Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

COS OKs same-sex unions


At its May meeting, Senior Rabbi Aaron D. Rubinger advised the full Board of Trustees of Congregation Ohev Shalom in Maitland, of his decision—in consultation with the other clergy and lay leadership—to authorize same-sex Jewish unions at the synagogue, and Torah honors for same-sex Jewish couples.

The state of Florida does not recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions. However, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards—the body which interprets Jewish religious law for Conservative Judaism, Ohev Shalom’s denomination—adopted a ruling in 2006 which normalized the status of gays and lesbians. A follow-up in 2012 by the authors of that ruling introduced model rituals and documents for same-sex couples.

“The time has come,” Rabbi Rubinger wrote in a letter to Ohev Shalom congregants, “to allow for same-sex Jewish unions within our synagogue [and] same-sex Jewish couples to have aliyot to the Torah.”

The proposal had already been brought to the synagogue’s Ritual Committee, which supported it unanimously. An open question session for congregants drew about 20 people and no objections. The synagogue’s Executive Committee was advised and gave unanimous consent before the matter was presented to the full Board of Trustees.

The other clergy at Ohev Shalom—Rabbi David Kay and Cantor Allan Robuck—stand firmly behind the decision. Rabbi Kay had previously officiated at a same-sex Jewish ceremony off the synagogue premises. “When two adult Jews want to commit their lives to one another and to sanctify that commitment before God and their community,” Rabbi Kay said, “it makes no logical sense to close the door of the synagogue on them.”

Same-sex unions have not been the same sort of flashpoint in the Jewish community that they have been in some other faith communities. According to 2010 data from the Pew Research Religion and Public Life Project, Jews have the highest support for (76 percent) and lowest opposition to (18 percent) same-sex marriage among all major faith traditions.

The 2006 ruling adopted by the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards cites the principle of human dignity as the foundation in Jewish law for removing the historical stigma on homosexuality. Ohev Shalom’s president, Lori Brenner, sees the new policies as an extension of the same principle. “It’s the right thing to do,” she said.

Congregation Ohev Shalom is the Orlando area’s original and oldest continuing synagogue. Founded in 1918, Ohev Shalom is a member of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.


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