Sydney celebrates first gay Jewish commitment ceremony

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The first Australian same-sex commitment ceremony to take place in a synagogue was held on Sunday.

Christopher Whitmont-Stein, 38, and Scott Whitmont, 47, had already entered into a civil commitment ceremony in 2002, took part in traditional Jewish wedding rites.

At Emanuel Synagogue in Sydney, they stood under a chuppah, exchanged rings, smashed a glass and walked around each other three-and-a-half times, in the traditional fashion.

Mr Whitmont-Stein converted to Judaism at Emanuel Synagogoue in 2002 with the help of Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins, who also presided over this weekend’s ceremony.

Mr Whitmont-Stein told The Sydney Star:

“We wanted to be recognised by our community and officiated by our rabbi, that was important to us.”

“We didn’t set out to be poster boys for gay Jewish marriage.”

The commitment ceremony came after a decision from the Council of Progressive Rabbis of Asia, Australia and New Zealand in May 2007 to allow its members to officiate at same sex ceremonies.

Rabbi Kamins defended gay couples and his decision to support them in a recent letter to congregants. He said:

“Contemporary knowledge from biology, psychology and other fields has led to a far deeper understanding of human sexuality,” he wrote.

“Gay or lesbian relationships are not ‘deviant’, but part of human behaviour.”

It is still not legal for gay couples to have full marriages in Australia.