Jonathan’s Great Gift: Our Child’s Happiness
In the sanctuary of his inherited faith, on June 11, 2011, Jeremy Cooper Erdreich, a fourth generation member of Temple Emanu-El, was married to the man he loves, Larry Z. Slater.
This was a public declaration of a basic human right, to love another, the first of its kind in a major house of worship in Alabama. The ceremony involved three exceptionally courageous people: Jeremy, Larry, and our rabbi. The couple’s friends, often alone and rejected by their families, could now see what was possible. As for Jonathan, he listened to Jeremy and Larry with characteristic empathy and understood that the hopeful couple sought no more than lives spent caring for each other, together enjoying God’s gifts. The two young adults loved each other very much, Rabbi Miller said, “just exactly like any other couple who has sat on the couch in my office.”
The three men acted for those afraid to own their identities or demand their rights, and for those who, constrained by societal or religious norms, were unwilling to declare fair what they knew was just an American. The three men acted because happiness is one of the rights guaranteed by our Constitution, and because loving others is a commandment of major faiths. Proud of, and sustained by, the tenets of my Judaism, this “gift” made me all the prouder: from the rabbi’s wonderful wife who assured her husband he need only perform this like any other marriage, to the board members who applauded when he told them what he planned to do.
Ben and I will feel the emptiness when the Millers have left us. But we are wiser and better people because of their years here, and Jonathan’s great “gift” will surely live in the annals of Cooper, Erdreich, Sigman lore long past our own times. Thank you, Jonathan and Judi, for spending part of your lives in Birmingham, Alabama. In so many ways all of our lives are richer for your gifts to our community. Remember, Jonathan, return as a guest to Torah Study! Ben and I hope to see you both in Washington and to welcome you here when possible.
May all that is good come to you and your family in your “new life”,
Benjamin L. Erdreich and Ellen Cooper Erdreich