Film Chat: “The Wedding Plan”

Promoted during the Israeli Film Festival of Philadelphia, the film The Wedding Plan finally opened for American audiences, after having received three Ophir Awards, or Israeli Oscars. In Hebrew with English subtitles, the film was written and directed by Rama Burshtein, an Orthodox Israeli, and the creator of the award-winning 2012 film Fill the Void.

In “The Wedding Plan,” protagonist Michal is a 32-year-old religiously observant woman, who runs a mobile petting zoo. Excitedly planning for her upcoming wedding, she is shocked when her fiancé reluctantly admits that he doesn’t love her. Nevertheless, she decides to move forward with her wedding preparations, trusting that if God wants her to be married, He will find a husband for her. The wedding is scheduled for the last night of Hanukkah, leaving exactly one month for a new groom to materialize. Her family is doubtful, and even her rabbi wonders what will happen to Michal’s faith if she doesn’t find a groom under the chuppah.

An American director would have made this film into a romantic comedy, but Burshtein aimed for something deeper, more poignant. Her debut film, “Fill the Void,” is about a religious woman who must make a decision about whether or not to marry her late sister’s husband. Burshtein writes and directs stories set in the religious Jewish world, but which illuminate human emotions common to us all.

Should My Husband’s Text Messages Be Private?

— by Aron Moss, rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and a frequent contributor to Chabad.org. Reprinted with permission of Chabad.org, the Judaism website.

Question: Are text messages private? My husband and I have a major disagreement over this. He gets furious when I look at his phone, saying I have no business reading his private messages. I feel that as a married couple we should have nothing to hide from each other. I am not saying I am at all suspicious of him, I completely trust him. But should his inbox be totally out of bounds to me?

Answer: The answer to your quandary is right there in front of you — on your finger. Just look at your wedding ring.

[Read more…]

Book Chat: Austenland

— by Hannah Lee

“Jane Austen fever” is heating up, as the Bank of England has announced plans to feature the image of the beloved female novelist on their ten-pound note. The auction of a ring with Austen provenance prompted a public outcry, and the British Minister of Culture stopped its sale to the American singer Kelly Clarkson. The movie premiere of Austenland has rolled out in Los Angeles and New York last Friday. There are no dates for Philly showings yet, but I am preparing by taking the 2007 novel off my bookshelf.  

Full review after the jump.
Written by Shannon Hale, winner of a Newbery Honor medal for Princess Academy, the novel is about a single New York career woman, Jane Hayes, with an obsession for Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, or specifically, Colin Firth’s depiction of Mr. Darcy in the 1995 BBC adaptation. When her great-aunt bequeaths her an all-expenses-paid vacation, to a resort where the regency world of 1816 rules, the heroine accepts the gift, with the hope of getting her obsession out of her system.

Pembroke Park is where cell phones are banned, and modern garb is switched for Empire-style gowns, bonnets, and garters (although mascara and modern toilets escaped the rule of authenticity). Going further than your typical costume ball and fan convention, this is a place where patrons live out their fantasies of a bygone world of servants, carriages and horses, and games of whist. The added bonus of a romance — under strict regency guidelines on modest behavior — detracted from the innocence of the fantasy play. The predicament for the heroine is assessing what is real and what is acting.

What was difficult for me was the concept of patrons paying for romance, which falls just within the legal boundary. What about the players who embody the regency characters they meet? This is no mere acting gig, because they spend days and nights with their roles.

Humorously drawn are the cast of characters, including the proprietress Mrs. Wattlesbrook, who grills her patrons on the proper regency rules of conduct; the charming Amelia Heartwright, who returns for a repeat vacation; and the farcical Miss Charming, embodying the tone-deaf patron, who sprinkles her language with the anachronistic “what, what” and “jolly good.” The male players include Colonel Andrews, with “a decent set of shoulders;” the disapproving Mr. Nobley; and the gardener Martin, with a taste for American basketball, although it is off-limits and out-of-time.

The $4 million film was produced by Stephanie Meyers, who channeled her earnings from her successful Twilight series of book and film. In a highly unusual move, the advance screenings are shown to women only, following the Sundance Film Festival, where women viewers praised the movie, and men trashed it.

While I am waiting for the movie to arrive in my neighborhood, I can review my copies of An Elegant Madness: High Society in Regency England by Venetia Murray, and What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool. I would learn much, without any complicated plotting.

