Edith Windsor Gets Jewish Hero's Welcome at Shul After Gay Marriage Win

Overflow Crowd Packs Beit Sinchat Torah in Manhattan

getty images

By JTA

Published July 02, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

At 5 p.m. last Friday, a line of visibly excited people – many decked out in rainbow regalia – gathered on the sidewalk outside Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, the gay and lesbian synagogue in Manhattan.

Worshipers don’t generally form lines down the block in advance of Sabbath services. But it’s not every Shabbat that one can celebrate gay pride weekend with Edith Windsor and Roberta Kaplan – the gay community equivalent of Rosa Parks and Thurgood Marshall.

Windsor is the lesbian whose Supreme Court petition resulted in the historic overturn last week of the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law barring the U.S. government from recognizing gay and lesbian marriages. Kaplan is her lawyer. Both women are CBST members.

Click to see the rest of the section, Click for more stories about Gay Marriage

More than 600 people, including New York mayoral candidate Christine Quinn, came to the synagogue to celebrate the ruling; some stood outside listening in through speakers.

As the services started, a diminutive, elegantly dressed woman walked in slowly. No one noticed at first, but then one person recognized the smiling woman as Windsor, and the cheering and applause turned into a sustained standing ovation.

Services were extended and included the recitation of the Hallel prayer normally reserved for holidays. Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum dedicated the night to Thea Speyer, Windsor’s deceased partner, and said that while there may be reasons not to fully rejoice in the court’s decisions last week – the justices declined to overturn laws banning gay unions already on the books in several states – the occasion still merited a celebration.

And celebrate they did. With a choir on hand, the synagogue was full of joy, music and hugs.

Kaplan and Windsor spoke together at the end of the service, comparing their efforts in securing equal rights for same-sex marriages to the efforts of the biblical daughters of Zelophehad, who fought for their inheritance rights and won.

“Inherent in Jewish belief is the view that people, communities and even the law must and should change when times and ethical circumstances require it,” Kaplan said. “Indeed, both the Torah and the rabbis teach that such change is actually a positive value.”

She added, “That is the kind of change, the kind of tikkun olam, or repair of the world, that lies at the heart of our tradition. It is, I believe, what God commands of every individual, every community, even of the law, even of God.”


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!
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • 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.