Forward Thinking

Changing My Mind On Same-Sex Ceremonies

By Philip Scheim

Josh and Mark on the day of their commitment ceremony / Danielle Perelman

On a recent Sunday night, I did something that in the past I never thought I would do.

Nine years ago, I voted “no” on the most well-known Conservative Movement responsum on homosexuality, the Dorff-Nevins-Reisner teshuvah on “Homosexuality, Human Dignity and Halakhah.” At the time, I would not have envisioned myself — this past week, or ever — officiating at a same-sex commitment ceremony. How I ended up doing just that is, I believe, reflective of the great strengths of the Rabbinical Assembly and of our Conservative movement.

About a year ago, two young lawyers, Josh and Mark, requested that I officiate at their commitment ceremony. It was not something that I had ever been asked to do previously, so I had not given the possibility much thought, even though my 2006 vote would have suggested my declining the request.

But that was before I met with the two young men, both of whom impressed me deeply with their senses of humor and personal warmth, their depth of Jewish learning and commitment. Both coming from Conservative backgrounds, they wanted a kosher simcha, a ceremony held in a synagogue (contrary to today’s overwhelming trend of hotel and wedding-hall venues), and a commitment ceremony such as those they had already found on the Rabbinical Assembly website.

Danielle Perelman
It’s Official: Josh and Mark on the happy day.

After meeting with these two men, I knew I wanted to say yes. With the support of my leadership, I agreed to the ceremony, recognizing that my theoretical opposition to such an event a decade earlier had melted once confronted by two real live human beings who loved each other, and similarly cherished every aspect of their Jewish identities.

I told them that it would not be a marriage service, would not include the classic sheva berakhot, and would not use a standard ketubah, all of which accorded with their wishes as well. They wanted to work as closely as possible within the confines of a halakhic environment, in other words, to be groundbreaking while holding sacred the Jewish legal framework of the Conservative movement in which they had been raised.

Then came the ceremony with 300 people, representing a cross-section of the community, the vast majority heterosexual, the vast majority Jewish, including a significant number of young Modern Orthodox Jews who danced with the joy and enthusiasm seen most often at frum weddings. I would not have imagined, nine years ago, when I voted against the Dorff-Nevins-Reisner teshuvah, that I would come to view this ceremony as one of the true spiritual highlights of my rabbinic career.

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Mitt's Big Fat Jewish Wedding Snafu

By Nathan Guttman

getty images
Mitt Romney

Sometimes a candidate doesn’t have to chase after the Jewish vote. It chases him. That could be Mitt Romney’s conclusion from an unusual set of events he experienced in New Jersey today.

Speeding from Newark Airport to Lake Terrace, N.J., Romney’s motorcade crossed paths with a Jewish Orthodox wedding party, posing for photos with the bride and groom.

The ride was already harrowing for all concerned, according to a pool reporters account.

“Hitting speeds of up to 90 mph at times, the motorcade made what had been scheduled as a 61-minute drive in roughly 45 minutes on a route that took us along the Jersey Turnpike to the Garden State Parkway and prompted your pooler to wonder many times if she would live to cover Romney’s remarks at the fundraiser tonight.”

Things were going to get even curioser. In the words of the pool reporter: “some unusual things happened.”

“First, the motorcade passed a man dressed in American flag shorts running down the street toward the venue here while waving an American flag.

“Whooooo!” he exclaimed, as your pooler’s van passed.

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