Book Chat: Get Real, Get Married

— by Hannah Lee

Aleeza Ben Shalom has always happily served as a networker or a “connector,” bringing together people whether it was about housing, cars or furniture. Her successful connections, made through her Shabbat hospitality at her family’s table and her volunteer work for the SawYouAtSinai dating website, have led her to launch her business, “Marriage Minded Mentor,” in February 2012. To date, she has brought 14 clients to the wedding chuppah and another eight are engaged.

Her 132-page book, Get Real Get Married, hit the stores today (Tuesday). With clients from the observant community, her shortest match took four months from introduction to marriage (Those two really knew what they wanted!), while the longest match took about nine months. Her clients in the general public need more time.

More after the jump.
Raised Conservative and formerly known as Lisa Caplan, Ben Shalom studied Jewish studies, children’s literature, and environmental studies at the University of Pittsburgh. While attending a retreat with IsraLight, a kiruv (outreach) organization founded by Rabbi David Aaron, she found both meaning and purpose in a life structured by Torah and mitzvot (commandments). Overnight, she began to observe Shabbat, swapped out her trendy wardrobe for modest clothing covering her collarbones, shoulders and elbows, and already a vegan, she started keeping kosher.

Also attending the same retreat was Gershom Ben Shalom, although they were both dating other people. They dated for three weeks, got engaged, and were wed in four months. This is not what she recommends for anyone else, but as her mother noted to her, “You’re not flaky, but this [rapid transformation] is flaky.” Her parents nonetheless supported her decision and they are delighted in their four grandchildren (and another on the way). The Ben-Shaloms have been married for 10 years.

Ben Shalom says a matchmaker has to work in three levels: in fact, in act, and intact. The first goal is the one that’s most familiar to us, but a successful matchmaker has to also walk the client through the process — “in act,” as well as support the client through the inevitable ups and downs of relationships — “intact,” to keep them together. Even after the wedding, she fields calls from former clients asking if some particular issue or conflict is typical to other marriages. She is even planning a sequel to be titled “Stay Real, Stay Married,” for a society where 50% of marriages end in divorce, as do 20% of Orthodox Jewish commitments.

Recently, Ben Shalom spoke at a non-Jewish event attended by women aged 18-65, and she saw that her message, that you have to be marriage-minded to get married and stay married, resonated with the audience. She realized that her message is universal: that marriage is a lifelong process of growth and connection.

She offers her clients a pithy lesson of one, five, and ten. One: you have to pick one goal to focus on. If marriage is your goal, then choose no more than five mentors to assist you. Who qualifies as a mentor? Ben Shalom advises to choose someone who has been married for more than five years and who has shown wisdom and a history of good decisions. Then, choose ten or fewer people to date until you pick your spouse. This directs dating in a healthier way, so that one thinks carefully about whether a person is worthy of dating for marriage.

Older singles can be particularly fragile, but they usually hide their vulnerability: They present themselves as accomplished, financially stable, and able to live independently. How do we, who are not matchmakers, help these people?  “Engage in open dialogue,” counsels Ben Shalom, “and ask what does the person need at that moment.” Check back each time, because the emotional terrain is very volatile and someone who’s ready to meet people one month may be exhausted emotionally the next one, so that person may wish to simply join your family for a Shabbat or Yom Tov meal, with no expectations for a shidduch.

Successful clients are stable: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Some clients have met with Ben Shalom’s refusal to arrange meetings during a period of transition. She also readily refers clients to other professionals for therapy, diet counseling, or personal organization (clutter management).

What does she think of speed dating (a phenomenon that’s not so popular in the Philadelphia area, where singles have the opportunity to sit and engage with each other individually in a focused, limited time — usually several minutes)? This may work for some people, but Ben Shalom finds it emotionally challenging, and it is not amongst her top techniques. She is more a proponent of “inspect what you expect,” and her clients do not go on blind dates without evaluating the particulars of a prospective date.

The dating scene in Philadelphia is unlike those of New York and Los Angeles, where there are so many singles, that they don’t feel the need to get married. “They are practicing to be single,” said Ben Shalom, “not practicing to get married.” Moreover, people tend to leave New York once they do get married for more affordable communities, in order to be able to raise children.

Are the rabbis doing enough for singles? The times are changing fast, so while individual rabbis may be helpful, they are not unified in their efforts. In earlier times, all Jews in any particular area knew each other, and so it was easier to facilitate with matches. In our times, Ben Shalom advocates the use of a “dating resume,” or dating profile. In addition to personal statistics and biographical data, she asks her clients to reflect on who they are and what they are looking for.

