There is more than one way to form a Jewish marriage. This was a central message emerging from a recent conference in Jerusalem called “New Understandings of Gender, Love and the Jewish Family,” co-sponsored by the VanLeer Jerusalem Institute, the Hadassah Brandeis Institute and the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis University entitled. The conference offered a broad range of creative approaches to burning issues regarding familial relationships, and presented a flexible approach to persistent and arguably growing problems in contemporary Jewish life, including agunot, abuse and sexual violence.
“Gender, love and family are basic to our human and Jewish lives, and we are now living through a time of extraordinary — and confusing — changes,” said Dr. Sylvia Barack Fishman, chair of Brandeis University’s Near Eastern and Judaic Studies department and JOFA board member. “This conference provides the first forum for discussing these changes in an open, systematic venue, and for bringing sociological, legal and religious thinking together with artistic representations of these powerful subjects.”
The conference, which took place last month at Van Leer, brought together Jewish thinkers on the forefront of examining these important issues. “There is a big problem with kiddushin,” argued Dr. Gail Labovitz. “It does not create a marriage of equals.”
Co-panelist Dr. Ayelet Blecher-Prigat concurred: “There is no way to ignore the fundamental gender problem in the Jewish ceremony of kiddushin.”
Dr. Irit Koren spoke about some of the ways in which religious couples are creating “lovers’ ceremonies” without “kinyan,” the concept of “ownership” of the woman. Malka Melanie Landau, author of the book, “Tradition and Equality in Jewish Marriage: Beyond the Sanctification of Subordination,” supported Koren’s initiative.