ONTD Political

What's better news than a wedding?

8:22 pm - 11/23/2011
Two Orthodox men were married by an Orthodox rabbi at what might be the first Orthodox gay wedding.
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Rabbi Steven Greenberg, who has been an advocate for gays in the Orthodox community, married Yoni Bock and Ron Kaplan last week before 200 guests at Washington, D.C.’s, 6th and I Historic Synagogue. The couple has been together since 2005 and agreed to marry in 2008, but waited until same-sex marriage became legal in the District of Columbia in March 2010 before planning a wedding.

Greenberg told the Jewish Journal that the ceremony he crafted is not technically kiddushin – the halachic, or Jewish legal, term for marriage. Rather, it is a legal partnership in which Bock and Kaplan each made a neder, a legal oath, to consecrate themselves to one another in body and soul. They entered into that partnership under a chuppah, but the ceremony did not include the phrase “k’da'at Moshe v’Yisrael,” according to the laws of Moses and Israel, which is at the heart of the ring exchange in a heterosexual ceremony. [And it really can't include those words, if it's still going to be Orthodox. Other denominations have recognized marriage equality for about twenty years now.]

Greenberg says he recognizes that halachic kiddushin is structured around financial and sexual obligations and prohibitions particular to a man and woman.

“I did not do kiddushin, I did an amalgam of things that worked halachically much better. Kiddushin doesn’t work for this – it has not legs to stand on,” said Greenberg, who was ordained at Yeshiva University in 1983, and came out as gay publicly in 1999.

The wedding was originally reported in +972, an Israeli and American Jewish news website. Roee Ruttenberg wrote in +972:

Greenberg assisted Bock and Kaplan in creating a ceremonial text that reflected the uniqueness of the event while incorporating the traditional elements of a Jewish wedding. Those familiar with the latter would have noticed an alteration in many of the texts, including the changing of genders for several of the pronouns. “Harey at mekudeshet li,” or “Behold, you (female) are consecrated to me” thus became “Harey atah m’kudash li,” or “Behold, you (male) are consecrated to me.”

Elements of a traditional ceremony that, according to the couple and Greenberg, reflected gender inequality were removed or substituted with more egalitarian and gay-friendly versions. The traditional “ketubah,” or “marriage contract,” in which the bride is essentially purchased by the groom, was replaced with a “Shtar Shetufim,” or “partnership contract.”

Greenberg is no stranger to controversy. He publicly admitted his sexuality following his ordination from an Orthodox rabbinical school, making him the first openly gay practicing Orthodox rabbi. While he was warmly received by many, his book, “Wrestling with God and Men: Homosexuality in the Jewish Tradition,” led him to be shunned by some in the Orthodox community and even by some gay and lesbian Orthodox Jews who felt his views did not align with Orthodox readings of Jewish law. His participation in Thursday’s ceremony will be viewed by some as a step that crosses a line of no return.

Greenberg is on the board of Eshel, an organization that works to build community for gays and lesbians in the Orthodox world. He is the director of Orthodox programs for Nehirim, a national organization which builds community for GLBT Jews, partners, and allies. A senior teaching fellow at CLAL-The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, Greenberg is the author of the groundbreaking book “Wrestling with God & Men: Homosexuality in the Jewish Tradition” (University of Wisconsin Press, 2004). [I've read this; it's excellent.]
Source: Be'chol Lashon.
OP note: further resources on (left-wing) Orthodox Judaism and sexual diversity can be found below.
* Keshet
* Tirtzah
* The World Congress of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Jews
* Jewish Mosaic
* The aforementioned Nehirim and
* Eshel.
xvisqueux 24th-Nov-2011 02:15 am (UTC)
A+ for their bravery and love. It's a step in the right direction.
___closetome 24th-Nov-2011 02:19 am (UTC)
*melts into puddle of mush*
Things like this warm my cold atheist heart.
milleniumrex 24th-Nov-2011 02:42 am (UTC)
Progress! :D
velvetunicorn 24th-Nov-2011 03:32 am (UTC)
Mazel Tov!
redstar826 24th-Nov-2011 03:38 am (UTC)
awwww, may they have many happy years together <3
poetic_pixie_13 24th-Nov-2011 03:43 am (UTC)
Fuck. Yes. Congrats to Yoni and Ron. I hope they have a long and happy life together.
lexiloumarie 24th-Nov-2011 03:48 am (UTC)
Mazel tov to the happy couple.
labelleizzy 24th-Nov-2011 04:13 am (UTC)
oh, YAY...!

