Masorti debate lesbian and gay marriages

Masorti rabbis are considering whether to introduce ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples in the wake of the government’s legalisation of same-sex marriages in the UK.

The Liberal and Reform movements, which already allow synagogue celebrations for same-sex couples, have given the go-ahead for them to wed after the marriages become legal on March 29.

But now the more traditional Masorti movement is deciding whether to follow Conservative rabbis in the USA who two years ago approved same-sex
ceremonies.

Masorti chief executive Matt Plen said that its rabbis were “carefully studying” the issue and “will inform their communities of the halachic conclusion that they reach.

Within the framework established by the Masorti rabbis, each community will then determine its particular response”.

This approach, he added, “reflects the loyalty of Masorti Judaism to Jewish tradition and the halachic process, while at the same time showing commitment to the values of inclusion and welcome for all”.

Masorti’s largest congregation, the New North London, recently started a consultation with its members.

The synagogue’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, who is also senior rabbi of the Masorti movement, said: “It is important to celebrate, honour and respect the enduring relationships of people who are gay in a manner consonant with Jewish values and tradition.”

American Conservatives approved the introduction of two ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples — one close to the traditional marriage service for heterosexuals, the other based on the concept of shutafut (partnership).

They argued the concept of kvod habriot — that the needs of human dignity can supersede a negative Torah principle — took precedence over the ban on same-sex intimate relationships in classical rabbinic law.

Last updated: 1:10pm, March 13 2014