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In shift, Orthodox Union endorses Respect for Marriage Act, federal bill to protect same-sex marriage

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(JTA) — The Orthodox Union has endorsed federal legislation that would enshrine the right to same-sex marriage, marking a reversal of its previous positions.

When more than 100 Jewish groups endorsed the Respect for Marriage Act this summer, the OU, an umbrella group representing Modern Orthodox synagogues, was not among them. The group had previously sat on the sidelines as well when the U.S. Supreme Court weighed Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, in which the court ruled that same-sex marriage was protected under the Constitution.

But things changed this week, when the OU said in a letter to senators working on the Respect for Marriage Act that enough religious freedom provisions had been added to the legislation that the group could endorse it, marking the first time that the OU has taken a firm stand in support of gay marriage rights in the United States.

The OU still does not countenance same-sex marriage under Jewish law, its long-held view. But the letter says that the group was convinced that Orthodox rabbis and communities would not be compelled to compromise on their religious beliefs if the bill becomes law, as it appears likely to do. Four senators sponsored an amendment to the bill that would enshrine protections for religious groups that do not accept same-sex marriage as a matter of doctrine.

“The leadership of the Orthodox Union … cannot endorse the main purpose of H.R.8404,” three OU executives wrote to the four senators. “However, we welcome the provisions added to this bill by your amendment in the nature of a substitute in the Senate that appropriately address religious liberty concerns (provisions that were absent in the version of the bill passed by the House of Representatives).”

The Respect for Marriage Act, which the Senate passed on Wednesday, aims to repeal a decades-old federal law that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. Obergefell superseded that law, but earlier this year, when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Justice Clarence Thomas mentioned Obergefell as another decision that he believed should be reconsidered.

That spurred lawmakers to try to guarantee same-sex marriage rights through legislation. The U.S. House passed a version of the Respect for Marriage Act, sponsored by Jewish Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler, in July. The Senate’s version, passed this week, added an amendment that ensures that nonprofit religious groups will not have to provide services to celebrate same-sex marriages and also clarifies that polyamorous marriages are not subject to the law.

The Orthodox Union is not the only religious group to have previously opposed same-sex marriage rights and support the new bill. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, known as the Mormon church, which spent millions of dollars to oppose a California same-sex marriage referendum in 2008, also endorsed the Right to Marriage Act with its new religious freedom provisions this week.

The bill comes at a complicated time for Modern Orthodoxy’s handling of LGBTQ issues. The denomination’s flagship educational institution, Yeshiva University, has appealed to the Supreme Court for the right to bar an LGBTQ student club, while still stressing to students that it wants LGBTQ students to feel comfortable as part of the community. The OU’s endorsement of the Respect for Marriage act walks the same tightrope.

“Judaism is emphatic in defining marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman. Our beliefs in this regard are unalterable. At the same time, Judaism teaches respect for others and we condemn discrimination against individuals,” said Nathan Diament, the OU’s advocacy executive director, said in a statement. “Our hope is that the Respect for Marriage Act will expand civil rights for LGBT Americans while at the same time protecting principles of religious liberty and diversity which are central to our constitution.”


The post In shift, Orthodox Union endorses Respect for Marriage Act, federal bill to protect same-sex marriage appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Obituaries

PHYLLIS POLLOCK

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary

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By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre


Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station

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This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.


The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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