Grandson of former Israeli chief rabbi to marry boyfriend

Few members of late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s family expected to attend wedding of Ovadia Cohen and Amichai Landsman, to be conducted by a gay Orthodox woman

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in Jerusalem, September 2012. (Flash90)
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in Jerusalem, September 2012. (Flash90)

The grandson of one of Israel’s most prominent Sephardi chief rabbis, who was vehemently opposed to homosexuality, is set to marry his boyfriend in a ceremony led by a gay Orthodox woman.

Ovadia Cohen, whose late grandfather Rabbi Ovadia Yosef was the Shas party spiritual leader and Israel’s foremost Sephardic halachic authority, told the Yedioth Ahronoth on Thursday that he and partner Amichai Landsman are tying the knot next week.

“I was blessed with a wonderful family who accepted me from the very beginning, and they have accepted Ovadia as well,” Landsman told the paper, indicating that Cohen’s family was less supportive.

“We are fully out and proud,” Landsman said. “Ovadia made a really brave step in being in a relationship with me and we are happy to be getting married.”

The couple are expecting some 200 guests at their wedding, mostly Landsman’s family and members of the religious gay community. The paper said Cohen expects “a small number” of his influential family to attend.

Growing up, Cohen was close to his grandfather and spent much time at his house as a child after his parents divorce, regularly mingling with Israel’s religious and political elite.

But it was in an environment that completely condemned homosexuality.

Yosef, the spiritual founder of the Shas party, once called homosexuals “completely evil.” His son Rabbi Yaakov Yosef issued a ruling that forbade people from letting their children study with gay teachers or tutors.

Last year a Shas lawmaker was forced out the party for attending his nephew’s gay wedding.

As an adult, Cohen married a woman and had two children, but the couple separated when he came out as gay. Three years ago he met Landsman, who grew up in a religious Zionist community in Haifa, and the two moved in together while maintaining a religious lifestyle.

While Cohen has had “very partial” contact with his family following his coming out, Landsman says his religious family has come to “accept” him.

The ceremony celebrating the couple’s union will be led by Zahorit Sorek, a prominent activist in the gay religious community and a member of the Yesh Atid party, whose fight against what it considers religious coercion regularly puts it on a collision course with Shas.

The State of Israel does not have a civil marriage option and all state-recognized wedding ceremonies must be conducted by a cleric. However, it does recognize partnerships between same-sex spouses who register as living together.

JTA contributed to this report.

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