Is there such a thing as a traditional gay Jewish wedding? That’s one of the questions tackled May 4 during “A conversation about same-sex marriage” at Kol Shalom in Rockville.
The panel discussing the issues included same-sex couples Yoni Block and Ron Kaplan; Rachel Hutt, whose wife, Nikki Marks, was not in attendance; and Josh Siegel and Seth Schermer. Also speaking were Rabbis Laurie Green of Bet Mishpachah in Washington and Jonathan Maltzman of Kol Shalom, both of whom have performed same-sex weddings, while Nina Simon and Bob Rosenthal, and Merle Berg spoke as parents of children who had a same-sex Jewish wedding.
The forum, which drew 40 people, was presented by the Keshet Parent and Family Connection. Excerpts:
How did you prepare the text of your ketubah?
Rachel Hutt: We ended up using the framework of a traditional ketubah. The middle section had our vows. We took a lot from what others had done. It was a mishmash of a process. It was a very meaningful process to think, “What is all this about? What are we saying to each other?”
Who walked down the aisle first? And how did you break the glass?
Josh Siegel: We had a long-stemmed glass, and we stepped on it together.
Seth Schermer: We each circled three times, and we circled together. We got that from a straight wedding.
Rachel Hutt: We simultaneously walked down two side aisles, and we met in the middle. I saw that at a straight wedding. We did no circling. It’s more of a minhag [custom] than a legal aspect of the wedding. Nikki broke the glass. I didn’t want to do it. I said, “You’re going to do it.”
Ron Kaplan: We used two glasses. Growing up, you’re told, “You’re a man. You’re going to break a glass at your wedding.”
Rachel Hutt: Each decision can be imbued with so much meaning, so much weight. Or not. That helps make for a sense of sanity and make it beautiful.
Did the need to reinvent add or detract from the experience?
Rabbi Green: By virtue of this being nontraditional, we don’t have to plan ceremonies that fall into typical categories. What I think we’re doing now is planning the traditional gay Jewish wedding of 100 years from now.
Yoni Block: Kedushah, holiness is what the Jewish wedding boils down to. Keeping that at the center is the key to the gay Jewish wedding. A thousand years from now, the question will be, “What made this holy?”
Did you look for gay vendors, or vendors who have worked gay weddings?
Yoni Block: The question is not so much are you familiar with gay weddings, but are you familiar with Jewish weddings?
How much parental involvement was there?
Rachel Hutt: With my sister’s wedding, my mom sort of got [her maternal wedding planning desires] out of her system by the time my wedding came around.
Bob Rosenthal: Our straight daughter was too busy to plan it herself. Our other daughter, who is having a same-sex marriage … we’re involved to a lesser degree. The check writing stays the same.