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bastardry

Conservative responsa

Conservative responsa are the body of responsa literature of Conservative Judaism (also known as Masorti Judaism). Most Conservative responsa have been written by the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards. Such responsa are key sources for Conservative Halakha, which has its particular methodologies and history.

In 1997 Rabbi David Golinkin wrote "As has been pointed out on numerous occasions, the Conservative rabbis of North America have written hundreds of teshuvot but have not succeeded in publishing them. In recent years we have begun to rememdy this situation by publishing indices, monographs and complete volumes of Conservative responsa." Since that time the Conservative movement and the Masorti movement (in Israel) have addressed this issue in a serious way. Many volumes of Conservative and Masorti teshuvot and halakhic studies are now available, and more are being edited. In 2005 the Rabbinical Assembly made most of its recent responsa available on its website.

Annotated Bibliography

All of the following collections of Conservative and Masorti responsa, unless specifically noted, are in English.

  • Rabbinical Assembly website, section on Contemporary Halakha, teshuvot published online.

Contemporary Halakha: Rabbinical Assembly

Covers 10 years of responsa by the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, on a multitude of topics, including: organ donation, biomedical ethics, domestic abuse, child abuse, the role of women in Jewish law, aliyot for couples, Kashrut, leasing on Shabbat, tattooing and body piercing, anesthesia and Brit Milah, ritual responses to miscarriages or the deaths of babies who lived less than one month, assisted suicide, artificial insemination, egg donation, adoption, in vitro fertilisation, mamzerut ("bastardry"); marriages between a Kohen and a divorce; marriages between a Kohen and a convert; Jewish views of homosexuality and more.

  • "Responsa in a Moment: Halakhic Responses to Contemporary Issues", Rabbi David Golinkin, The Institute of Applied Halakhah at the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem, Israel, 2000

Topics: Why do Jews sway when they pray?; Returning territories for the sake of peace; Institutionalizing parents with Alzheimer's disease; Torah study vs. earning a living; Investigating charities to which we contribute; Telling the truth to terminal patients; Genetic engineering; The kashrut of veal raised on factory farms; Is it a mitzvah to make aliyah?; The Assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin; Is smoking prohibited by Jewish law?

Contains responsa written by the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards between 1975 and 2000. Topics include artificial insemination; in-vitro fertilization; surrogate motherhood; abortion; medical care at the end of life and care for the terminally ill; assisted suicide and euthanasia; organ transplants; autopsy; responsibilities for the provision of health care; genetic engineering and smoking.

  • "Proceedings of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement 1980 - 1985", The Rabbinical Assembly, 1998

Contains responsa on Abortion, bar/Bat Mitzvah; Brit Milah; Conversion; Death, mourning and funeral practices; Divorce and gittin; Gambling; Intermarriage, keruv and raising children; Jewish identity; Kashrut; Marriage and the ketubah; Pesach and kashrut; Shabbat; Yom Tov Shnei; printing the 4 letter name of God; Accepting Egyptian Karaites as Jews; Women and Jewish law.

  • "Proceedings of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement 1986 - 1990" The Rabbinical Assembly, 2001.

Contains responsa on surrogate motherhood; smoking; six papers relating to the treatment of terminally ill patients; On the conversion of adopted and patrilineal children; three papers on "may a conversion obtained through deceit be annulled?"; The use of all wines; 2 papers on the kashering of glass cookware; co-ops for kosher meat; the Rabbinical Assembly ketubah text in Hebrew and English; A responsa on the status of missing persons; two papers on mourning in the case of the death of a newborn, and in the case of a loss of a fetus due to miscarriage; Cremation in the Jewish tradition; the kashrut of peanuts for Pesach; Does milk need a kosher l'pesah label?; The status of Ethiopian Jews (Falashas); 2 papers on the use of a remote audio/video monitor on Shabbat and Yom Tov; May a Shabbat service be audio-taped or video-taped?; Shabbat and Brit Milah; Rabbinic supervision of Jewish owned businesses operating on Shabbat; Should bakeries which are open on Shabbat be supervised?; the triennieal system for reading the Torah; the status of daughters of Kohanim and Leviyim for aliyot; may a synagogue issue interest bearing bonds?; Stricture against issuing congratulation for mixed marriagess; prohibition of allowing an intermarriage reception to be held in Conservative synagogues; Blowing the Shofar after Ma'ariv following Yom Kippur; May an avowed atheist serve as a Sheliah tzibur?; Synagogue policy concerning bringing foods prepared at home into the synagogue; The inclusion of the names of the Matriarchs in the Amidah; Joint Conservative-Reform religious schools; On the use of synagogues by Christian groups on a temporary basis; Yom HaShoah commerations and creating new blessings.

  • "The Ordination of Women as Rabbis: Studies and Responsa", Simon Greenberg, JTS, 1988. A series of responsa concerning the feasibility of ordaining women as rabbis in accordance with Jewish law. (Not officially adapted by the CJLS)
  • "Proceedings of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement 1927-1970", 3 Volume set, Ed. David Golinkin, The Rabbinical Assembly, 1997.
  • "Responsa and Halakhic Studies", Isaac Klein, Ktav, 1975
  • "The Responsa of Professor Louis Ginzberg" Ed. David Golinkin, The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1996
  • "Responsa of the Va'ad Halakhah of the Rabbinical Assembly of Israel", David Golinkin, The Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies.

Six paperback volumes are now available in this series. The first is in Hebrew only; other volumes are in Hebrew, with English summaries. A seventh volume is currently in preparation.

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