Conservatives Give Gay Wedding Guidance

Rabbis Adopt Two New Frameworks for Same-Sex Marriages

By the Power Vested in Me: Rabbi Menachem Creditor marries Margee Churchon and Kate Smallenburg in Berkeley, Calif. Conservative rabbis are grappling with how to adapt a traditional Jewish wedding for same-sex couples.
alison yin and adm golub
By the Power Vested in Me: Rabbi Menachem Creditor marries Margee Churchon and Kate Smallenburg in Berkeley, Calif. Conservative rabbis are grappling with how to adapt a traditional Jewish wedding for same-sex couples.

By Naomi Zeveloff

Published May 31, 2012, issue of June 08, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 3)

For gay weddings, the forms are still evolving. With the assembly releasing its own marriage templates, four Conservative rabbis, some new to gay commitment ceremonies and others familiar with them, shared their rituals with the Forward:

Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Rabbi Menachem Creditor, who helms congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley, Calif., is a traditionalist when it comes to marital rites. “The important thing for me is that same-sex marriage is marriage,” he said. “It is not something different.”

In the 10 years that he has been conducting gay marriages, Creditor has changed virtually nothing in the conventional marriage ceremony, adjusting only gendered language where appropriate. “I see every traditional form as pregnant with meaning,” he said.

Creditor’s perspective is not uncommon among Conservative rabbis. For instance, across the country, Rabbi David Lerner of Temple Emunah outside Boston also hews closely to traditional rites. “I tried to keep the elements as similar as possible so if you walked into that ceremony you would say, ‘I am at a Jewish wedding,’” he said.

But Creditor goes a step beyond most rabbis, maintaining language that might strike others as inapplicable to gay couples. Creditor keeps most of the text in the last of the seven blessings, which refers to the rejoicing of brides and grooms. He changes only the last line to refer to a groom and a groom — or a bride and a bride. The wording “is not an imposition on a gay couple that they should be straight,” he said. “It is an admission that sexual orientation is not a reason to limit joy.”

Rabbi Gerald Skolnik

Rabbi Gerald Skolnik
Rabbi Gerald Skolnik

In contrast to Creditor, Skolnik has used a service that hints at the traditional Jewish wedding but ultimately deviates from the ancient rites.

Skolnik, president of the Rabbinical Assembly, roots his ceremony in a foundational Jewish ritual: the blessing over the wine. But for the second blessing dealing with sexual prohibition, he substitutes a prayer from the sheva brachot, which blesses God “who creates man in your image.” “It was an acknowledgment that whether gay or straight, you are a sacred human being,” said Skolnik.

Skolnik created the ceremony last year for a gay male couple at Forest Hills Jewish Center, where he is a pulpit rabbi. By his own admission, Skolnik was hesitant in applying traditional Jewish marriage rites to a homosexual union. “My effort was to try and craft some kind of ceremony that would be spiritual and Jewish, but not a clone” of traditional marriage, he said.

The ceremony did not take place under a chuppah, nor do the grooms break glasses underfoot. Rather than use the traditional prayer over the ring exchange, Skolnik replaced it with language he found on a liturgical website called Ritualwell. Though a surrogate ketubah was present, the seven blessings were not.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.