Such arrangements remain far from mainstream acceptance. But in the wake of the progress made by gay and lesbian Jews in winning communal recognition for non-traditional partnerships, some polyamorous Jews are pushing to have their romantic arrangements similarly accepted.
“The only kind of queers who are generally accepted in some sects are monogamous married queers, upstanding queers,” said Mai Li Pittard, 31, a Jewish poly activist from Seattle. “Judaism right now is very oriented towards having 2.5 kids, a picket fence and a respectable job. There’s not a lot of respect for people on the fringe.”
Hopefully that will change.
A former editor of ModernPoly.com, a nationwide polyamory website, Pittard has been polyamorous for 10 years and is currently involved with three partners — two men and one woman. She is a violinist and vocalist in a fusion hip-hop klezmer band, the Debaucherantes, and likes to engage in culture jamming, the mixing of seemingly disparate cultural elements. Combining polyamory and Judaism is one example of that.Beautiful.
“For me, polyamory and Judaism make a lot of sense together,” Pittard said. “When I’m singing niggunim or hosting people at my Shabbat table, it’s just another way of experiencing a connection with a group of people.”
For more than a decade, poly Jews have connected with one another on the email list AhavaRaba — roughly translated “big love” in Hebrew. The list’s 200-plus members come from across the country and use the forum to discuss jealousy, breakups, child rearing in multiple relationships and, in one case, a poly gathering in a sukkah. They also address the challenges of being poly in a community in which monogamy and marriage are still considered the ideal.
You know, someone can consider legally married monogamy ideal and still recognize that some people are polyamorous and couldn't be monogamous if there was a gun pointed at their heads. It's a matter of human diversity and compassion. Trying to force someone into monogamy who isn't monogamous is likely going to be bad for everyone.
Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, senior rabbi at New York’s gay synagogue, Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, says she tries to avoid that sort of judgment in her rabbinic practice. Polyamory, she says, is a choice that does not preclude a Jewishly observant, socially conscious life.
“People make all different kinds of choices, and many choices have complex issues related to them,” Kleinbaum told JTA. “The important thing is for all of us to be asking ourselves hard questions about how to create non-exploitative, profoundly sacred lives within the different choices that exist.”
Good for her.