I needed some gods-blessed good news...
the_gabih 24th-Nov-2011 08:58 pm (UTC)
Your icon is the best thing.
labelleizzy 24th-Nov-2011 11:12 pm (UTC)
Well, my dear, it seems we have a mutual icon-admiration thing going on here.
In part because I literally gigglesnort (and I was just reminded I've even saved it to spellchecker on this phone.)
sephystabbity 24th-Nov-2011 05:06 am (UTC)
Aww, good news!!! :D
koshkabegemot 24th-Nov-2011 08:03 pm (UTC)
Even King Asshat Joffrey is happy!

This story put a big smile on my face. I am so happy for them.
magus_69 24th-Nov-2011 05:34 am (UTC)
Yay! Congratulations!
apis_cerana 24th-Nov-2011 05:44 am (UTC)
Congratulations :) yay!
wemblee 24th-Nov-2011 05:49 am (UTC)
hinoema 24th-Nov-2011 06:19 am (UTC)
That made me smile.
romp 24th-Nov-2011 06:21 am (UTC)
lilenth 24th-Nov-2011 09:01 am (UTC)

Yay, a happy story for once.
aiffe 24th-Nov-2011 09:12 am (UTC)
This is an awesome ceremony and reading about it makes me feel good.

Also, not to make this all about the straights or anything, but it'd be great to see straight marriages with this kind of equality too. (As in, one person not purchasing another.)

I love when religion can hold onto the best of tradition while embracing the best of modern values.
oaktree89 24th-Nov-2011 02:05 pm (UTC)
You might be interested in reading this article by a professor of mine. It's quite long, and technical, but if you scroll to "Eliminating the Problem" the author outlines ways in which people are getting around the "acquisition" problem of kiddushin, while still remaining well within the halakhic framework.

Edited at 2011-11-24 02:08 pm (UTC)
kerrypolka 24th-Nov-2011 10:43 am (UTC)
Steve Greenberg is fab - he's written a lot of work on interfaith and other progressive frowned-on-by-some-Jewish-types weddings from a really solid halakhic standpoint. One of the ways regressive "traditionalists" (of many religions, I think) try to attack progressives is by going "oh, you're just throwing your heritage and culture away and ignoring the TRUE religion" etc, but there's just no real way to make that argument with Rabbi Greenberg because he's so grounded in halakha.
oaktree89 24th-Nov-2011 02:08 pm (UTC)
Exactly. This is one of the reasons I'm still observant- halakhah really does allow for progressive values, if you do the work. The problem isn't necessarily the legal system; it's the interpreters of same.
kleios_kiss 25th-Nov-2011 04:04 am (UTC)
halakhah really does allow for progressive values, if you do the work. The problem isn't necessarily the legal system; it's the interpreters of same.

aviv_b 24th-Nov-2011 05:04 pm (UTC)
This! As we grow as humans, our understanding of our faith should grow as well. And things that were unheard of a century ago (like Bat Mitzvahs) are well established in most branches of Judaism.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that Reform Jews have allowed same-sex commitment ceremonies for quite a few years, Conservative Jews started performing them about 6 years ago. Unfortunately, I do not believe that either sanctions it as 'marriage.' Maybe this will help them get over that hurdle.
little_missmimi 24th-Nov-2011 05:24 pm (UTC)
Actually, the 'commitment' v. ' marriage' thing may depend on the legality of same-sex marriage in the state--I'm Reform, and my rabbis have said that they are happy to perform same-sex marriages in MA, our neighboring state, where it is considered marriage and not just a civil union.
aviv_b 24th-Nov-2011 05:56 pm (UTC)
I did a little research and it looks like Reform and Reconstructionist branches support gay marriage whether or not its legal in the state.

