This article was written by Rabbi Matthew D. Gewirtz, Cantor Howard M. Stahl, Rabbi Karen R. Perolman, and Rabbi Joshua M. Z. Stanton, the clergy team at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills, New Jersey’s oldest and largest synagogue. It appeared first in The Huffington Post.
Some people ask us about what makes our service as members of the clergy so meaningful. While our answers can be lengthy, as we really love what we do, officiating at weddings is high on our lists. There is something spiritually awakening about being in the presence of two adults who have found in each other love and companionship and want to dedicate their lives to each other.
Standing under the wedding canopy (chuppah) with a couple being married, we feel privileged to get a glimpse of love’s power and sense the potential of humanity. It is a moment when we experience a heightened sense God’s presence within people and relationships. Indeed we never take for granted that couples allow us to stand with them on sacred ground.
We find ourselves particularly filled with joy today with the news that, as clergy at the largest and oldest synagogue in the great state of New Jersey, Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills, we will now be able to officiate at the marriages of people irrespective of their sexual orientation. At a time when many struggle to find love, we cannot in good conscience deprive those who have found it, but are of the same gender, of the full legal and religious recognition that they deserve as spouses.
Our Jewish tradition preaches radical acceptance of those who are made to feel as though they are strangers. Thirty-six times in the Torah, we are commanded to treat “strangers” with kindness and respect. How long, until this day, have our LGBTQ brothers and sisters been made to feel as strangers in our state? How long have they been made to feel like second-class citizens with unequal status under the law?
We feel privileged to be able to bless them and legally affirm their marriages, as we would for their heterosexual counterparts. It is part of our longstanding commitment to LGBTQ equality and its attainment within our society and a natural outgrowth of our belief that we should live out our faith through action.
While marriage equality is only one step on the path to fully equal treatment for those who identify as gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual, it is one of great importance, and, in our eyes, sacred import.
In the seven blessings we bestow upon couples under the wedding canopy (Sheva B’rachot), there is one that will resonate particularly for us in the legal marriages we will be blessed to perform as of today, October 21st, 2013: “Praised are you, Adonai our God, for the creation of people.” Indeed, all people. We are so fortunate to now be able to bless those who stand under the wedding canopy without question of their sexual orientation. This is a milestone moment for our state and a milestone moment for us as God’s servants, who feel renewed in our privilege to serve all of God’s people.
We give thanks to God for a day such as this.