In a few days, a young Israeli man named Ovadia Cohen will marry his boyfriend, Amichai Landesman, in a ceremony conducted by a gay Orthodox woman. There won’t be much out of the ordinary about the ceremony, one of many same-sex civil unions taking place in Israel every year, with one notable exception: Cohen is the grandson of the late Rav Ovadia Yosef, Israel’s former Chief Sephardi Rabbi and one of the most notable halachic authorities of the modern age.
Cohen, whose parents were divorced at a young age, grew up in his famous grandfather’s house shortly after Yosef concluded his term as chief rabbi and just as he was establishing Shas, a successful social movement and political party that helped shape Israeli society in the 1980s, 1990s, and beyond. As a boy, Cohen, then, spent his days mingling with Israel’s religious and political elite. Growing up, he married a woman and had two children before coming out as a gay man. Three years ago, he met Landesman, himself a gay Orthodox Jew, and the two moved in together.
According to the Israeli press, Landesman’s family accepted him, while Cohen’s family did not. One of his uncles, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, currently serves as Israel’s Chief Sephardi Rabbi, the same position once held by his father. Few of Cohen’s family members are slated to attend the ceremony next week.
Last year, Yigal Guata, a prominent member of Knesset with Shas, was forced to resign after he chose to attend the same-sex marriage of his nephew. The case called attention to the thousands of gay Orthodox men and women still struggling for acceptance from their community.
“I was blessed with an amazing family that accepted me from the very first moment, and accepted Ovadia as well,” Landesman said in an interview. “We live full lives outside of the closet, and we’re very proud of that fact. Ovadia took a giant and brave step entering into a committed relationship with me, and we’re happy to get married.”