UK: Jewish Masorti movement hints it might endorse same-sex marriage in synagogues

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While the Reform and Liberal Judaism movements have welcomed the government’s plans to allow gay couples to marry in synagogues, the Masorti movement has not joined the orthodox United Synagogue and the Chief Rabbi in opposing the moves.

‘Masorti’ means ‘traditional’ in Hebrew. Its key difference with the more orthodox forms of the religion is that it does not believe that the Torah (bible) is the literal word of God. It describes itself as a ‘Conservative’ movement. Earlier this year, the Israeli Masorti movement began the ordination of gay and lesbian rabbis.

In a statement, its senior Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg said: “Gay people have long been subject to misjudgment, humiliation and exclusion, especially in religious life. A key Conservative responsum advocates full inclusion of gay people in all areas of Jewish life and leadership.

“We believe in marriage as an ideally lifelong, loving, unique and faithful commitment made before God. We supported civil partnerships between gay people. We are in discussion on how such bonds of loving commitment can best be expressed in traditional religious ceremonies.”

The statement does not say that the movement is intending to offer same-sex marriages, but understands that its leadership is currently discussing the issue with local synagogues.

On the issue of same-sex marriages in synagogues, Jon Benjamin, the chief executive of the Board of Deputies, a body that represents all forms of Judaism in Britain told the Jewish Chronicle: “It remains our position that different parts of the community will clearly have different approaches to the issue and our concern is that no community should be compelled to conduct ceremonies that they are not comfortable holding.

“The Prime Minister and Culture Secretary’s assurances on this point are welcome and we expect the opt out clauses to be watertight so that nuisance claims cannot be made, forcing communal organisations into expensive litigation to protect their rights.”