'We knew from day one''We knew from day one'

After 47 years, lesbian couple weds

Lennie Gerber and Pearl Berlin defy the law and break the glass together under the chuppah in North Carolina

Renee Ghert-Zand is a reporter and feature writer for The Times of Israel.

Pearl Berlin (left) and Lennie Gerber rejoice after their marriage ceremony (photo credit: Arlene Gutterman. Courtesy of Pearl Berlin and Lennie Gerber)
Pearl Berlin (left) and Lennie Gerber rejoice after their marriage ceremony (photo credit: Arlene Gutterman. Courtesy of Pearl Berlin and Lennie Gerber)

After a 47-year relationship, Lennie Gerber and Pearl Berlin finally got married.

For the lesbian couple, North Carolina residents, a wedding had always seemed something out of reach, especially after the state’s May 8, 2012 approval of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

But last Sunday they found themselves standing under a chuppah at Beth David Synagogue in Greensboro.

“My dream was always to be married before family, friends and community in a Jewish ceremony,” said Gerber, 77, who met Berlin in 1966 when Berlin hired her to work with her at Wayne State University in Detroit, where she was a professor.

Gerber and Berlin, 88, are LGBT rights activists and a film called “Living in the Overlap” was made about them and their social justice work. Gerber worked as an attorney specializing in LGBT rights before recently retiring. “I just surrendered my attorney’s license last year,” she told The Times of Israel.

For their recent wedding, the couple decided not to travel to nearby Washington, DC, where gay marriage is legal, nor to wait until later this month when the Supreme Court is expected to announce its decision on the legality of the Defense of Marriage Act.

“Even if the Court strikes down Section 3 of DOMA, I believe that the state of domicile will still come in to play,” Gerber said in explaining why she didn’t think the Court’s decision would have any meaningful effect on her and Berlin’s life together as residents of North Carolina.

“In any case, one of my nieces asked what we were waiting for, given our advanced ages.”

The couple chose to be married on June 2, the 47th anniversary of their decision to live together after having known each other only a couple of days. “We knew from day one,” Gerber said.

The ceremony was conducted at the Conservative congregation in front of 130 guests by Rabbi Eliezer Havivi. It took place under a chuppah that was made from the tallitot of the women’s nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews. The ketubah was custom made with illustrations depicting their home near a river and woods, and a text (in Hebrew and English) that the women wrote to reflect their life stage.

“It reflects that we are in the final era of our lives, the last chapter. We say in it that we will get through the challenges of old age together,” Gerber said. “It’s very personal to us.”

Both women stepped on the glass.

“Every morning Pearl and I wake up with a kiss and a little schmooze,” said Gerber. “Now, Pearl also says, ‘We’re married!’”

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