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Breaking the Glass: An Historic Wedding at an Ohio Synagogue

Breaking the Glass: An Historic Wedding at an Ohio Synagogue

Smashing the glass: It’s the most recognizable and iconic of rituals at the Jewish wedding, and while the explanation for this most tangible of Jewish customs has been interpreted by many, the most common one reminds us that even in times of joy we must remember that which is broken in this world.

On October 2nd, however, the act of breaking the glass by Tom Roese and Bill Franklin made the most glorious of sounds, and heralded shouts of joy in our synagogue's chapel. It was the first time in the 170-year history of Fairmount Temple in Beachwood, OH, where partners of the same sex could marry in our shul and be legally recognized by the State of Ohio – all at the same time.

For too long, same-sex couples have been relegated to the status of impurity, as if one could simply prepare an elixir that would wash away sexual orientation, a status that the medical community not so long ago deemed a “condition," or form of mental illness. It’s a status that found many religious institutions adhering to literal readings of a biblical injunction, interpreted as a proof text for God’s judgment that gay relationships are abhorrent. And even if our ancestors at the time of the Torah was written did believe that homosexuality was an abomination, we have learned – in the wise words of Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan - that Judaism is indeed an “evolving religious civilization.” 

Our movement is called “Reform” – a verb which submits that Judaism is a faith in constant motion and ever-changing. I would argue that is how we have survived – because we have adapted and acknowledged that faith and religion must bend and respond to modernity. Variances in sexual orientation are nothing new to social living, but our institutions’ acknowledgment of them is very much a contemporary thing.

A coming out story of my own: While I was raised in a fairly progressive home, and sensitive to issues of gender, race, and rights for everyone, I was not wholly attuned to the struggle for human rights that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals faced. In high school, I did not blanch when someone dispatched offensive terms like "homo” or “f-g,” or lobbed around a “You’re so gay” comment. These were epithets aimed at those perceived to have impurities, name-calling to set others apart from the tent in which so many others comfortably lived.

At the time when I was studying for the rabbinate (about 20 years ago), I was still woefully naïve about it all – like the time a friend came out to me, and I recoiled because I was not prepared for it.

I wonder now about all the times when I missed an opportunity to reach out and embrace a colleague or a friend. I regret the moments I missed to speak out and speak up.

But what finally moved me were the stories. 

Stories from colleagues, and stories from congregants about a love that was true and undeniable.

Stories that proved that same-sex love was not something that could be washed away by a therapist or medication or denial.

Stories as romantic and gripping as the stories you were told of how your parents met, or when a friend found her besheret (her fated one), or the first time you fell in love.

As true as those love stories are – so the same holds for our friends in the LGBT community, and those who are still exploring issues of identity and sexuality.

Tom and Bill’s story is only the latest of stories that have inspired me and my colleagues here at our temple. They are a model for what a loving relationship looks like, and we are proud that they are the ones to have made history in our community. At that ultimate and transcendent moment of the breaking of the glass, all we could think about was the shattering of hatred, the shattering of homophobic tropes, and the shattering of a narrow definition of marriage. We celebrate with all our couples, our families and their loved ones. Today, we shout for joy and wish mazal tov to all who have raised our consciousness.

Rabbi Joshua Caruso has been a member of the clergy team at Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple in Beachwood, OH, since 2002. His greatest joy is serving the Jewish people.

Rabbi Joshua Caruso
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