June 17, 2008
Gay rabbis getting married—and marrying
(Page 4 - Previous Page)Rabbi Donald Goor and Cantor Evan Kent
When Rabbi Donald Goor decided to hold his auf ruf (the groom's Torah reading the week before his wedding) on the bimah of Temple Judea in Tarzana, where he serves as senior rabbi, a number of members had problems with it.
"One long-time member who always knew I was gay but didn't want to see it publicly, quit the temple," said Goor, 50. "I felt sad for him -- I'm always sad when someone leaves the congregation that's been his congregation for a long time. I was also sad for him that he couldn't recognize our joy and the values for which our community stands."
For the most part, the community was very supportive of his kiddushin - as he calls a Jewish wedding to separate it from a civil marriage -- to Cantor Evan Kent, of Temple Isaiah in West Los Angeles. (One of the biggest challenges for the couple, who met when they were both studying at HUC-JIR in 1986, is finding time to spend together.)
Although the Reform movement officially approved gay Jewish weddings in 1992, like many gay couples, Goor and Kent decided to wait to be able to have a civil marriage before having a chuppah. So they wed in Canada in 2005, and then had a chuppah.
"It was important in our minds that the state was going to see it as a legal relationship, in addition to Judaism," Goor said, noting that he was sad to have to leave the country for the certificate. The public celebration with his community was also important.
"Having a chuppah and a wedding celebration enabled other people to celebrate our relationship -- there's a certain joy in going to someone else's wedding: you do that as part of a community. Jews don't elope," he said. "The chuppah speaks about the holiness in our relationship."
And as a rabbi and cantor couple, there was an extra element to the process.
"Leaders need to be willing to model their values and their beliefs," he said.
Now, four years later, as California's new law ratifies his Canadian marriage - Goor says he thinks his congregation is more accepting, that people have "really changed and grown from seeing gay couples in their everyday life. The fact that having same-gender couples married doesn't threaten their marriage, or threaten society, that having same-gender marriage expands the place for love in society; for loving and committed relationships."
For Goor, the whole issue is one of dignity.
"There are people who say, 'Why do you need a marriage, why not just have domestic partnerships?' And the answer is on one level, legally one wants the same protection that marriage provides, but on another level one wants the same dignity that every other relationship has."