A crucial advice by Ben Shalom is not to look for what the mentors want instead of what you want, because that could lead to shaky relationships. As for highly-specific documented demands such as the dress size of the kallah (or mother-in-law!) or the color of the tablecloths, Ben Shalom asks, “are their head and heart in line? The color of the tablecloth may be a surrogate for family minhagim (customs), but is the person marriage-minded? Can he or she stay married?”

Ben Shalom hosts a weekly radio show at Jewish Talk Radio, and blogs at the Marriage Minded Mentor website.

Negotiation 101: A Cross-Cultural Case Study

— by Hannah Lee

How much you know about yourself counts as much as how much you know about your opposing partner at the negotiating table, said the much-loved and much-lauded Professor Emeritus of Engineering Barrett Hazeltine in a presentation on Sunday for the Brown Alumni Club of Philadelphia at Bryn Mawr College. The case study he presented was the on-going negotiation between Google and the government of China, which began in 2005. What I learned was far more applicable to me in my personal relationships.

More after the jump.
Plan before hand, said the Professor, and know what you want. In Google’s case, the goals range from: providing users high-speed access to information, earning profit, and enhancing its reputation, i.e., promoting itself as the search engine of choice. Google’s mission used to be, “Do no evil,” but, noted the Professor, the company no longer touts its ethical origins while pursuing profit.

The government of China, in contrast, wants to protect its own Internet search company, Baidu [ranked #4 in the world in 2006 after Google, #3, MSN, #2, and Yahoo, #1]. It faces a brain drain of scientific and technological expertise, and wants “the sea turtles to come home.” While China wants access to cutting-edge technology, it also wants to set limits on Internet use to maintain its political power.

Next, you have to understand the other side, taught Dr. Hazeltine, who began teaching at Brown in 1959 and won the Senior Class award for teaching for 13 consecutive years until it was named in his honor in 1985. The Google negotiators had difficulty interpreting the cross-cultural signals. Chinese protocol prohibits saying no or making other strong statements. To save face, a Chinese negotiator may nod, but the gesture does not reflect consent.

“Process” is also different for Chinese bureaucrats than for American technocrats.  Consensus is often arranged beforehand, or behind the scenes. The Chinese tend to look at the whole picture while Americans tend to deal with line-by-line details. Google has learned to unbundle issues and make multiple product offers, each “a whole picture” by itself.

During the negotiations, you must build trust and listen to the other side, expounded Professor Hazeltine, who now has 577 students– almost 1/10 of the undergraduates– enrolled in his popular ENGN 9 course, Management of Industrial and Nonprofit Organizations. “We’re born with two ears and one mouth for a good reason”– we should listen more than we speak. In Google’s discussions with the Chinese, informal meetings are crucial in building trust.

Be patient, advised the Professor, and be ready for post-settlement deals. In 2010, Google protested Chinese censorship of its search engine and moved operations to Hong Kong. Last week, Google and all of its major services were blocked in China on Friday, as the Communist Party met to appoint new leaders for the first time in a decade. The case is not closed yet.

One interesting tip from the audience came from an alumna who has found it useful to invent a hierarchy, even when she has the ultimate authority to make a decision, because she wanted more time to consider her options. This I later learned was an example of a classic negotiation tactic called “agent with limited authority,” in which the limits can be real or assumed.  With my children, I’ve given them carte blanche to label me the “bad cop,” when they need an excuse to fend off peer pressure.

Another audience member suggested a major difference between the Americans and the Chinese is the concept of time. Yes, agreed the Professor, citing the Paris Peace Accords of 1973 that ended the Vietnam War– the Americans reserved hotel rooms for the negotiations, while the Vietnamese bought real estate.

Professor Hazeltine’s newest course in social entrepreneurship and appropriate technologies stems from his years teaching consulting in Botswana, Malawi, and Zambia.

Another personal lesson came after the official presentation, when my husband and I met another inter-racial couple and we shared with each other the pitfalls of misunderstanding each other’s cultural cues. Marriage is comparable to business and international diplomacy, in which the two partners may come from different backgrounds and they have to find common ground and a common language to express their goals. Learning Professor Hazeltine’s strategies for negotiation may even help strengthen your marriage, but hopefully you’ll fare better than Google has in its relations with China.

