Jews complain gay weddings are more fair than straight ones –

Jews complain gay weddings are more fair than straight ones –

Across the country, gay couples are fighting for the same marriage rights as straight couples. But in the Conservative Jewish movement, heterosexual couples may soon clamor for the kind of partnerships now reserved only for lesbians and gays.


I must admit that the New York Post was not the first place  that came to my mind when thinking of where the issue of how the Conservative movement’s new gay wedding ceremonies are more egalitarian than their heterosexual ones, might be covered. (It was covered by the Forward,  and Jewschool).  But the Merav Gaslin of the Post called to interviewed me so that shows how much I know about that.

Gaslin covers all the background issues and gets to the crux of the matter.

When they voted to approve the new liturgy, one member of the Rabbinical Assembly’s Committee on Law and Standards was so impressed with the egalitarian language, he said, “I want to start using this for my straight couples!”

That’s not exactly what the three rabbis who wrote the liturgy had in mind; in fact, written into the law is a caution against using the ceremonies for heterosexual couples.

In a nutshell, the Conservative movement is saying that they will confer either egalitarianism (partners having equal and indistinguishable roles), which they will grant to gay couples, but not straight ones or halakhic legitimacy ( which they will grant to straight couples but not gay couples.)

Both the Forward and Jewschool talk about both gay and straight couples writing their own kettubot to achieve egalitarianism that was not available in canonical texts, as I did in 1996. (Here it is if anyone is interested.) . When I got married in 1996, we were very much on our own in terms of writing the text. I was lucky enough to have studied Kiddushin in high school, so we wrote our own egalitarian text, essentially (but not fully) making the same legal transactions to each other and making the promises mutual. And we had to translate to Aramaic/Hebrew ourselves there was nothing out there at the time. A relative typeset it for us. I am happy with it, but I would have certainly gone farther with my changes had I written it today.

I’d like to clarify my quote in the New York Post article that I always considered my kettubah kosher; the issue was that it was signed by two women. Women were not considered valid legal witnesses by the Conservative movement until 2005)

Not only is the current Conservative Kettubah text not egalitarian in terms of Kiddushin (discussed by the New York Post and   Forward articles and BZ’s writings), it still refers to the woman as betulah (a virgin) and has only the man’s obligations towards the woman in terms of feeding, clothing and providing for and has  non-parallel  titles/ uses of bride/groom to refer to the participants.

Another problem with the texts offered by many Kettubah sites and proposed by many Conservative rabbis is that they suffer from the sin of lying through translation ( see Silverman prayer-book) in that they offer a very tradition Aramaic/Hebrew text alongside an egalitarian statement of mutual caring etc. in English.  For example, calls having the Liberman clause ‘egalitarian’ and admits that the English is not a translation.

Given the current state of things, and the historic small ‘c’ conservativeness of the Conservative movement, I think it will be awhile before any standard text they put out is as egalitarian as our imperfect 1996 attempt.

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