Conservative supports gay commitment ceremonies but..."The adoption of 2006 teshuva, Homosexuality, Human Dignity and Halakhah, means that Conservative Movement clergy may decide as individuals whether or not to officiate at same-sex commitment ceremonies. Notably, the movement does not consider same-sex unions kiddushin (santicfied/holy), which means that they do not consider commitment ceremonies to be the same as a marriage between a man and a woman."

This is pretty typical of the Conservative movement. They recognize that changing tradition takes time. When women were first allowed to have a Bat Mitzvah on Saturday (which includes reading from Torah) the rulings stated that it was OK, but up to each congregation. Today, its rare to find a purely Conservative synagogue that doesn't allow this. Ditto female rabbis, cantors, etc.

Another article stated that now that NY has marriage equality, that the JTS is looking again at this issue. I hope that they take into account what this Orthodox Rabbi is saying.

tl;dr It's complicated. Ask two Jews, get three opinions.
oaktree89 24th-Nov-2011 07:48 pm (UTC)
Cosigned. My childhood rabbi had a policy of marrying same-sex couples (though she wouldn't marry interfaith ones; I'm still not sure how I feel about that issue), and this was long before any states had ratified marriage equality. The state I grew up in still hasn't, though it came quite close last year.

Reform and Reconstructionist congregations almost uniformly allow for gay marriage regardless of civil law.
koshkabegemot 24th-Nov-2011 08:07 pm (UTC)
My mom was actually the second Bat Mitzvah at her temple back in . . . 1957, I think? One of her friends was the first. I remember when she told me that, I was really surprised (she told me this when I was 13 at the time and recently Bat-Mitzvahed) because I assumed that women had been receiving Bat Mitzvahs all along.

Still, this story put a huge smile on my face, and I am so happy for them.
salienne 24th-Nov-2011 11:20 am (UTC)
I needed this smile.
miss_world13 24th-Nov-2011 02:57 pm (UTC)
This is absolutely wonderful!
shepaintedfire 24th-Nov-2011 07:41 pm (UTC)
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this was legit my face when i read this post
oaktree89 24th-Nov-2011 07:45 pm (UTC)
Lol, that gif is too perfect for this article XD *saves*
the_gabih 24th-Nov-2011 08:56 pm (UTC)
kleios_kiss 25th-Nov-2011 04:16 am (UTC)
I absolutely love everything here!

However, I think the "Ketubah" part is taken too literally. I mean, it's not like "zuzim" even still exists so it's an impossible contract to take literally. Most of my friends and family in the heavily Orthodox world see it more as a contract of their marriage before "God," with the parts about who supports whom and how being not a matter of "purchasing," just a statement of commitment to mutually look after each other. The gender stereotypical duties and roles of the Aramaic, much like the Zuzim, are largely dismissed with the communities I know as simply an example or allegory of the commitment to become one with each other in all elements of life. After all, it's called a Ketubah and not a...K'niyah (or however you would transliterate the Hebrew word for "Purchase" as opposed to word (Ketubah) stemming from "Writing").

I almost feel that creating a separate form of contract can be somewhat...segregationist, that is, lead to issues when it comes to anything involving a Beyt Din. Likewise, it almost to me seems like accepting a civil union instead of a marriage and calling it equal, though perhaps like Judith Butler, they're not looking for equality within a system they already deem faulty, but trying to build a new one.

Anyway, this is all awesome news, I don't mean to be nitpicky, just speculative over what it would mean to have two different marriage contracts within Orthodox Judaism.

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