Before We Store the Four Questions
While the Four questions are over and done with until next year, there exists another set of questions that some feel ought to at the very least be pondered. With the recent Religious Freedom Law garnering headlines, let us not be too hasty breathing a sigh of relief, that we are neither Bakery owners being asked to decorate a cake for the marriage of Geraldine and Jocelyn nor Pizza Parlor proprietors approached by Pierpont and Patrick to cater their wedding reception. While many of us may in fact fervently hope and pray otherwise, it is not beyond the realm of possibility for a Jewish L.B.G.T. couple, after having engaged a rabbi to officiate at their nuptials, to approach Tiferet, wishing to book our facilities for their wedding reception. Neither Kashrut nor a conflict with any day, time or time period on the Jewish calendar is an issue. What do we do? What explanation, if any do we give that we are unable to accommodate, provided of course, that is the stance we take?
To the best of my knowledge, there exists no correlation between one’s sexual preference and one’s prayer preference. If it’s true, even though not necessarily acknowledged, that Lesbians and Gays are found within the Black Hat communities, then Lesbians and Gays are found within all other Jewish Communities as well. It goes without saying that here at Tiferet our attitude is:
a Jew is a Jew and that all are welcome. Wouldn’t we however at least initially be at a loss for words, if Agnes and Alberta Abromowitz- Altholtz applied for family membership? What would our response be to Durward and Darius Dunklestein- Dishkin who, together with their 11 year old son Dale are synagogue searching, in that the Bar- Mitzvah is just around the corner? In a similar vein, our practice at Tiferet has been to acknowledge all wedding anniversaries. Does “all” truly mean “all”? Does “all” include marriages that some of us either refuse to acknowledge or find it most difficult to acknowledge?
Synagogues have fundraisers. Some of them, such as the dedication of a Torah scroll are very much religious in nature. Supposing Sid and Sadie Sadowitz, longtime members of the congregation, are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. Sid is a longtime Gabbai and has been extremely involved in the minyan for decades. In celebration of their 50th anniversary, Sid and Sadie’s son Lee along with hishusband Marvin wants to underwrite a Torah Scroll as a fundraiser in celebration of his parents’ upcoming simcha. Other than appropriate recognition for donating the Torah Scroll and spearheading the fundraiser, neither Lee nor Marvin are asking to be honored in any way shape or form. How do we respond?
Please understand that none of the above cases has required or involved the participation, whether active or passive, of any of us, especially me, the rabbi. We would however do well to ask whether accepting a Torah Scroll as a fund raiser from a same sex couple is in any way against the spirit of our religion? Does our granting membership to a same sex couple intimate that we are also granting approval to that family dynamic, however tacit that approval may be? Does renting out our social hall indicate that the leadership at Tiferet – both lay and religious endorses only the food as being kosher?
We live in an age where any number of groups are clamoring for and demanding rights. At the same time, it must not be overlooked that other segments of the population, however traditional they are, or portend to be, have rights as well. Religious institutions and religious leadership aside, do individuals or groups of individuals have the right to tell someone who may or may not be his/her partner in marriage. By the same token, do individuals or groups of individuals (provided they are not connected to the state government) have the right to refuse to participate in any way, shape or form in a wedding or marriage or any other celebration that they find to be objectionable? We are presented with three questions, so vastly different than the four found in the Haggadah. Perhaps the most difficult question of all is what do we answer.