|Not a ketubah, alas.|
For those of you who are late to this party, the Reconstructionist movement was the first to call for equal treatment and the full integration of gay people into synagogue life. That mean, even if without a marriage license, celebrating same-sex unions. They were followed in this by the Reform movement and finally the Conservative movement. So, about 90 percent of American Jews belong to movements that permit same-sex weddings.
Likewise, 90 percent of American Jews belong to movements that view homosexuality as morally neutral. If you’re a conservative writer like Rod Dreher, you’re going to have problem wrapping your head around the idea that for most Jews in the United States, gay sex in the context of a committed relationship isn’t a sin but a simcha (blessing). That’s my pull quote:
And that’s going to include same-sex couples in interfaith relationships.Gay sex is a simcha.
But it isn’t as the New York Times implies solely a matter of concern about interfaith relationships. After all, the article quotes Spiegelman saying that
We’d understood that she perceived our relationship as legitimate and would see our marriage as legitimate. And it really hurt us to be rejected for that reason.But it isn’t a question of seeing an interfaith marriage as illegitimate. Their synagogue is unaffiliated, but let’s take the Reconstructionist movement as an example. In a Reconstructionist synagogue, non-Jewish spouses are also included in the full life of the synagogue, and that is supposed to include such things as the ability to run for the board and continued membership in the synagogue after the death of the Jewish spouse. So synagogues certainly make accommodation with and treat interfaith couples with respect. Then there’s that ketubah.
A ketubah is a Jewish marriage contract; it marries the couple under Jewish law. The traditional text lays out the couple’s obligations to each other. Even the most Orthodox of ketubot is not going to mention God; it’s a contract between the two members of the couple as members of the Jewish community. And that brings me back to the question of what does a ketubah mean to a Catholic?
Before I get to that, the New York Times article raises the question of “what does Communion mean to a Jew?” Spieglman takes Communion when she attends Mass at Dignity/Boston, which makes me think that their lack of understanding isn’t confined to Judaism. It’s been a long time since I was a practicing Catholic, but I do remember that you have to be one to take Communion. Also, Spiegelman and Donnelly keep kosher for Passover (by which I take to mean they don’t eat leavened bread).
“I mentioned something about not being able to take Communion because it is leavened, and they consecrated matzo for us,” Ms. Spiegelman said. “They had two little pieces in the pillbox so it didn’t touch any of the wheat, any of the leaven.”First, western-rite Catholics (i.e.: not the Orthodox, but the standard Roman Catholics easily found in Massachusetts) use unleavened bread as Communion wafers. If you punched out circles of blank newspaper, no one could tell the difference. Second, what is a Jewish woman doing taking Communion? Is she claiming to be part of the community of Christian believers? Oy! Communion wafers may not be chometz, but they’re still not appropriate snacks for Jews at Passover or any other time of the year. (Technically, they probably are chometz, since though they are unleavened, they are not made under appropriate supervision.)
One frequent question in the Reconstruction movement is “what does this mean to you?” My rabbi has joked that if fasting just makes you cranky and unable to focus on what you need to do to be a better person in year ahead, “go out and get a ham sandwich!” If keeping kosher makes you feel attached to Jewish people, be kosher, but it it just makes you think, “why can’t I have bacon?” then go and have bacon. (I’ve seen it said by non-Jews on various sites that Jews view eating pork as a sin for Jews, but not for non-Jews. It’s an inaccurate term: it’s a ritual violation, not a sin.)
Should religion be filled with practices that mean nothing to the people doing them? That, unfortunately, is what’s going on with Ms. Donnelley. A ketubah doesn’t mean anything to her; it’s just a pretty document to hang on the way (says the man with the really pretty ketubah hanging on a wall). That’s why the unnamed rabbi won’t officiate at the ceremony.
Honestly, I could suggest a Humanist Jewish practitioner (not a rabbi) who would give them a legal ceremony with Jewish elements but not a religious ceremony. I think that’s deep down what they’re looking for.
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