Something important (and wonderful!) has happened in Kveller’s home state of New York, and I think it needs to be acknowledged here.
By now you’ve all probably read the news, and hopefully you’re rejoicing along with me. As a citizen of Massachusetts (which legalized gay marriage in 2004), I’m wondering what took them so long. As a Jewish mother, I couldn’t be more pleased.
The Jewish position on gay and lesbian rights is, not surprisingly, incredibly diverse. Although the Torah condemns male homosexual sex, it doesn’t comment on lesbian sex. The American Jewish community has dealt with this information in a variety of ways. The Cliff Notes version is that the Reform and Reconstructionist denominations ordain gay and lesbian Rabbis, and both movements allow Rabbis to officiate at same-sex marriages and commitment ceremonies. The Orthodox movement believes that all homosexual behavior is forbidden by Jewish law, and only affirms marriages between a man and a woman. The Conservative movement is somewhere in between. Although the Conservative Rabbinical schools will accept gay and lesbian students, the movement has essentially delegated much of the decision-making regarding gay and lesbian weddings to the congregation or individual Rabbi.
I get it. It’s not easy to reconcile these modern questions with traditional Judaism. I understand why the Conservative movement has decided to hang out on the fence (although I disagree). As for me, when I decided to make Judaism a central part of my life, I knew that I had to do so in a way that would not conflict with my values. I knew I could never embrace a belief system that would reject my family members, friends, and my (at that point in time) unborn children. I was fortunate to find a thriving Reconstructionist congregation; one that neither blindly accepts not rejects traditional Jewish law, but really struggles with it.
I have to say that I haven’t struggled much with this particular issue. Although I care deeply about what Judaism has to say, and I do believe the Torah to be a holy document, I’m not a halachic Jew (nor do I aspire to be one, precisely because of issues such as this one). I believe that equality is a human right and a civil right, and I’m sorry to say that I think that our ancestors who wrote the Torah way back when just got it wrong on this one.
Furthermore, as a Jewish mother, the bottom line is this: If I’m going to be a part of a Jewish community, or any community, it must be one that will accept me, my family, and especially my children, for exactly who they are, and whoever they will become. That’s the bottom line.
So, a hearty bravo to you, New York (and to Massachusetts, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington DC), for doing the right thing. To the rest of the country: it’s time to step up. And to the Jewish community, I say this: even if you can’t accept gay and lesbian equality yet, struggle with it. (That’s what Jews do, isn’t it?) Move beyond the words of the Torah, and spend some time on this one. The Jewish community will be stronger and more vibrant once we accept and embrace all Jews, regardless of who they love.