Miriam’s Cup: A Queer Ketubah – One Snapshot of What Your Membership Grows

I want to tell you about some of the work I’ve been doing in the last couple of weeks. There are a lot of aspects of a rabbi’s work and the happenings in the life of a shul that you might not be aware of. I want to tell you about them because this is the time to renew your membership or become a DJC member and when you think about (re)joining the DJC, I want to encourage/inspire you to not only consider what you derive from this community (which I hope is enriching and growthful and jewcy); I want you to have a picture of one of the ways that you are taking part in building the kind of Jewish community that is soul-nourishing, connecting and important to many others, with impact rippling beyond the DJC.

This has been a busy month, with community learning and conversations about Jewish perspectives on defunding the police (thanks to our incredible Social Justice Committee), and about addressing antisemitism and growing the support of allies. It has been a month with 4 DJC members formally joining the Jewish people through giyur (conversion)! It has been a month of pastoral counseling and support, creative High Holyday visioning and an inspiring Pride Dinner Party. But I want to share a snapshot of one exciting experience that embodies our DJC values, that you can be proud of.

I just had my first experience creating a ketubah (wedding document) for a queer couple in which one of the members is transgender. I love the Hebrew language but because it is a gendered language, there are no pronouns or conjugations that are free of the binaries of masculine and feminine. Whenever I work with a couple in preparation for their wedding, I find it to be a beautiful experience – learning about them and their relationship as we study about the Jewish wedding and reflect on the wedding rituals as a doorway into the marriage, home and values they are growing together. The process of creating this ketubah was a vehicle for me to learn about them, for us to learn about Judaism, and it gave us the opportunity to come to decisions about how they wanted to weave together the traditional format and phrases of ancient ketubot alongside new phrases and innovative additions.

Before this moment, I have used gender non-binary phrasing for a person’s Hebrew name to call trans people to the Torah for an individual Aliyah, calling out – Nah la’amod (“Please rise up”, in the infinitive, instead of the gendered conjugation of “ya’amod” or “ta’amod”) X mimishpachat (“from the family of,” instead of “son” or “daughter of”) Y and Z (their parents’ names). This was a good starting point but there was so much more to discern and create. There are a few gender non-conforming ketubot that have been created but none of them were quite the right fit. Through our learning and conversations, we were able to frame their wedding and marriage as both Jewishly normative, deeply continuous with tradition, and as a radical queering of tradition!

This describes the weaving and evolving process that Judaism has always participated in, as each generation and each community defines its balance between tradition and innovation. With the DJC’s commitments to inclusion and diversity, as part of the wider progressive Jewish movement, this particular weaving was animated by a special creative energy, emerging from taking a conscious, thoughtful and joy-filled role in that evolution. I think we can all shout out ‘Mazel tov!’ for this one.

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