We were told that we needed to have at least two witnesses.
Perfect, we’d have our siblings sign!
We were told they couldn’t be related to us.
Huh. Choosing friends is a very complicated and potentially dangerous endeavor. After much deliberation, we decided that Matt and Tom would sign.
We were told that these friends had to be Jewish.
WHY IS EVERYTHING SO COMPLICATED?!
Tom is not Jewish. Is not asking him to sign being complicit in a tradition that ultimately amounts to racism?
I wrestle with the implications of our decision. Maybe it is racist. But if not asking Tom to sign is racist, then how many of my other traditions are also racist?
Is the very fact that I am with a Jewish partner inspired by an element of racism?
Suzie is Jewish, and I get a great deal of inspiration from her Jewish knowledge. Her family feels like my family, and it has ever since I met them. Am I marrying her because she’s Jewish? If part of me sought out a Jewish partner intentionally, is my attraction racist? Is it better to call it ethnocentric?
There are so many other questions that start springing up when one starts questioning racism within the bonds that create a culture.
When people do not interact with people of other ethnicities in their daily lives, is that lack of interaction indirectly racist?
Does the answer to that question matter what ethnicity or class a person is? When my students in Roxbury don’t know anyone who isn’t from their ethnicity, is it because they don’t have the opportunity? When a friend from Brookline doesn’t know anyone outside of his ethnicity, is that also because he doesn’t have the opportunity? When is being cloistered considered ghettoization, and when is it fear and/or racism?
I grew up questioning sexism within Jewish tradition at every possible opportunity, but in my little Ashkenazi world of Liberal Jews, I never really learned to push back against racism within my religion. Why is that? Does it hit too close to home? Is racism embedded within us? Is it ever necessary within a culture? I wonder about things that I’m barely brave enough to address with friends.
I don’t have the answers, and I won’t have them in time for the wedding. Four weeks is enough time to buy extra balloons and streamers, but not enough to solve all the issues of pluralistic Judaism.
In the end we decided to ask Eliza, Tom’s partner, to sign the ketubah. Tom was fine not signing it, and Eliza–as Tom’s romantic partner, a woman to whom we are connected through love–is the perfect choice. This gives us the opportunity to get to know each other better, and it gives us the opportunity to honor their relationship even as they are honoring ours. Eliza is beautiful and strong, and we are proud to be her friends. She is compassionate, intelligent, and best of all she is politically aware. She would not stand idly by and accept racism happening; she is the sort of person who changes the world. Yes, she is Jewish–but just as importantly, she is righteous.
From the boundaries of the laws, we found opportunities for loving-kindness. There are a lot of problems in our world, but I have faith that we’ll keep working them out, one at a time… Today’s Omer count is Chesed sheba Gevurah, the lovingkindness in boundaries.
Lag b Blog, day 8.