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Two women married by rabbi in Tel Aviv wedding ceremony

JERUSALEM, June 19 (JTA) — A Reform rabbi married two women in a Jewish wedding ceremony in Tel Aviv this week, an Israeli newspaper reported Thursday. The wedding came as Reform and Conservative leaders met with coalition members in an effort to resolve a dispute over a controversial conversion bill. Rabbi David Ariel-Yoel, of the Harel synagogue in Jerusalem, performed the ceremony at a Tel Aviv catering hall, the Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported. The two women arrived at the hall, each wearing an evening dress and carrying a bouquet of flowers. Guests held a tallit over the couple to serve as the chupah. The couple signed a ketubah in the presence of witnesses, and exchanged vows and rings. At the end of the ceremony, Rabbi Ariel-Yoel invoked the priestly blessing. Rabbi Ariel-Yoel told Ha’aretz that it was the first time he had performed a wedding for a lesbian couple. He said it was important that Jewish couples mark their union with some sort of religious ceremony, even if they choose not to do it with Orthodox rabbis. “In my eyes this was certainly a wedding, and if…these women ever choose to separate, they will have to do this through a ceremony with religious context.” Ariel-Yoel said he was aware of two other same-sex wedding ceremonies which had taken place in Israel, and of numerous ones abroad. The Reform movement in Israel has not taken an official stance on the issue of same-sex marriage ceremonies. The movement’s rabbinic council has been holding deliberations on the matter over the past two years, and has not yet released its final conclusions. Ha’aretz reported that a number of Reform leaders in Israel were surprised by the wedding and expressed concern that it could hurt efforts to reach a compromise on the conversion bill. Reform and Conservative leaders reached an agreement in principle this week with the coalition chairman, Michael Eitan of the Likud Party, to suspend legislative and judicial proceedings regarding the bill in order to give a committee comprised of members from the three main streams of Judaism time to try to resolve the dispute. The bill would cement into law the Orthodox establishment’s authority to confirm conversions performed in Israel. The Reform and Conservative movements have said that the bill delegitimizes them, and have warned of an irreparable rift between Israel and the Diaspora Jewish community if the bill is made into law.

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