Win Up To $9,000 in Prizes from the Philadelphia Jewish Voice

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice will be giving away a fabulous commitment ceremony/wedding package and other prizes this month! For a chance to win, simply join our free mailing list or update your registration. You can register online at http://www.pjvoice.com/subscribe.htm or sign up in person at the Philadelphia Jewish Voice’s table at the Philadelphia Pride Parade this Sunday, June 12 from noon to 6pm on Penn’s Landing.

The grand prize is transferable, so even if you are not personally planning on tying the knot, this prize is a terrific present to celebrate the union of your friends.

Prizes:

  • Grand Prize: Commitment Ceremony Package ($9,000+ value) including:
    • Commitment Ritual conducted by Philadelphia Jewish Voice Living Judaism editor Rabbi Goldie Milgram.
    • Preparation Sessions Six free hour-long planning sessions with Rabbi Milgram for the couple (and wedding planners, musicians, garment, food and invitation designers, etc. if desired), in person or phone/Skype/webcam depending on availability. Rabbi Milgram will facilitate creation of custom-designed ritual, vows and contract of spiritual commitment to complement your legal documents. These sessions will include spiritual support for your relationship which can be an open non-religion-specific spirituality or Jewish.
    • Wedding Cake designed and donated by Ciao Bella Cakes.
    • $1,000 in Flowers provided by Vandergrift Floral.
    • Dress or Accessories. $150 gift certificate to Paris Chic Bridal Boutique.
    • Honeymoon. One night stay at The Lippincott House Bed & Breakfast.
    • Cocktails for rehearsal party (up to 10 people) by Foodwerx.
    • Hair, Make-up and/or Hot Lather Shave (on-site) courtesy of Jacen Bowman.
    • Pillows engineered for your body weight and size by Pittman Pillows.
    • Photography with images on DVD by Kim Volcy Photography.
    • Five Hours of Party Service to staff your party courtesy of Beth’s Party Service.
    • Entertainment Services for your wedding with DJ and Karoke for five hours from Two Sisters Entertainment.
    • And More…. Additional details will be announced on the Philadelphia Jewish Voice as they become available.
  • Second Prize: Free Yoga lesson from Philadelphia Jewish Voice Art & Culture editor Lisa Grunberger.
  • Third Prize: Two free tickets to Theatre Ariel’s performance of ten 10-minute never-before-produced plays, 7pm this Sunday evening, June 12 at the Bristol Riverside Theatre. This prize will be awarded at the Pride Parade. Please indicate your cell phone number so we can notify you if you win.
  • Consolation Prizes: All subscribers who enter their complete address will be mailing an I read the Philadelphia Jewish Voice” bumper sticker, so that you can show your support of the Philadelphia Jewish Voice.

Details follow the jump.


Rules:

  • Deadline: June 30, 2011
  • Eligibility: Limit one entry per person. Multiple entries will disqualify you. No purchase required. Staff and board members of the Philadelphia Jewish Voice and the Deal Monitor and their immediate families are not eligible.
  • Commitment Ceremony:
    • The couple must obtain their own attorney and execute any relevant legal documents to secure the flow of your estate and health-care rights under the jurisdiction where they reside. If their marriage is legal where this ritual will take place, then they will need to register accordingly prior to this ritual.
    • If the couple is Jewish, then Rabbi Goldie Milgram must approve or provide the Hebrew language that will appear in your ketubah (marriage contract). The couple must pay and secure their own artist to illustrate their ketubah.
    • The couple is responsible for the cost of Rabbi Milgram’s lodging, meals and transport for the weekend of your ritual from wherever she happens to be in the world at that time to wherever her next assignment happens to be.
    • Rabbi Milgram does not co-officiate with other clergy.

Rabbi Goldie Milgram

Creating beautiful, meaningful, spiritually authentic rites of passage, including Commitment Ceremonies has long been an important part of Rabbi Goldie Milgram’s life as a clergy person and we are fortunate to be able to share her experience with you.
Secularly, Dr. Goldie Milgram has long been a gender-rights activist. She also travels internationally as a teacher of spiritual health and non-profit leadership. She received the American Cancer Society Most Distinguished Couple Award for her work in publication education during a previous marriage where she anchored and invented the first public health talk television for NBC TV 40. She has offered programs under the auspices of the United Nations, Esalen, Rancho La Puerta, the New York Open Center, 92Y, universities and communities world-wide.  Wearing her Jewish hat, “Reb Goldie” as her students affectionately call her, holds a doctorate from New York Theological Seminary and is a twice ordained rabbi – a graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and she also holds the private smichah (ordination) of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, founder of Jewish Renewal. Dr. Milgram directs, ReclaimingJudaism.org and is author of numerous works including the first fully gender-inclusive work on Jewish ritual: Living Jewish Life Cycle: How to Create Meaningful Jewish Rites of Passage at Every Stage of Life (Jewish Lights Publishing).
Rabbi Goldie Milgram can be contacted at judaism@pjvoice.com.

