New York synagogue to stop announcing same-sex weddings

Hebrew Institute of Riverdale says it will conform to Orthodox Union standards, stop announcing same-sex marriages.

Tzvi Lev ,

Synagogue (stock image)
Synagogue (stock image)
Johanna Garon:Flash 90

A well-known Open Orthodox synagogue in Bronx, New York agreed to stop announcing same-sex marriages in its Shabbat newsletter after being pressured by the Orthodox Union, the largest American non-haredi Orthodox umbrella organization.

In September, the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale's newsletter wished its usual "mazel tov" (congratulations) to congregants celebrating various joyous occasions, inluding newly engaged couples and their parents. Also congratulated were parents of a member whose partner, according to the announcement, was another male. The decision sparked an outcry, with a number of rabbis calling on the Orthodox Union (OU) to remove the Hebrew Institute from the organization.

Rabbi Eytan Feiner, who heads Congregation Kneseth Israel in Far Rockaway, New York, reportedly threatened to remove his synagogue from the OU if it did not deal with the matter.

Arutz Sheva contributor Rabbi Harry Maryles in an article titled "A shul that calls itself Orthodox cannot violate the Torah," wrote: "the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale (HIR) congratulated a homosexual couple upon their ‘engagement’ to each other. They wished Mazal Tov to them and the entire family. I cannot express enough my disappointment, dismay, and objection to this statement."

After debating the issue, OU CEO Allan Fagin reiterated the organization's opposition to celebrating same-sex marriages. "It is the OU’s unequivocal position that support for, or celebration of, halakhically proscribed conduct is fundamentally inappropriate,” said an OU statement. "Accordingly, the institutional endorsement or encouragement (implicit or explicit) of any conduct that is contrary to halakha is activity that no Orthodox synagogue should allow.”

The Torah explicitly forbids homosexual relations, but does not deny that such attraction exists. Rabbis, such as the head of Baltimore's Ner Yisrael Yeshiva, Rabbi Feldman, and Israel's Har Etzion Hesder Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Yaakov Medan have said that such persons must abstain from that which is forbidden by the Torah. Rabbi Medan said that several men have told him that this is how they live and has termed them "tzaddikim" - righteous Jews.