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No Ordinary Day: Celebrating Marriage Equality With a “Wedding”

By Channa Camins | Issue Date: January 2012

The Marriage Equality Community Celebration. Photo Credit: Sarahmerians.com

I began working at B’nai Jeshurun in May of 2007 in the Social Action/Social Justice Department. In my job, I have many big and small moments of triumph with members who are deeply committed to social action and social justice. Those moments happen in one-on- one meetings, when leaders in Panim el Panim: BJ’s Community Organizing and Advocacy Initiative talk to elected officials using skills they learned through my training; at a well-facilitated meeting, when a group of people decides on a strategy of action based on a shared vision; and when events and actions are skillfully executed. When I work with volunteers to address a challenge at the BJ/SPSA Homeless Shelter, Judith Bernstein Lunch Program, or our tutoring initiatives in neighboring schools, the generosity and commitment they bring to this work is moving.

left to right: Carlos Menchaca, LGBT and HIV/AIDS Community Liaison to NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn; Patti S. Lubin, Senior Counsel and Senior Advisor to U.S. Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand - NY, Sandy Cheiten; BJ Member, Guest of Erik Bottcher; Erik Bottcher, Special Assistant for Community Affairs to Governor Andrew Cuomo; Liz Krueger, NYS Senator, 26th District; Linda B. Rosenthal, NYS Assembly Member, 67th District; Lauren Schuster, Chief of Staff to Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal.But it is not every day that you get to celebrate a real win as a community organizer. There are setbacks and challenges more often than not, and the ground to cover is vast.

B’nai Jeshurun joined the struggle for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Rights and Marriage Equality long before I worked with this community. Still, on June 24, 2011, when the N.Y. State Senate voted to extend the rights of marriage to same-sex couples—and then on July 14, 2011, when this community came together to celebrate this victory—I had two of the proudest moments of my four-and-a-half years at B’nai Jeshurun.

The Marriage Equality Community CelebrationOur community celebration was modeled after a Jewish wedding ceremony. Our sanctuary was decked out for a real wedding, complete with a huppah, flowers, our best chairs, cocktail tables, champagne, and hors d’oeuvres. We said Sheva Brakhot for Marriage Equality, adapted for this occasion, we broke a glass to remind us that not all is won in the struggle for equal rights, we sang Sheheheyanu, and we danced! It was moving and joyous, and it demonstrated vividly what is so special about this community. Leaders of the Panim el Panim Marriage Equality Hevra shared with us how this victory was a personal victory. They reminded us of their hard work over five years––educating and mobilizing the congregation, our elected officials, andour partners, all while enriching their Jewish lives through The Marriage Equality Community Celebrationadvocacy. They told us about the strong bonds of friendship they built through it all. Our rabbis reminded us why each person’s story was a piece of the tapestry of this community. Our elected officials were sincerely moved to tears and laughter, as they celebrated with us. What was most evident was that B’nai Jeshurun has the courage of its convictions to take action on the issues that affect our loved ones, our neighbors, and our city. We contributed to this victory, and we can contribute to many more.

Though the Marriage Equality Hevra’s formal campaign has ended, they will be completing a case study to document their work. When I came out at age 16, back in 1968, I didn’t even imagine this was possible. Not merely  that there would be same-sex marriage some day, but that I would be standing in a synagogue with people  who were committed to making this moment a reality.”
— Mark Horn

The Marriage Equality Community CelebrationIt seems the democratic process does work, albeit slowly, in New York.”  — Larry Gifford and Joe Antenson

How thankful and excited we are that we can now plan our wedding in New York State—one that will be both religious and civil. We have had this dream for a long time and will now see it fully realized.”
— Judith Trachtenberg and
Renie Rutchick

Above, left to right: Carlos Menchaca, LGBT and HIV/AIDS Community Liaison to NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn; Patti S. Lubin, Senior Counsel and Senior Advisor to U.S. Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand – NY, Sandy Cheiten; BJ Member, Guest of Erik Bottcher; Erik Bottcher, Special Assistant for Community Affairs to Governor Andrew Cuomo; Liz Krueger, NYS Senator, 26th District; Linda B. Rosenthal, NYS Assembly Member, 67th District; Lauren Schuster, Chief of Staff to Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal.

Seven Blessings of Marriage Equality
We praise You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe, Who creates the fruit of the vine.
Praised are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all the worlds, Who created people capable of loving deeply and being loved deeply.
Praised are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all the worlds.
Make joyful all couples who are united and express their love through the union of marriage recognized by the Jewish community and protected by the laws of the State of New York. We thank you for giving each of us a reason to say, “I love
New York.”
Praised are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all the worlds, that same-sex couples can share in the mitzvah and the joy of creating Jewish homes,
where they may be surrounded and supported by a beloved family, where they may choose to raise children, in a secure and loving space, and where they may grow old loving one another.
Praised are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all the worlds.
We thank you for the affirmation that, by working together, we can make a difference
and that the arc of history is indeed long,
and bends toward justice. We thank you for our supportive
Jewish community.
Praised are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all the worlds.
We thank You for the rituals that bring us together to mark and sanctify both the joyful and sorrowful milestones of our lives. Marriage equality is the canopy that protects us as we make families, create homes, celebrate simhas, and weather difficult times.
Praised are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all the worlds, Who has created gladness and joy,
grooms and brides,
glee, song, mirth and exultation, harmony and love,
peace and companionship.
Soon, Adonai our God, may there be heard in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Yerushalayim the voice of joy, the voice of gladness, the voice of couples, from the wedding canopies jubilant voices of married and from celebrations, festive songs of young and old friends. Praised are You, Adonai, Who brings couples together to rejoice in each other.