Good luck.

Is Dating Only Jews Prejudiced?

Jewish weddingby Steve Hofstetter

The phrase "marry a nice Jewish girl" is as engrained in Jewish culture as lox and bagels. From the time we're children, we're told to find a nice Jewish girl (or boy), in order to eventually produce other nice Jewish boys and girls. It's really a forward thinking system.

Maybe that's why the words "boy" and "girl" are used. We're so young when we're first told to date someone Jewish, encouraging us to meet adults would be creepy.

It's really the entire premise behind JDate. If there was no overwhelming desire for Jews to meet and procreate with other Jews, then there wouldn't be much need for the site. We'd all be on PlentyOfFish.com, wondering why most of the members look like they were extras on "Jersey Shore."

A non-Jewish friend of mine was telling me about how his girlfriend is Indian, and how they've been dating for 3 years but he's never met her parents. They want her to marry within their culture, and a white guy from New York doesn't exactly fit the description.

When I commented on their racism, he said, "Wait, isn't that what you did?"

In a way, he was right. I met my wife on JDate because I wanted to marry a woman from my own culture. What's the difference between "Marry a nice Jewish girl!" and "No daughter of mine is marrying a black man"? Don't those sound kind of similar?

This thought that I might be doing something racist hit me hard. My sister is black – which wouldn't be very unique, except I'm white.

Because of this, I've spent a great deal of my life railing against racism and prejudice. I have jokes in my act about it. I've gotten into long debates (and less civilized altercations) with strangers over it. I even flew down to Arizona to protest SB-1070. Racism has always been an incredibly sensitive and important issue for me.

So why am I okay with "marry a nice Jewish girl?" It's not often that I am left without a snappy comeback when challenged. But this one I had to think about. What my friend was saying made logical sense.

When Jewish parents want their son to marry the daughter of other Jewish parents, how is that different than an Indian family doing the same? Two white parents upset that their daughter is marrying a black guy? Two Texas parents who have forbid their daughter from marrying anyone from Oklahoma?

Is it all intolerance? Or do we get a pass because Jews have been persecuted?

Conventional wisdom says that it's alright when Jews are pushed to marry other Jews because our religion could die out otherwise. We're not being exclusionary to others, we're just including ourselves. They've tried to stamp us out so many times, it's our right to be prejudiced.

Well, not exactly.

I realized my answer. As I've written before, I met my wife on JDate because I wanted to be with someone who shared a similar experience to me. Who understood and respected my background. Who would go to shul with me during the holidays. Who got it when I talked about the guilt may parents laid on me, and the guilt I laid right back. You know, tradition.

Is it possible I could get the same from a Christian woman willing to convert? Sure. Is it likely? About as likely as finding a decent bagel in India.

When parents encourage their children to stay within their religion, it's okay because that has to do with a belief system. When parents do the same based on race, it's not okay because that has to do with irrational fear of something physical. Your skin color doesn't define you as a person – but your religion often does.

Trying to find a match based on belief system is perfectly acceptable. If your parents forbid you to marry anyone who prefers Superman 3 over Superman 2, well, that's acceptable, too. Odd, but acceptable.

Well, not that odd. I wouldn't want any child of mine marrying the kind of nut it takes to think Superman 3 was a superior film.

I know that my parents would prefer me to be with a giving and caring Christian woman over a murderous Jewish woman any day. But all other things equal (or even close to equal), they'd simply prefer me have someone I can share my culture with. And I agree.

Also it helps that on our first date, my wife and I both ordered the exact same bagel.

Steve Hofstetter is an internationally touring comedian who has been on VH1, ESPN, Comedy Central., and many more. To book him at your next event, visit SteveHofstetter.com. This column was originally published on jdate.com.

Is It Racist to Want a Jewish Spouse?

by Aaron Moss

Question: I was explaining to a non-Jewish work colleague that I only date Jewish men, because I would not marry a non-Jew. He accused me of being racist. I was caught on the spot and had nothing to say. How would you respond to this accusation?

