A History of LGBTQ Inclusion in the Institutional Jewish World

Posted by on Feb 25, 2021

A History of LGBTQ Inclusion in the Institutional Jewish World


Compiled by

Rabbi Debra Kolodny


Lionel Blue, ordained as a rabbi in 1960, was the first British rabbi to publicly declare himself a homosexual, in 1980.

The Jewish Renewal movement emerged in 1960’s, never having a policy against ordaining LGBTQ people. It didn’t ordain its first LGBTQ clergy until 2006, however.

1984: Reconstructionist Rabbinical College changed policy to ordain LGBTQ rabbis.

Late 1980s: the primary seminary of the Reform movement, the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, changed its admission requirements to allow openly lesbian and gay people to join the student body.

1990: The Union for Reform Judaism announced a national policy declaring lesbian and gay Jews to be full and equal members of the religious community.

1993: Susan Saxe becomes the Executive Director of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal and the first openly lesbian or gay executive of a national Jewish organizational headquarters.

1999: Steven Greenberg publicly came out as gay rabbinic ordination from the Orthodox rabbinical seminary of Yeshiva University first openly gay Orthodox Jewish rabbi.

2003: Reuben Zellman was the first openly transgender person accepted to Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, where he was ordained in 2010.

2004: Out bisexual activist Debra Kolodny became Executive Director of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal.

2004: Nehirim, a LGBTQ Jewish retreat and advocacy organization, was founded.

Elliot Kukla, who came out as transgender six months before his ordination in 2006, was the first openly transgender person to be ordained by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

2006: Committee on Jewish Law and Standards for Conservative Judaism adopted a majority opinion allowing the ordination of LGBT clergy, the blessing of same-sex unions, and lifting prohibitions on most (but not all) same-sex conduct (specifically not same-sex anal sex). The Jewish Theological Seminary of America and Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies started admitting openly-LGBT students.

2006: Chaya Gusfield and Rabbi Lori Klein became the two first openly lesbian rabbis ordained by the Jewish Renewal movement. They were both ordained at the same time in January 2006.

2007: Rabbi Toba Spitzer was the first openly lesbian or gay person chosen to head a rabbinical association in the United States as president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association.

2007: Jalda Rebling, from Germany, became the first openly lesbian cantor ordained by the Jewish Renewal movement.

April 2009: Rabbi Ron Yosef became the first Israeli orthodox rabbi to come out as gay, appearing in Uvda (“Fact”), Israel’s leading investigative television program.

2009: Juval Porat, who is openly gay, graduated from Abraham Geiger College and thus became the first person to be trained as a cantor in Germany since the Holocaust. In 2010 he became the cantor for Temple Beth Chayim Chadashim, a Los Angeles Reform synagogue.

May 2010: Anna Maranta was the first lesbian rabbi privately ordained in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

June 2010: Eshel, an LGBTQ Orthodox Jewish organization, was founded.

May 2011: Rachel Isaacs became the first openly lesbian rabbi ordained by the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary (“JTS”).

Emily Aviva Kapor, who had been ordained privately by a Conservadox rabbi in 2005, began living as a woman in 2012, thus becoming the first openly transgender female rabbi.

2013: Rabbi Deborah Waxman, an out lesbian, was named president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.

2013: Rabbi Jason Klein became the first openly gay man to head a national rabbinical association-the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association

2014: Mikie Goldstein became the first openly gay man ordained as a Conservative Jewish rabbi.

2014: Kol B’mishpachat Elohim: All in God’s Family: A Jewish Guide for Creating Allies for Our LGBT Families was published by Keshet, NGLTF, COLAGE, Family Equality Council.

2014: Nehirim‘s retreat for LGBT rabbis, rabbinic pastors, cantors, and students was held in San Francisco.

March 2015: Rabbi Denise Eger became the first openly gay president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.


Reconstruction, Reform, Renewal and Conservative Judaism make up over 75% of Jewish Americans who belong to a synagogue, all of whom ordain LGBTQ clergy and marry same sex couples.

Orthodox Judaism, at 21%, does not ordain openly LGBT Jews.

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