Roee Ruttenberg reported over the weekend in +972 Magazine that “for the first time in history an openly-gay American rabbi ordained by the Orthodox movement has officiated at a same-sex wedding ceremony.” He was referring to a Jewish marriage ceremony that Rabbi Steve Greenberg performed for gay couple Yoni Bock and Ron Kaplan at the Historic 6th & I Synagogue in Washington, D.C. last Thursday evening.
As Ruttenberg noted, the event was both unique and controversial. Rabbi Greenberg, who came out publicly after having been ordained by an Orthodox rabbinical school, became well known after he appeared in Sandi Simcha DuBowski’s 2001 documentary film, “Trembling Before God,” about Orthodox Jews trying to reconcile their Jewish and gay identities.
Although same-sex Jewish couples have been married by rabbis from the liberal Jewish movements in states that have legalized same-sex marriage, this seems to be the first time that any clergy member associated with the Orthodox movement has officiated at such a union. Although some are supportive of Greenberg, author of “Wrestling with God and Men: Homosexuality in the Jewish Tradition,” many in the Orthodox community will find his participation in this wedding as a reason to shun him even more than they already have.
“We were encouraged by the legislation of same-sex marriage in our home ‘state’ of Washington, DC,” Ruttenberg quoted Bock and Kaplan as having written in the wedding’s program. “At the same time, both of us wanted a ceremony that would be meaningful halachically (in terms of religious Jewish law) and create a set of Jewish legal obligations between us.”
As might be expected, Greenberg and the couple worked together to change several parts of the wedding ceremony. Although they hewed to the traditional framework, they changed gendered pronouns, and they altered elements to reflect more gender equality and to be more same-sex-friendly. For instance, they replaced the traditional ketubah with a “shtar shetufim” (a partnership contract).
Video clips from the wedding ceremony can be viewed on the +972 Magazine website.