If Not Now, When? Rabbi Melissa Simon on the Freedom to Marry

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Rabbi Melissa Simon, Director of Lifelong Learning at Shir Tikvah, delivered a rousing speech at yesterday’s Freedom to Marry Rally at the State Capitol, where Jewish Community Action joined Minnesotans United for All Families, OutFront MN, dozens of other organizations, over 2000 supports, and 100 clergy to demonstrate our belief in the freedom for all loving couples to marry. In her speech, Rabbi Simon, who wishes to bless committed couples not only before God but also before the state, asks how her religious freedom can be honored. How can she act fully as an agent of God when she cannot honor the love and commitment of ALL couples seeking to get married? Please read Rabbi Simon’s moving speech below and get involved in our freedom to marry campaign. If not now, when?

 

I am Rabbi Melissa B. Simon of Shir Tikvah, a Reform synagogue in South Minneapolis. As a little girl growing up, I was inspired by the questions the great rabbi Hillel asked:

If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
If I am only for myself, what am I for?
If not now, when?

This teaching pushed me to speak out for justice for myself and for the communities around me and to speak out now.

Today, I am proud to be one of 35 rabbis of the Minnesota Rabbinical Association which unanimously adopted a statement opposing the now-defeated “marriage amendment.” I am also humbled to work with the incredible organizers at Jewish Community Action, which led the Jewish community’s campaign against the amendment. I was inspired to stand with hundreds of my fellow faith leaders in Clergy United for All Families who spoke out on behalf of faith for all Minnesotans.

In the eyes of Judaism, marriage links couples to our heritage and traditions of our faith. A growing number of Minnesota congregations already proudly officiate at weddings of same-sex couples. We know that a marriage equality bill would include a religious exemption, so that any faith community not already marrying same-sex couples would not be required to do so.

But what about the rabbis, ministers, priests and imams behind me who want to officiate at weddings of same-sex couples?  How can our religious freedom be honored?

My role as a rabbi is to bless a loving and committed couple under the chuppah, the wedding canopy, according to Jewish tradition.  I cannot, in good faith, bless some couples in the eyes of God and the State, and other couples just in the eyes of God.  I wonder: why can’t the state of Minnesota see what God sees, that we are all made B’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God?

I call upon our elected officials: Open your eyes to the loving and committed couples seeking to be recognized in our state and allow clergy like myself to bless ALL of them. 

At the end of a Jewish wedding, we break a glass to remind us in the greatest moment of joy of the brokenness in the world. 

Our world is broken when loving couples are not protected by their government;
Our world is broken when ALL families are not recognized;
Our world is broken when clergy are limited in their religious freedom and can’t fully act as agents of God.

I pray for this brokenness to end. I pray and work for the day when ALL couples who choose to get married, based on their love and commitment, can be blessed by their rabbi, minister, priest or imam, not just in the eyes of their religion but also in the eyes of our state.

I ask of our elected officials, I ask of each of you in this building now, the questions I have asked myself since my youth, the questions that compelled me to become a rabbi, the questions the great rabbi Hillel asked:

If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
If I am only for myself, what am I for?
If not now, when?

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