Answer: If insisting that you will only date Jews makes you racist, does insisting that you will only date men make you sexist? You are certainly discriminating, but is this discrimination bad?

You are not talking about what type of person you want to work with, or whom you would prefer to sit next to on a train. You are talking about whom you want to marry. Are you expected not to discriminate about whom you marry, the same way you are expected not to discriminate when reading a job application?

There are plenty of wonderful women out there, but they can’t father your children. And there are plenty of wonderful non-Jewish men out there, but they can’t give you a Jewish family. You want a family, so you seek a man; you want a Jewish family, so you seek a Jewish man. There is nothing offensive about that.

And there is no racial issue here. Jewishness is neither a race nor a religion. It is a soul identity. The man you marry can be a European Jew or an Oriental Jew, a black Jew or a white Jew. He can be a Jew by birth or a Jew by choice. But if you want a Jewish family, he’s got to be a he, and he’s got to be a Hebrew.

This article has been reprinted with permission from The Judaism Website – chabad.org.

PA Marriage Amendment: the Exclusive Country Club of 2011

— by Adrian Shanker

It is difficult to comprehend the motivation of a person who would make a priority out of a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as an exclusive heterosexual privilege. If Pennsylvania State Representative Daryl Metcalfe (R-Cranberry Township) has his way, Pennsylvania will become the latest state to remind their LGBT citizens that they are still second-class to their straight neighbors. Metcalfe has recently announced his intent to introduce an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman. For purposes of clarity, same-sex marriage is not currently legal in Pennsylvania, nor is there a chance that it will become legal in the near future, but for Daryl Metcalfe, he needs the satisfaction of telling people like me that not only can we not have equality, but that the denial of equality must be written in Constitutional stone. Metcalfe needs to remind me that I am still a second-class citizen in Pennsylvania.

Even a cursory review of Jewish American history will demonstrate the exclusivity that kept Jews second-class citizens. The routine exclusion of Jews to many private country clubs beginning in the 1920’s/30’s is perhaps the most widely understood of the many American antisemetic practices in which people with power held Jews back from full equality and participation in society. Diane Elizabeth Kendall, from her book, Members Only: Elite Clubs and the Process of Exclusion, states,

“In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the Baltimore Country Club had signs posted that said ‘No Dogs, No Coloreds, No Jews.'”

(page 59) The pervasive exclusion of our group of people served only to benefit those with the power to exclude, in a word, to give them status as more elite than Jews.

More after the jump.
There are many similarities between the institution of marriage and the exclusivity of the country club. They both serve to enhance the economic interests of the participants, entrance into either comes with tangible benefits, and most importantly, both the institution of marriage and the country club have a history of exclusivity. A review of changes in marriage policy will remind us that the legal rights within the institution have been ever-changing, especially insofar as gender roles and property ownership are concerned. Anti-miscegenation laws were not declared unconstitutional until the 1967 Loving v Virginia case. The trial judge, Leon Bazile, defending the so-called Racial Integrity Act states,

“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”

But fortunately, the Supreme Court unanimously disagreed with the Commonwealth of Virginia and removed unnecessary and offensive racial restrictions from the institution of marriage. And let us not be so naïve to suggest that there is a difference between the Daryl Metcalfes of today from the Leon Baziles of the past. There is no difference. The interest in the so-called protection of the institution of marriage will always find new classes to exclude from the proverbial country club of the day.

As Jews, we know all too well the exclusionary tactics of the country club. We know what it means to be told we are second-class citizens. And we know what it felt like when our friends entered the country clubs we couldn’t attend, or when they benefited from the exclusivity that was their cultural privilege. We cannot simply learn about our cultural history in a textbook without taking action to ensure the end of the exclusive country-club mentality of today’s marriage institution. We need to ensure that the Jewish voice is collectively loud and clear regarding our opposition to a hateful, unnecessary constitutional amendment further denying rights to same-sex couples. But that still is not enough. We need to actively work for the legalization of civil same-sex marriage, and even better, perhaps some heterosexual Jews will offer to deny their own privilege of entering the country club of legal marriage while the rest of us wait at the sidelines.

Adrian Shanker, a Lehigh Valley-based LGBT community leader, serves on the Board of Directors of Equality Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Diversity Network, and the JRF Congregation Am Haskalah.