because you’re not married to them.”
Indeed, says Sheygetz, the analogy fits precisely because of the depiction in Jewish lore of Jewry’s relationship with God as a romance. The Conservative movement, in keeping with its name, lags somewhat behind American society at large by as much as several decades in terms of its acceptance of various social norms, but eventually adopts those norms, including an acceptance of what in previous eras would be decried as “infidelity.” “The general erosion of marital commitment in the US took time to permeate into Conservative circles, but it effectively fosters the same kind of erosion in the analogous ‘marriage’ between Jews and God,” he explains.
Other analysts support Sheygetz’s conclusions. “Jeff has been looking at these phenomena for a long time, and I second his analysis,” says Inveya Geffen, who writes about social issues for Tikkun magazine. “There’s no reason to adhere to outdated notions of tribalism and exclusion in sexuality and intimacy when we’ve banished such ideas from our sensibilities in every other aspect of life.”
“Who am I to determine that only one person is allowed to have sex with me just because we’re got this document saying we’re married? What kind of prejudice is that?” she wonders. “Aren’t all potential sexual partners equal in the eyes of God?”
Not all adherents of the movement are pleased with the shift. “It’s a travesty,” laments Arthur Cuckold of Congregation Moshav Letzim in Asbury Park, New Jersey. “How am I supposed to raise my children to be loyal fans of one, and only one, baseball franchise?”
For more of David’s sarcasm visit PreOccupied Territory.