When Obama Says “Mazel Tov” to Your Marriage



On May 20, 2012 – only 10 days from now! – I will be marrying E., the Jewish woman I love. (I call her E. here because as a therapist, she maintains strict boundaries between her professional and private life.) We will stand under the flowing, stunning, yellow, orange, red, and turquoise chuppah that she designed and painted on silk (a painstakingly challenging design process for a beginner, but that’s another blog post). We will drink from a sparkling, cobalt blue wine goblet that says in Hebrew, “Ani leh-dodee veh-dodee lee,” “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.” And, because none of our parents are still living, we will wonder: What would they have thought? For me in particular, Would my parents have attended our nuptials? And: Might the pronouncement of President Barack Obama – the first sitting U.S. president to vocalize his support for same-sex marriage – have changed their decision?

I met E. in 1999, one month after my father died at age 86. My mother had passed away four years earlier at age 70. It took until the last year of my mother’s life for her to invite me back into that life. Fundamentally, she could not accept that I would choose to be with a woman. She maintained a twisted belief that harkened back to her relationship with her own mother: If she refused to see, to talk, to connect with me, her only daughter, I would forego “the unnatural path I had chosen.” My father was also discomfited by my preference for a relationship with a woman, but he could not accept my mother’s decision to banish me from the household. We scheduled regular lunch visits where he came to Manhattan to treat me to his company and fine food in upscale restaurants.

Some of my mother’s anger, I realize, emanated from a poor decision I had made years earlier. When I first came out to my parents, we argued. They wanted to send me to a therapist to be “cured”; I refused to “be cured.” Impasse. Finally, we reached an agreement: We would both see the therapist in separate sessions, and all of us would agree on the therapist. Therapy ensued. The therapist assured my parents that the relationship was over and coached me to lie to my parents, saying that “My current relationship is over.” It was an awful lie that came back to haunt us years later. After I was emotionally stronger and came out – again, for good – my mother could not bear it. For two terrible years, I was a persona non grata in her life.

The chuppah Weinberg's fiancee created

Then she was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer and I was allowed back in to her life to support her before she died.

A great portion of my parents’ difficulty with this issue lay in their upbringing and isolation from alternative ideas. In their closed (closeted?) Jewish culture, this was a shanda that would make the family look bad. They didn’t know people – or many people – who would think positively of my choice. They were afraid to ask and find out. They certainly didn’t hear the president of the United States say that he supported gay marriage.

On May 20, 2012, while holding hands with my beloved, I will look up through the transparent silk yellows, oranges, and turquoises of the chuppah she so beautifully designed, gaze into the heavens, and wonder: Mom, Dad, would you have been celebrating with me now? Are you here now with me?

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Joy Weinberg

About Joy Weinberg

Joy Weinberg is the managing editor of Reform Judaism magazine.

16 Responses to “When Obama Says “Mazel Tov” to Your Marriage”

  1. avatar
    Tonya Pomerantz Reply May 10, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    Mazel Tov to you both!
    On May 20th, 2012 I will be thinking of you and your beloved E. under your gorgeous chuppah and will celebrating with you in spirit.
    I wish you the best for a beautiful future together, and I hope you will always bring out the best in each other and cherish each other for the rest of your lives.
    Thank you for sharing your story, and I truly hope it inspires other people to live their true and authentic lives.
    Thanks,
    Tonya

  2. Rabbi Victor Appell

    Joy,
    Mazel tov on your upcoming marriage. I hope that if your parents could see the happiness that you and E. bring to each other, that they would indeed be celebrating with you.
    Victor

  3. Kate Bigam

    Mazel tov, Joy & E! So happy for you – & what a wonderful wedding gift from the president just in advance of your big day!

  4. avatar
    Alexandra (Weinberg) Chusid Reply May 11, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    Joy,

    Mazel tov to you and E!!! When I came across your blog, I was so happy to:
    a) read the blog and hear your story, and b) re-connect with a long lost cousin:)

    This is Andi Weinberg(Michael’s daughter) from Southern California. Wishing you both all the joy in the world!!!

    Andi

    • Joy Weinberg

      Hi Andi, I am so thrilled to reconnect with my long-lost cousin! How is your dad, how are you and your brother? Our mutual cousin Sheila came to visit two weeks ago (she will be holding one of the chupah poles next Sunday) and we were talking about all of you and wondering how you all are. Send me an email at jweinberg@urj.org. best, Joy

  5. Deborah Rood Goldman
    Deborah Rood Goldman Reply May 11, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    Your upcoming marriage is part of a momentous time in American history. I’d like to believe that your parents’ attitude would have indeed evolved and that they would be there with you and E. to celebrate. Mazel tov, Joy!

  6. avatar

    Joy,
    First, mazal tov to you and E. The chuppah is beautiful.

    Although I do not know either of you, I was touched by your blog. I am sorry that your life decisions were so hard for your family, and your mother particularly, to understand. But I hope you can believe that given her new perspective and the heavenly company she now keeps, she will be smiling on you and E as you stand beneath the chuppah.

    Cathy

  7. Vicky Farhi

    Joy and E,
    Mazel tov on your upcoming wedding, a continuation of your beautiful relationship. No one stays in the same place in their life, and I’m sure your parents, were they with you today, would be happy that you have found each other and are living a life filled with love.
    With every wish for blessings!
    Vicky

  8. avatar

    Joy,
    Congratulations to you and E. I wish happiness and joy to you both, forever.
    Bill

  9. avatar
    Sue Levi Elwell Reply May 11, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    Dear Joy,
    Thank you so much for your beautiful and powerful words. When you and E stand under this GORGEOUS huppah together to celebrate your love, many of us will be singing with you, and in your honor, grateful for the increasing number of souls who understand that love is the engine that propels this world forward. To many more years of delight, and to dancing into communities enriched by your energy, your gifts, and your clear and strong words. Mazel tov and many thanks, Sue

  10. avatar

    Dear Joy and E,
    It is with delight that Herb and I welcome the two of you into our wonderful world of marriage. May you find your love for each other enhanced by this major step forward, and may you find that, like us, you love each other more and more each day of your lives shared as one. John & Herb

  11. avatar

    Joy thank you for sharing your touching story. Your words tie in so beautifully with the d’var Torah of Rabbi Loren Filson Lapidus in last week’s Torah Hayim -a sukkah of marraige where everyone is included. Mazel tov to you and E
    Richard

  12. avatar

    Joy & E, what wonderful news. As you go under the Chuppah,Joy,may you be blessed with the thought that your parents’ views would have evolved as did the president’s. It’s just great that two such creative people, in love so long, will be marrying in a few days. Congratulations!
    Milt

  13. avatar

    And the wedding and chuppah and wedding song and everything was spectacular. all your friends are special people and the ones I spoke with most are fantastic. Happiness forever to you and E

  14. avatar

    Joy,

    Great blog post.

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