As Jews Gather for Passover, Reform, Reconstructionist, and Conservative Rabbis Urge Conversations About Marriage Equality

Posted on Wednesday Apr 4, 2012 11:32 AM

Today, rabbis from the Reconstructionist, Reform, and Conservative movements issued the following joint statement:

"The message of Passover is universal and relevant today. Friday and Saturday evening Jewish people around Washington State will gather around the Seder table for the Passover holiday to commemorate the Jewish people’s freedom from slavery in the land of Egypt. The Passover story is not just about the past, however; it is also a call for the present as well as the future. Having known enslavement and oppression, it is our sacred obligation as Jews to do whatever is in our power to ensure those who are not able to live in freedom, or who are treated unfairly or unjustly, know the blessings of freedom and justice.

"In Washington State, we have an unprecedented opportunity to make our state a more just society. With strong support from the Jewish Community, the legislature passed a law that would end discrimination in the issuance of civil marriage licenses. Governor Gregoire signed this bill that will allow loving, committed same-sex couples to legally marry. Now, there is an attempt to repeal the law which has yet to go into effect. If Referendum 74 qualifies for the ballot, voters will have to Approve Referendum 74 in order to retain the marriage equality law.

"We call on members of the Jewish community to consider talking with those joined at Passover Seders or other gatherings to discuss the importance of preserving the marriage equality law. The newly passed law is required by our tradition of religious liberty in this great state. No house of worship or clergy person can ever be forced to solemnize a marriage. Many faith traditions including our own support civil marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples and happily perform religious ceremonies for these couples.

"As Rabbis, we know families formed by gay and lesbian couples, many raising children, as pillars of our community. We know gay and lesbian people as mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles, clergy and religious instructors. We see these people every day, members of our community, accepting the responsibility for their spouses and children and yet are denied the right to legally marry.

"Synagogues around Washington have grappled with the question of LGBT civil rights for decades and what we have learned is that understanding and acceptance, which leads to support happens most often when we share personal stories about ourselves and our loved ones. We hope that during the Seder or other gatherings you will discuss in personal terms why marriage equality matters and why working to approve Referendum 74, if it qualifies for the ballot, is consistent with Jewish values and experience highlighted during the Passover holiday. Invite people to ask questions and remember that for many this is a journey which may not be completed this day.

"Starting the conversation for some is a challenge; here is one suggestion for how you can begin the conversation at your Seder by adding a fifth question to the traditional four questions that are asked during the Seder:

"How is this night different from all other nights?"

On this night, if we resolve to make it so, we begin the last Seder without full marriage equality for all the families around this table and this state.... This year we will say "approve" Referendum 74 and turn the bitterness of exclusion into the warmth of acceptance." (See Pesachim 116a1 re kappa--bitterness as part of the Seder ritual).

"Your Seder guests may ask what they can do to help, our suggestion is twofold. First, ask those with whom you speak to talk to their friends and family about the importance of marriage equality and encourage them to sign the online pledge to approve Referendum 74. You can also direct them to the Jewish Marriage Equality Coalition on Facebook. At this time 23 synagogues and Jewish organizations* in Washington have joined in coalition to support Washington United for Marriage.

Rabbi Olivier Benhaim
Rabbi Will Berkowitz
Rabbi Jill Borodin
Rabbi Allison Flash
Rabbi Mark Glickman
Rabbi Oren Hayon
Cantor Leah Holland
Rabbi Yohanna Kinberg
Rabbi Jill Levy
Rabbi Jessica Marshall
Rabbi Jim Mirel
Rabbi Rachel Nussbaum
Rabbi Jay Rosenbaum
Rabbi Beth Singer
Rabbi Jonathan Singer
Rabbi Daniel Weiner
Rabbi Zari Weiss

*Jewish Marriage Equality Coalition Members
Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, Jewish Family Service, Kline Galland Home, Anti-Defamation League, Union for Reform Judaism, Washington State Coalition of Rabbis, Jewish Labor Committee, Kol HaNeshamah, Washington State Jewish Democrats, Temple Beth Or, National Council of Jewish Women, Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center, Congregation Beth Israel, Herzl-Ner Tamid Conservative Congregation, Temple Beth Am, Congregation Beth Shalom, Hillel UW, Temple De Hirsch Sinai, Kavana Cooperative, Temple Beth Hatfiloh, Temple B’nai Torah, Congregation Tikvah Chadashah, Congregation Bet Chaverim, Bet Alef Meditative Synagogue, and Kolenu.