Opinion: A defense for non-traditional marriage | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

 Opinion: A defense for non-traditional marriage


As we approach Rosh Hashanah and the Days of Awe, we must consider the weight, not only of our actions, but also our words before beginning to ask for forgiveness – and then redemption.

Personally, my thoughts on Judaism have evolved over time. I feel as though Judaism is a religion of intellectualism, personal freedom, charity, forgiveness and open-mindedness. Judaism is

Derek H. Goodman

Derek H. Goodman

a faith that values the exchange of ideas, the testing of tradition, and the acceptance of those that are different from ourselves.

The rapidity of the evolution of our faith is evident in the diversity of our people. For instance, in its monumental survey of the state of American Jewry from 2013, the Pew Research Center determined that while only 18 percent of adult Jews from the boomers came from interfaith-married parents, today 48 percent of millennials identify as such. In the same survey, an increasing number of millennials coming from these marriages identified as Jewish as compared to their boomer predecessors. This is a clear indication of a shift in the values of our people; that although we may become a more diverse population, the notion of our Jewish identity has only grown stronger. Non-traditional marriage not only covers interfaith, but also same-sex marriage. As Jews, I believe that we can only mature as a people by accepting all individuals as they exist and should not use our traditions to hinder the growth of our society.

In June of 2015, in Obergefell v. Hodges, our Supreme Court of the United States held, in part, that government could not infringe on the individual right to marriage, stating that “the nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality.” Inherent in marriage, according to the Court, is the idea marriage allows any two individuals to achieve a greater sense of expression and spirituality. If spirituality is a goal of Judaism, then the most congruent catalyst for it is the joining of two for marriage.

What could be more identifiable with Jewish tradition than that notion? Is the acceptance of same-sex marriage not perfectly in line with the evolution of our faith? Does the empirical evidence not already show that as we grow in our acceptance of each other, so grows our Jewish identity? Our culture, like the Supreme Court, has come a long way in the expansion of individual liberty. The Torah is not a device for strict adherence, but rather must be interpreted like our nation’s Constitution, as a living document that can evolve with our own understanding of ourselves.

Let us not forget as we draw closer to Yom Kippur that before we may ask forgiveness from God, we must first ask for forgiveness from our fellow men and women. Inherent in the concept of forgiveness is acceptance. As Jews, we are commanded to forgive, and therein accept. Let us continue to be a religion and culture of acceptance and inclusion. Let us embrace those who are both the same and those who are different, those with whom we agree and disagree, and let us not invoke our faith in the name of zealotry, exclusion, bigotry or hate. Let us join together for the sake of creating a faith open and accepting to all.

Derek H. Goodman lives in Milwaukee and is an attorney with the Milwaukee firm, The Law Offices of Jonathan Goodman. This article is Derek H. Goodman’s response to “Traditional marriage is best for all,” an opinion piece published in the Chronicle in September.