Conceiving Judaism

The Challenges of Same-Sex Parenthood

in Israel Studies Review
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In Israel, personal status is regulated through religious law. This gives Orthodox rabbis the state-sanctioned power to define who is Jewish and to enable and recognize marriage. The impediments that religious law poses to same-sex couples and their children are serious: same-sex couples are excluded from marriage, and their children's religious status is at risk. In this article, I contrast these rabbinic exclusions with the ways that same-sex couples, both religious and non-religious, use Jewish traditions to establish social legitimacy and belonging for themselves and their children. Based on ethnographic findings, the article suggests that the Jewish ritual of circumcision for boys and childbirth celebrations for girls are moments in which relationships are reaffirmed. Even more so, the social networks displayed at these events and the participation of religious specialists (mohalim) performing the circumcision carry a clear message: these families are authentically a part of the Jewish-Israeli collective despite rabbinic opposition.

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