Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

News Brief


A same-sex commitment ceremony was held in a synagogue in Sydney, an Australian first. Scott Whitmont, 47, and Christopher Whitmont-Stein, 38, stood under a chupah at the Emanuel Synagogue Sunday in front of about 75 guests. The pair, who had a secular commitment ceremony six years ago, exchanged rings, smashed a glass and walked around each other 3 1/2 times. The celebration follows a decision in May 2007 by the Council of Progressive Rabbis of Asia, Australia and New Zealand to allow its rabbis to officiate at same-sex commitment ceremonies. Whitmont-Stein, a registered nurse, converted at Emanuel Synagogue in 2002 under the guidance of Rabbi Jeffery Kamins, who also officiated at Sunday’s ceremony. “We wanted to be recognized by our community and officiated by our rabbi — that was important to us,” he told the Sydney Star Observer, a gay newspaper. “We didn’t set out to be poster boys for gay Jewish marriage.” In a recent letter to congregants, Kamins defended his decision.

“Contemporary knowledge from biology, psychology and other fields has led to a far deeper understanding of human sexuality,” he wrote. “Gay or lesbian relationships are not ‘deviant,’ but part of human behavior.” Kamins noted that Orthodox Judaism would not endorse the violation of Shabbat, “but neither would it shun a person who drove on Shabbat.” Dayenu, a gay and lesbian Jewish group, held a Shabbat dinner Friday night in honor of the couple. It is still illegal for homosexual couples to marry under Australian law.

Recommended from JTA