Here at the Queer Church, I confess an unfortunate bias in coverage in favour of the USA (alas, that is where most of the publicized news seems to come from), and to the Catholic / Christian faith. However, I freely concede that other places, and other faiths, equally deserve attention. I am delighted to bring to your attention this news report of a Jewish gay wedding in the Netherlands – which was the world’s first country to recognise same-sex marriage. What makes this story newsworthy, is its basis in a faith community.
(My brackets around “gay” in my headline are prompted by some important observations in a private email by my colleague, the gay priest “Bart”, who insists that “marriage” is the only acceptable term for all committed unions, and that we should not be treating same-sex or opposite-sex unions differentially. He is right – but “Jewish wedding in the Netherlands” is hardly a remarkable event. The use of “(gay)” as a qualifier is my best attempt to reconcile these.)
First gay Jewish marriage ceremony in the Netherlands
On Sunday, the first ever Jewish ceremony confirming a same-sex marriage was held in the synagogue of the Liberale Joodse Gemeente (Liberal Jewish Community) in Amsterdam.
As of this week, Jewish same-sex couples can have their relationships confirmed in one of the community’s ten synagogues in a ceremony called Brit Ahava, a covenant of love.
The Amsterdam ceremony was not a global first. In the United States, Jewish same-sex couples have been able to get married for five years. A spokesperson for the synagogue said that there had not been much interest in the community so far, but added that Sunday’s ceremony might help generate more interest.
The Council of Rabbis of the Dutch Union of Progressive Jewry recently ruled that Jewish same-sex couples could henceforth have their relationship confirmed in a Jewish ritual.
Dutch Newspaper Trouw reports that the decision was preceded by years of debate, but that the nine liberal jewish communities are now uninamous in their support for offering gay couples the possibility of a special ceremony in a synagogue to confirm a relationship.
Rabbi Menno ten Brink of the Amsterdam Liberale Joodse Gemeente emphasises that this ceremony is a ritual, not a Jewish same-sex marriage. He said the ceremony is called a Brit Ahava to distinguish it from a heterosexual marriage and to give it a different meaning under Jewish Halachic law. He described the ceremony for same-sex couples as a first step in the ongoing development within the Jewish community.