Excerpts from interview conducted on January 23, 1998 with Rabbi David Ariel-Yoel, Rabbi of Harel, Reform Synagogue located at 16 Shmuel HaNagid Street, Jerusalem, Israel

Rabbi Ariel-Yoel is also the head of the Beit HaMidrash learning academy that is located at Hebrew Union College, funded in part by grants from the Israel Ministry of Religious Affairs and the New York Federation of Jewish Agencies.

Conducted by Toby Greenwald, Israel based journalist

Q: A few months ago, you performed a ceremony for a same sex couple. Would you do more in the future? I believe that you referred to this as a “commitment ceremony”.

A: “Yes. About eight months ago, I performed a commitment ceremony for a same sex couple. I would do such ceremonies also in the future. I believe that one of the bigger challenges of our generation is to try and bring back the homosexual and lesbian communities into being part of the Jewish tradition The religious clergy fought against such recognition…. If today you are an Orthodox Jew and a homosexual, you are in a lot of trouble. Research shows us that a loving and caring relationship should also get a religious and a public recognition. I believe that such a lesbian and homosexual relationship, if they want to form a family, if they want to be part of Am Yisrael, should get a public and a religious recognition. History teaches us that such a family can be a stable and a long-lasting relationship. It is important that our Rabbis should reach out to homosexuals and lesbians and make them feel at home inside Judaism. I have to admit that public reaction to the ceremony that I performed surprised me. I have to admit hat I had no knowledge that the reaction would be as it was. I got alot of support and hundreds of letters and e-mails, and manly from younger people, my age who understand the need for such ceremonies The attack that I received were mainly from inside our own movement, from lay persons, not only against me personally, but against the decision of that was made by the Reform Rabbinical Council of Israel that allows Reform Rabbis to perform such ceremonies according to their own conscience and their own beliefs… Twenty years from now, all such things will be seen as natural, like women Rabbis and women Cantors. Such matters will be seen as natural…. No one will see this as anything that is out of normal…. Sexual relationships between couples are their own private matter…. The Reform movement does not see that anything should interfere with what happens in the a couple’s bed…. When I perform a heterosexual wedding, I do not necessarily encourage heterosexual experience”.