Conservative Jews angry that same-sex couples are equal — to each other

In June, the Conservative Jewish movement approved same-sex weddings. Now that the ceremonies are commonly being performed in Conservative synagogues, heterosexual couples are complaining that same-sex marriages are more equal than opposite-sex marriages, according to the NY Post.

While Jews don’t believe in marriage as it’s existed since Biblical times, some traditions continue. In the Torah, marriage happens when a man rapes a woman, as long as the man is Jewish or at least converts. That is, as long as the brothers don’t murder him, as in the story in Genesis of Dinah.

Marriage also may happen when a man acquires his wife for the right price. And then he’s trusting that he’s given the right bride, as in the story of Jacob, also in Genesis, where he is given Rachel instead of Leah. But no problem: He later married Leah, too.

But what is the same in Conservative Judaism is that the husband still acquires the wife. And a religious divorce, called a Get, may only be initiated by the man. After all, how can property initiate something like a divorce that’s reserved for people, like men? Reform, the largest branch of Judaism in the U.S., and Reconstructionist Jews threw a lot of that crap out years ago.

—  David Taffet

Conservative Judaism working to make same-sex wedding ceremonies equal

According to the Israeli newspaper HaAretz, Conservative Judaism is working to come up with a same-sex marriage ceremony.

Note: Yes, same-sex marriage is performed in most branches of Judaism. Israel recognizes same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. Same-sex weddings are not performed in Israel, but neither are Reform weddings.

Here’s the debate that’s going on. Conservative Judaism wants the same-sex marriage ceremony to be as close to the traditional ceremony as possible. They argue that if the ceremony is different, then the marriage is different. If the marriage is different, then it isn’t kiddushin, or holy. Separate isn’t equal, they argue.

But in the traditional marriage ceremony as it’s existed since Biblical times, the husband is taking ownership of the wife. How would that work in a same-sex relationship? Who would buy whom? Would a dowry be paid?

So some who are coming up with the new ceremony want to update the vows to emphasize the loving relationship and partnership and support the couple gives each other.

Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism have already updated their vows. Husbands don’t generally buy wives in Reform synagogues.

And here’s where Maggie Gallagher, the American Family Association and all their right-wing buddies are completely right. Same-sex marriage is destroying traditional marriage as it’s existed since Biblical times.

In Judaism, rabbis are looking at those traditional marriage vows and throwing them out. Women don’t want to be purchased and men don’t want to own them and rabbis don’t want to be involved in transferring property rights.

But the Conservative Movement is right that the same-sex wedding ceremony needs to be as close to the opposite-sex wedding ceremony because separate isn’t equal. In the end, the Conservative wedding for opposite sex couples will change to reflect the equality of a same-sex marriage.

So once again, gays and lesbians are making the world a better place and to heterosexuals, we say, you’re welcome.

—  David Taffet

Newsweek’s list of 50 top rabbis includes gays, Dallasites

Rabbi Steve Gutow
Rabbi Steve Gutow

Newsweek released its list of the 50 most influential rabbis in America for 2010 with some interesting characters on the list. A surprising number of gay and lesbian rabbis make the list, and a couple of the rabbis are from Dallas.

Rabbi Steve Gutow is listed at No. 20 for a second year. Gutow, originally a Dallas attorney, worked in Gov. Ann Richards’ administration and went to rabbinical school after she left office. Since then, he has conducted services at Dallas LGBTA Congregation Beth El Binah a number of times and is currently president and CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

No. 47 on the list is Rabbi David Stern, the head rabbi at Temple Emanu-el on Northwest Highway in Dallas who has come under criticism by some members of his congregation for one particular position.

Stern will not do interfaith weddings and is clear about that position, but members of his congregation often ask him to perform them anyway. A same-sex wedding he performed at the temple in the early 1990s is often thrown in his face when he refuses to do interfaith opposite-sex marriages.

“But you married those two damn lesbians,” people tell him.

“Yes, and they were both Jewish,” he tells them.

Stern is straight.

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum takes the No. 25 position. Her New York City congregation, Beit Simchat Torah, is the largest LGBTA synagogue. For High Holidays, they rent out the Jacob Javitz Convention Center in Manhattan to hold services.

Rabbi Elliot Dorff is No. 43. He contributed to the book “Torah Queeries,” which provides an LGBT perspective on the first five books of the Bible and has written on medical ethics for gays and lesbians. He made the list because he chairs the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards for Conservative Judaism, which has become much more liberal under his guidance.

—  David Taffet