Words of Torah for Marriage Equality

Rabbi Harold Kravitz, Adath Jeshurun Congregation in Minnetonka, Minnesota

This is an excerpt from an article posted on Keshet’s blog on myjewishlearning.com. Go there to read the full piece. The Jewish Social Justice Roundtable is proud that Keshet is using its public forum to highlight the work of and fund raise for another Jewish Social Justice Roundtable member organization, Jewish Community Action. Keep up the great shared work and victory is yours this November in Minnesota. - Mae Singerman, Jewish Social Justice Roundtable Coordinator

This year has witnessed a great surge of discussion about marriage in Minnesota, with the unfortunate decision by the State Legislature to put to an election whether marriage will be defined only as a relationship between one man and one woman. I am pleased that the Minnesota Rabbinical Association (MRA) has played a leading role in this debate, unanimously calling for people to vote NO on that amendment. I deeply respect the process by which our Adath Synagogue Board, after thoughtful reflection, endorsed the position of the MRA. Neither the MRA, nor our synagogue Board could be accused of being against marriage – quite the opposite. The decisions of both bodies reflect a growing recognition that the time has come in the civil realm, and some of us would say in the religious realm as well, to allow for the possibility of marriage for same-gender couples, or at the very least for a respectful consideration of that possibility.

Our society is in the midst of rethinking our understanding of homosexuality. Our synagogue and our movement in Judaism have been trying to find our way through this issue for more than 25 years. I asserted, in a Shabbat sermon in February, that Conservative Judaism has long understood that it is a distortion of Torah to claim that there is a single, clear and obvious meaning to any Biblical verse. Jewish tradition is rich with learned debate trying to discern from the text what God wants for us. I think that Conservative Judaism serves as a model for how to confront difficult issues and changing understandings in a respectful way. It is just wrong to try to concretize one group’s view of this issue into the MN State Constitution. This is the very time when our state should be struggling through these complex issues, rather than trying to shut down a necessary conversation.

In the weeks ahead there will be a barrage of ads trying to spook people into voting for the amendment. They will claim that children are best off when raised in a home with a mother and father. The truth is much more complicated and nuanced than that. There are studies supporting the claim that children fare better in homes where parents are married, but these ads will be filled with half-truths. Children are better off when they have stable families, and married families are statistically the most stable. If anything that could be an argument for welcoming same gender couples to marry, so as to increase the stability of children’s lives.

I hope that this so-called marriage amendment is defeated. Though it is too much to adequately address today, I also strongly oppose the proposed voter ID amendment. It sounds innocuous, but I believe it would be highly damaging to our democracy. There will be a chance to study that issue at a forum being sponsored by our Hesed Committee at Adath after Shabbat services on Oct 13th to which you are invited. Rosh Hashanah celebrates God’s creation of the world in which every person is created in the Divine image. I believe that the two amendments being proposed to MN are both threats to human dignity. I am committed to keeping the conversation open about marriage for committed same-sex couples and ensuring that we all have the freedom to participate in our democracy, so I will vote NO on both amendments on November 6th.