Gay Marriage in 1965 and a German Torah

By Rick Landman on Email

torahgroupI started coming out as a nice Jewish gay boy in 1965 at the age of 13.  It started in April with me asking my Hebrew School teacher if there was a blessing for two men to get married.  That was when we were learning the ritual of breaking a glass at a Jewish wedding; and I was exploring my options.

My Bar Mitzvah was on the last weekend in June of ’65, when I was supposed to donate a Torah that Opa, my mother’s father, brought from Germany to my parent’s synagogue in Queens, NY.  I had the unique experience of being the son of two refugees with a Torah stored in my bedroom closet.

But after the tumult from my Hebrew School teacher, I knew that I would not be staying at my parent’s synagogue when I grew up.  So we drafted a contract stating that the Torah would only be loaned to their synagogue; and that I could take it back on 90 days notice.  You could already see that I would become a lawyer when I grew up.

In 1965 I fantasized that one day there would be a “Gay Synagogue” that would let me marry the man of my dreams; especially if I joined the congregation with my own Torah.

Four years later, I went to the University of Buffalo and in 1970 I started the Gay Liberation Front at my school.  By then many people knew I was gay, and I had shared my dream of a Gay Synagogue with my parents.   In 1973 when I was home over Spring Break, my mother saw an article in the newspaper about a “Gay Synagogue” starting in Chelsea, and told me to get dressed to go to services.  So I did.  It was the beginning of Congregation Beth Simchat Torah (CBST) and I have been going to services ever since.   Eventually I gave my parent’s synagogue the 90 days notice, and brought the Torah to CBST, where it remained for years.


In a future installment of this story I will describe how the Torah was returned to Germany, to promote a gay-friendly Liberal Congregation in  the city where my father’s father grew up.  This story will also include why I became a German citizen, my work with various Memorials in Augsburg and Brooklyn, how my dad was both an inmate in Dachau and an American soldier that liberated Dachau and finally why I formed a Jewish group to march in the German American Steuben Parade in NYC.


Photo Legend: L-R: Richard Landman’s grandfather in the 60’s, Landman in 2005 standing next to the Torah, Landman’s Bar Mitzvah photo at age 13

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Rick Landman
Rick Landman, is a gay son of two refugee Holocaust Survivors who is now a dual German American citizen, and marched in a Jewish contingent in the Steuben German-American Parade for 5 years. As an Attorney Emeritus, Adjunct Professor at New York Law School, Urban Planner, Licensed NYC Tour Guide, and longtime resident of Lower Manhattan, he is available to give NYC Walking Tours and Speaking Engagements on German, Jewish, Holocaust-related or LGBT history, and has a Blog on his website at and can be contacted at [email protected]