Progressively Speaking: ‘It’s our duty to welcome LGBT couples into our shuls’

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Progressively Speaking: ‘It’s our duty to welcome LGBT couples into our shuls’

Rabbi Mark Goldsmith says Reform and Liberal should encourage gay and lesbian Jewish couples to come to synagogue

Recent headlines reported the wedding of Miriam Jefferson, who is Jewish, and Kalavati Mistry, who is Hindu.  The two women were married in a Jewish ceremony in Texas and a Hindu ceremony in Leicester.

For more than a decade, Reform and Liberal Judaism in the UK has welcomed and celebrated gay and lesbian Jewish couples.

On the Torah basis that “it is not good for a person to be alone” (Genesis 1:18), our synagogues have ensured lifelong Jewish gay and lesbian partnerships can be recognised publicly in their sacredness
and declared with joy to the congregations where the partners belong.

In recent years, both Reform and Liberal synagogues have also developed ways in which we can publicly and joyously celebrate the decision of a mixed-faith couple, of whatever gender, to be lifelong partners, establishing a Jewish home.

When a couple make this decision and intend to raise any children in the household as Jews, now or in the future, Reform and Liberal synagogues accept the duty and delight of bringing both partners, Jew and non-Jew, into the Jewish community, whether or not the non-Jewish partner chooses to convert to Judaism, now or in the future.

The way in which this celebration takes place varies from synagogue to synagogue.

For some, a mixed-faith marriage will be celebrated by a ceremony to attach a mezuzah to the couple’s home, while for other couples, they will be called up to the Torah during a Shabbat service.

Some couples also work with the synagogue’s rabbi or cantor to create
a wedding celebration ceremony using liturgy specially created for the occasion. The ceremony will not include the symbols of a Jewish wedding, such as a chuppah or ketubah, because this ceremony is created to celebrate the marriage of two people who have not at this point chosen to be governed by “the laws of Moses and Israel”.  Also, we expect that the couple will not celebrate a ceremony in another faith as well.

What is important is that a couple, gay or straight, who have made the decision to be each other’s partners for life and have chosen to create a Jewish home together, knows their decision is of enormous importance and delight to the Jewish community.

They should know they are both welcome in our community and in our synagogues. It is the Jewish community’s responsibility to demonstrate this by celebrating with them.

 is rabbi at Alyth Synagogue

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