Three Weddings and a Statement

Photo credit: Joan Roth

Photo credit: Joan Roth

Three couples unable to marry in Israel celebrated their Jewish weddings at Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan Sunday, December 3.

Because of the stranglehold the Orthodox rabbinate has over personal status—marriage, conversion to Judaism and divorce, for example—an Israeli Jew whose conversion to Judaism was not according to Orthodox standards can’t have a Jewish ceremony in Israel. Neither can a lesbian couple. Nor can an egalitarian-minded heterosexual couple who want to avoid the “man buys his wife” construct of the Orthodox ketuba, or marriage certificate.

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So, the rabbis at the Reform Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan joined with the Israel Religious Action Center of the Reform movement (yes, the same people you may have seen getting arrested as they try to make prayer services more inclusive at Jerusalem’s Western Wall) to create a Jewish wedding ceremony for three couples, each of whom falls into one of the “forbidden” categories. You can meet them and listen to them tell their stories of love and frustration here.

The event, which included as officiants Reform and Conservative rabbis, was advertised as “Three Weddings & a Statement” and drew about 1500 “guests.” As one of the rabbis present said to those watching from the pews, “You have to be partisans, not [just] witnesses.”

After the six glasses (in white cases) were stomped on and broken by each of the marriage partners (not just by the groom, as is traditional), all the rabbis in the sanctuary—including Modern Orthodox rabbis—were invited up to bless the couples.

These images, by Lilith photographer Joan Roth, capture the strikingly theatrical setting and the joy both of the six celebrants and of the six rabbis marrying them.

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