Jewish woman’s same-sex wedding takes the spotlight in Brazil
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Jewish woman’s same-sex wedding takes the spotlight in Brazil

Social media and local news awash with photos of ceremony held under the chuppah at the iconic Copacabana Palace

Priscila Raab, left, and Roberta Gradel at their wedding in Rio de Janeiro, March 10, 2018. (Marco Rodrigues)
Priscila Raab, left, and Roberta Gradel at their wedding in Rio de Janeiro, March 10, 2018. (Marco Rodrigues)

RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — A Jewish woman’s same-sex wedding ceremony held in an iconic Brazilian hotel frequented by kings and queens has made headlines in Latin America’s largest nation.

Some 200 guests attended the lavish nuptials held Saturday at the luxurious Copacabana Palace Hotel, where pharmacist Roberta Gradel and economist Priscila Raab were married under a chuppah. Gradel is Jewish and Raab is not.

“And they said ‘I do’” read the headline of the Monday edition of Rio’s most influential newspaper, O Globo, next to a large photo of the brides kissing under the canopy. Social media in the country was flooded with photos and videos of the couple during the ceremony.

“I am very happy to be able to participate in the overthrow of the wall of prejudice and false moralism that prevented same-sex unions,” party planner Ricardo Stambowsky, who was organizing his first gay wedding ceremony, told local media.

It was the first time in 95 years that a same-sex wedding took place at the Copacabana Palace, an iconic art deco masterpiece standing opposite the white sandy Copacabana beach.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Brazil since 2013 following a National Justice Council decision, which orders notaries of every Brazilian state to perform same-sex marriages. In four years, 15,000 same-sex couples have officially registered to be married, according to the agency. Same-sex unions had already been legally recognized since 2004.

Gradel and Raab followed Jewish wedding traditions, including not seeing each other during the week prior to the wedding and walking in seven circles around one another as a symbol of each one becoming the epicenter of the other’s life. Both women also broke a glass under the chuppah.

David Alhadeff, a longtime cantor at Orthodox, Conservative and Reform synagogues, performed the ceremony.

“It was not a Jewish marriage because one of the brides is not Jewish, it was a spiritual marriage with a Jewish symbology,” he told JTA. “It is very important to welcome the union of two people who love each other, regardless of faith, gender or anything else. I feel very happy and honored to be able to bless a union where love, which should have no boundaries or limits, is sovereign.”

Alhadeff is not employed by any synagogue and therefore declared himself to be free to perform any type of wedding, including interfaith and same-sex marriages.

“I follow my perception of what I consider to be the needs of Judaism these days,” he said. “The Jewish bride is very tied to the traditions and asked me to reproduce the symbolism of a Jewish marriage because of the importance it had for her.”

The first Jewish same-sex wedding ceremony in Latin America was celebrated at a Buenos Aires synagogue, where some 300 guests watched Victoria Escobar and Romina Charur exchange rings at a rite conducted by Rabbi Karina Finkielstein.

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