Gay Marriage And Conservative Jews

At the New York Post, Mayrav Saar writes about a minor but fascinating controversy currently bubbling under in the Conservative Jewish community, involving gay marriage, straight marriage, and why the former’s better than the latter.

Yes — the former, gay marriage, is better, because of the peculiarities of the liturgy used in “traditional” Conservative Jewish marriage ceremonies. Writes Saar:

44Traditionally, a groom gives a bride a ring and declares his
ownership of his pretty new acquisition: “You are consecrated to me
according to the laws of Moses and Israel.”

The bride, if she
wants to, can give the groom a ring (it’s not required) and say whatever
she’d like. She can recite back a re-gendered version of what her
husband says to her, but not all Conservative rabbis will go for that.
Instead, the bride usually recites a poem taken from the Song of
Solomon, “I am my beloved, and my beloved is mine.”

There is, in the ritual, a strong proprietary element that’s lacking in the same-sex ceremonies cleared for use by a law-making body of Conservative clerics this spring. Though not considered a full marriage in the Conservative community — because, as Saar writes, a “kiddushin,” or “sanctified marriage,” “requires the ‘dominant’ party to acquire the ‘less dominant’ party,” and same-sex couples don’t contain that patriarchal dynamic — it lays obligations upon and grants privileges to gay couples that heterosexual couples, and the women therein especially, might envy. 

From the Post:

Currently, only a man can terminate a Jewish marriage with a get,
or divorce document, leaving women who want to remarry or just move on
with their lives at the mercy of their estranged spouses.

The
same-sex model allows either party to dissolve the marriage because, as
the rabbis noted, if only a man can initiate a divorce, in a marriage of
two women, presumably nobody could.

That heterosexual couples might wish to emulate the same-sex marriage rites was something the rabbis who constructed the liturgies suspected from the beginning. One of them penned a warning:

While some heterosexual couples may see in these new models of brit (covenant) and shutafut (partnership) for same-sex couples a basis for abandoning the traditional model of kiddushin, Conservative Judaism has taught us to respect ancient liturgy and to minimize modifications of text.

But Conservative Jews to whom Saar spoke thought such advice would go unheeded. Said Aurora Mendelsohn, the Canadian blogger:

Anybody who sees the [gay marriage] ceremony will say, ‘I want that for me.'”

 

Comments

  1. Brad says

    Another example of why I abandoned organized religion altogether. Belief in a sky bully and the conflict over interpretation of his fairy tales continues to baffle me.

  2. Tanoka says

    Would that be the traditional marriage all the a-holes are whining about?

    Man: You belong to me
    Woman: I am now an extension of you

    Sound more like ownership to me, but then I’m one of those modern feminist liberal socialist Europeans…

  3. Screaming queen says

    But how does this dovetail with existing models of floof and wheatabix? Does it alter the sacred holy rites of sashay chante’? Who does the flotsam and who does the jetsam? So many burning questions are left unaddressed, it might open the door to people not taking our ooga- booga nonsense seriously.

  4. Marc Sweet says

    “I am my beloved and my beloved is mine” is exactly what my husband and I said at our 1997 Jewish wedding ceremony. Our Rabbi believed neither owned the other. Yay!

  5. says

    And my partner and I will be using that liturgy as we stand under the Chuppah in our conservative/egalitarian synagogue, Ohav Shalom in Albany, as the first same-sex couple to be married in the sanctuary. Thank you New York!

  6. says

    re:brad: “conflict over interpretation…”

    ah, but you see, said “conflict” is what is so fascinating about judaism – frequent disagreement and the ensuing debates are far more enlightening, as far as i’m concerned. jews are taught to question and argue, so much better than to silently obey. and as the saying goes, 2 jews, 3 opinions…

  7. andrew says

    How sad that in 2012 we are still interested in what Judaism, Christianity and Islam have to say about anything. They are all so called Abrahamic Religions. They are based on the myth that the creator of the billion gallaxy universe made an everlasting covenant with Abraham and his descendants. The sign of their covenant was a little piece of foreskin. LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. andrew says

    How sad that in 2012 we are still interested in what Judaism, Christianity and Islam have to say about anything. They are all so called Abrahamic Religions. They are based on the myth that the creator of the billion gallaxy universe made an everlasting covenant with Abraham and his descendants. The sign of their covenant was a little piece of foreskin. LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. anon says

    Any laws more than 100 or so years old will reveal a strong bias against women and assume paired gender roles. Jewish laws have the advantage of being more entertainingly convoluted than most.

  10. DB says

    Hallelujah! Congratulations and God bless to all Jewish couples, gay and heterosexual, who have had their marriages sanctified in the faith. While the Conservative tradition still trails the Reform and Reconstructionist denominations in some fundamental moral areas, it is making great strides in moving towards recognizing that all God’s children, female or male, are equally love in God’s eyes and should be treated equally.

  11. says

    His point was made and noted even before the t’shuvah was passed by the CJLS in May, although no one’s quite sure what to do about it. Also, he misses the point that the language of the traditional k’tubbah hasn’t had real legal meaning for centuries and is kept on as a way of keeping faith with the past rather than as a meaningful legal document. The text of a same-sex k’tubbah that Reisner/Dorff/Nevins puts forward is far more egalitarian, but less traditional. So it’s a kind of balancing act, but one that needs to be allowed to play itself out rather than forced through. Things change…but they rarely change because of some people yelling at other people….

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