This summer, the Conservative branch of Judaism formally approved of same-sex marriage and established rites for gay weddings. But it seems now that some straight Conservative Jews are ticked off, saying these queer ceremonies are actually more egalitarian than the ones used by heterosexuals.
Here’s the problem: In a traditional Jewish wedding, a groom gives bride a ring, and ceremonially “acquires” her. (Whattya want, It’s a holdover from pre-feminist times.)
But these new rites are different, as the New York Post‘s Mayrav Saar explains:
“In place of the ‘I’m buying you for this many shekels’ formula, the same-sex ceremonies have both parties declaring a kinyan, or acquisition, not of each other but of the partnership itself.
The new formula is still not a kiddushin [sanctification], because a kiddushin requires the ‘dominant’ party to acquire the ‘less dominant’ party — and in same-sex marriages, ‘neither is a dominant party,’ the rabbis wrote.”
Some women, who bristle at the idea of still being considered, even ceremonially, their husbands’ property, would like to see that sense of equality extended to everyone.
Gay Jews also get a break when it comes to breaking up: Traditionally it is the husband who must ask for a divorce, even if if it’s just a formality. But “the same-sex model allows either party to dissolve the marriage,” writes Saar “because, as the rabbis noted, if only a man can initiate a divorce, in a marriage of two women, presumably nobody could.”
In a column for the blog New Voices, John Wofford spells out the dilemma facing Conservative Judaism:
As much as I have my qualms with Orthodox theology, it is what it is; there’s nothing surprising about it. Reform Judaism is the same in that sense, too. Both movements offer exactly what they advertise. But Conservative Judaism’s emphasis on tradition seems to be playing second fiddle to the social and ideological needs of the people who could potentially keep it afloat. It isn’t Conservative anymore, at least not in the significant ways it used to be. And its areas of traditional application end up manifesting as hindrances, rather than authentic pathways into Jewish meaning.
We just know some reactionaries are going to jump on this as an example of “redefining” marriage.