The three couples had no bridesmaids, no groomsmen, no parents attending.
But there were more than 1,300 guests, six rabbis leading the ceremony and about 40 more who stood with them to bless the newlyweds at the closing of the Sunday wedding ceremony.
It was produced flawlessly, like good theater, set in the sanctuary of the Romanesque Revival building with its 60 stained-glass windows and an altar built of marble flanked by sturdy columns of golden mosaics that soar. It might have seemed like theater (tickets, which were free, were needed for admission), but the message and the messengers were very serious.
Since there is no separation of church and state in Israel, there is no going to city hall to be married. And for a Jewish wedding in Israel, a couple must fulfill the Orthodox rules of marriage. Those rules include the fact that same-sex unions are not permitted; the acquisition whereby the groom pays a bride price as is reflected in the wording of the traditional marriage contract (ketubah); and if the marriage does not work out, only the man is allowed to initiate a divorce.
However, in New York City any couple, gay or straight, may obtain a marriage license; have a legal, civil ceremony; or ask a rabbi or other person who is certified to sign the license.
And so, there in the huge, majestic Emanu-El sanctuary, under a wedding canopy, and dressed in a strapless wedding gown designed by Danielle Caprese, stood Ori Berwald Shaer, 30, ready to marry her best friend and the love of her life, Alona Livneh, 26, who wore a blue pantsuit and a pink bow tie. Both women, who live in Tel Aviv, are activists in the gay and lesbian community in Israel.