I’ve seen the bumper sticker hundreds of times – an American flag waving across the bottom and the phrase “Love it or leave it!” emblazoned above. The people who claim to be “patriotic” by displaying these continue to disappoint me, because my own feelings on the subject are so complex.

On one hand, I love the idea of the United States. I know it’s not the most popular position, but I am an idealist at heart, and I love the ideals that this country claims to pursue. Despite numerous failings, the idea of America as a “golden land” has been the catalyst for constant immigration over generations, and I hold out the hope that one day the myth becomes the reality. On the other hand, I find the idea of “patriotism” bizarre; how is it possible to love a piece of land on one side of an imaginary political boundary more than a piece of land on the other side? Is Montreal somehow less lovable than Ithaca?

In related news, I’ve been thinking about the Conservative movement a lot this week. The decision that came from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York on Monday to allow openly gay and lesbian applicants (JTS did not include the terms “bisexual” or “transgendered” in their press release – addressing these is a subject for another long post.) was followed on Tuesday by the decision from the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary in Jerusalem to prohibit gay & lesbian applicants.

I grew up in the Conservative movement, and I still adore my shul and rabbi in Connecticut and visit frequently. Even though I now belong to a non-denominational synagogue, I still think of my childhood synagogue as my home shul, and the Conservative movement as my home movement. All of this only made it more difficult over the years as I came out, and realized that I had not one, but two families who didn’t want to accept me as I was. I could visit, but not be fully included.

I greeted the decision from JTS with a shehecheyanu, and the decision from Schechter with a groan. While most Conservative Jews in North America are in favor of the decision, there’s still a very vocal minority threatening to split from the movement, condemning the rest of us. And their anger is frequently being expressed in ways that remind me of that awful bumper sticker. I’ve seen people writing, “If you’re going to ordain gay rabbis, you might as well eat pork, intermarry, and put up a tree in December,” or “If you want a gay rabbi so much, go join the Reform movement.” As far as I’m concerned, what they’re saying boils down to the same thing – love it or leave it.

So why not leave it? I have good friends who are Reform and Reconstructionist rabbis and rabbinical students, I spend most of my time at services which are being led by people from Reform and Reconstructionist backgrounds… shouldn’t I be able to find a happier, more welcoming home with them? Well, I tried. I even applied to the Reform movement’s cantorial school, in the process writing an essay describing “my commitment to the Reform movement.” But when I got my rejection letter, part of what I felt was relief, because I really didn’t want to be there in the first place. As troubled and difficult as it can be, if I’m going to have a career in the synagogue, I want it to be within the Conservative movement.

Even though I’m comfortable at all kinds of services, I can’t bring myself to jump ship. I also have a difficult relationship with my family, but I haven’t decided that it would just be easier to leave and join someone else’s family – I stay, and work to teach them about who I am, in hopes that as their understanding increases, they’ll change. It’s extraordinarily difficult, and painful, and sometimes seems hopeless, but as I said, I’m an idealist. It’s difficult, but I love it, and I’m not going to leave.