A few years back, when preparing for the first same-sex marriage in our family, I located a rabbi who gave me her take on officiating at interfaith weddings. She informed me that she will not officiate, in general at male-female interfaith ceremonies, but will officiate at same-sex interfaith weddings, under some circumstances (one firm requirement is that the home of the couple, and all children, will be clearly a Jewish home, with no other religions practiced).
“OK, I don’t get it,” I said. “Well,” she answered, “the Jewish community has provided incredible opportunities for hetero couples to find Jewish mates. At this point, if you’re living in any kind of Jewish community, there is no excuse to not be able to find a Jewish wife or husband. The community has not, however, provided such opportunities for gay or lesbian Jews. They are on their own when it comes to finding a mate. Therefore, I will officiate at the marriage of a same-sex couple even if one partner is not Jewish, if they will go along with my requirements and will agree to establish a Jewish family and home.”
Having entered the rabbinate (and social work) not long after homosexuality had been dropped from the list of treatable conditions by the American Psychiatric Association, and having been trained as a rabbi to believe that perhaps we might tolerate gay members as long as they didn’t push matters too much, her statement was a long way from home. And yet, it was powerfully true. In spite of all the evidence about the origins of homosexuality, despite the fact that openly gay individuals are members, leaders and rabbis in all major movements, and disregarding the large number of Jewish children who are being raised as Jews in same-sex parent households, we have done little as a community to help gay and lesbian Jews to find life partners.
I know the questions that will be raised:
- How can we bring gay/lesbian couples together when most rabbis will not officiate at a same-sex wedding?
- How can we advocate for same-sex couples when the Torah clearly objects to (male) homosexuality?
- Are our synagogues and institutions prepared to fully accept same-sex couples and their families?
While these are serious questions, my colleague’s challenges years ago continue to resonate for me. At least 5% and perhaps as many as 10% of Jews (and of humans) are gay. Torah commandments will not change their orientation. These fellow Jews will look for love and companionship and will want to raise families, Jewish families.
My proposal: It is time to reinvent the shadchan (matchmaking) profession in the Jewish community. There is a need for Shadchanim (matchmakers) who will specifically help gay and lesbian Jews to find their bashert.
Admittedly some of my colleagues will be aghast. Others will not be too sure what to make of the idea. And others will wildly applaud.
My idea is not intended to put me in the vanguard of any new movement, nor am I sure that the idea has merit. But there is a large segment of the Jewish community that wants nothing more than to find companionship, build Jewish families and contribute to the community. It’s time to make it easier for them to opt in. I’m glad to toss another idea out there. If it has merit, I hope someone will pick up the idea and run with it.