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Left to Right: Judge Ron Meyers (z"l), Ruth, Judy, Rabbi Neil Rose

Ruth Laveman and Judy Plotkin


by Rhonda Spivak, Feb 21, 2012

The recent same sex marriage wedding of Arthur Blankstein and Ken Ure at the Shaarey Zedek [SZ]Synagogue has brought back memories for Judy Plotkin and Ruth Laveman, who were married at the Fairmont Hotel under a chupah officiated by a Conservative Rabbi – Neil Rose and a judge, Ronnie Meyers (z’l) in August 2006.

Plotkin and Laveman tried unsuccessfully for years to get married at SZ Synagogue – their mutually significant lifecycle shul. They reflect that they had the longest engagement of most of their peers while waiting patiently for change. Laveman recalls, “It was finally time to move on with our planning; if we waited any longer we would need plots not a wedding! It was enough waiting. Knowing that we wished to get married, we embarked on a more focused effort with various members of the [SZ] Synagogue including the clergy and board”.
Laveman adds, "Knowing that many members and some clergy were favourable, we wrote to the board of directors of SZ before 2006. When we finally received a reply, it was negative because of the their stance at the time on GLBT marriage. The debate was likely colored by the stance of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism that was on the cusp of change and positioned to vote on the matter of full inclusion in 2006. Having already lost  three parents, we proceeded in our planning.
"When we set our date (August 20, 2006) and entered our year of planning, Judge Ron Meyers (z’l) was delighted to marry us given his personal connection to us and our family. Rabbi Neil Rose (a Rabbi with a Conservative Smicha) upon learning of our upcoming nuptuals, insisted on officiating at our wedding ceremony. We were not only married under a chupah (that Judy made), but our wedding ceremony was officiated by both a judge and a conservative Rabbi.
Plotkin recalls, “Rabbi Green attended our wedding as a guest and had commented on having been deeply moved by the ceremony. We had a traditional conservative, ritually rich inclusive/feminist wedding ceremony in the round. We laboured with great love for over a year on the ceremony.“
Laveman says, "We are now members of Shaarey Zedek, but we are not planning on having another wedding, even though we now would be able to. We are happy in the knowledge that our request to get married at the Shaarey Zedek, even though it was denied at the time, ultimately acted as a catalyst for change at Shaarey Zedek, so that others who now come after us will have the opportunity that we and our families were denied."
"Besides we can't have another wedding now-- we still have to save to pay off our plots," Plotkin adds. 
Plotkin also reflects on the three decades of work within Winnipeg's GLBT Jewish community in which she and Laveman and a core group of others worked steadfastly to promote GLBT rights in the community which they believe may have contributed to Shaarey Zedek's eventual and "long awaited" decision to allow Lesbian and Gay marriages. "We are very proud of this work and welcome this much needed change in our synagogue community," says Plotkin.

During the times when Les Marks was then Director at the YMHA, there was outreach to the original Winnipeg Jewish GLBT group known as “Chutzpah”. That original group was founded by two local youths Jana Vinsky & Marc Waterman who wondered “if they were they the only gay (historically an all inclusive term) Jews in Winnipeg”?, Laveman says.

"The first meeting took place around 1990 and had a resounding 30 + Jewish GLBT people in attendance spanning all ages. The subsequent work of Chutzpah was driven by two pillars: social connecting and social justice/action," Plotkin notes.
"The 1990’s were a very busy time for this vibrant newly formed organization, Chutzpah. Aside from very successful and well attended social events (coffee houses, fundraisers, cultural and spiritual events etc..). Chutzpah also had a subgroup whom because of their skills sets and life experiences were often called upon to facilitate a variety of educational programming (panels, workshops, discussions, presentations etc..) within the community," says Laveman.
Laveman and Plotkin say that they can not forget to mention  Evelyn Hecht (the community planner at the time) whom along with Les Marks worked alongside Chutzpah to promote social change and inclusion. 
Plotkin recalls that she and Marc Waterman along with Rabbi Henry Balser (Shaarey Zedek's  Senior Rabbi at the time, who did not support an expansion of GLBT rights) and Rabbi Rose were invited to participate on the television program Sunday Scope with Hecht’s encouragement and support.
"This was the first public discussion to my knowledge that occurred on the topic of Jewish gay/lesbian spiritual inclusion in Winnipeg if not other regions in Canada," says Plotkin. "This was a historical discussion at the time as this issue was hardly on the radar at SZ let alone any other conservative shul in Winnipeg," Laveman says.
Plotkin remembers that she and Marc Waterman were clear that " as spiritual consumers, they would take their shopping list to whatever shul had the best ingredients for full and equal inclusion. "
"At the time Chutzpah was driven by the need for social action, so that no GLBT Jew should ever feel alone or feel that they would ever have to leave Winnipeg to feel safe and counted as an important member of the greater Jewish community," says Plotkin.
"Shaarey Zedek along with the conservative movement have come a long way  – better late than never," say Plotkin and Laveman.
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.