The Reform Movement doesn't just tolerate diversity, we embrace it. In this month's newsletter, one URJ congregation shares some of what it has learned through more than 25 years of LGBT acceptance. We invite you to read and reflect, then to share with our TalkingOutreach listserv what your congregation has learned or is thinking about. Send an email to TalkingOutreach@shamash.org. If you are not on TalkingOutreach, send an email to Vicky Farhi email@example.com and we will subscribe you.
Outreach is always about welcoming people to Jewish life, including those who are not born Jewish. Does your congregation have a mentor for Jews-by-Choice and those in the conversion process? Would you like to learn how to create a culture that invites and supports conversion in your congregation? Become a Schindler Conversion Fellow! Registration closes this week for this summer's Conversion Fellows program, which is part of the Summer Learning Institute, so register today!
Finally, a prayer for Pride Shabbat, Pride Month or every day:
Hear O' Israel
Just as God is One, So are We!
Just as you shall love your God with all your heart, with all your soul,
and with all your might, so shall you love all people.
Teach love, compassion, and understanding to your children
when you sit in your home, while you walk on your way,
when you retire and when you arise.
Bind these words as a sign upon your arm so that you may
fight against prejudice, between your eyes so that you may
not be blind to the suffering of others, and write them
on the doorposts of your homes and gates so that
you remind yourself and others that intolerance
will not be tolerated within these walls.
As always, we are here to assist you and your congregations. Don't hesitate to call on us.
Rabbi Victor Appell
Marketing, Outreach and New Communities Specialist
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By Stan Notkin, Beth Chayim Chadashim, Los Angeles, CA
The June 1969 Stonewall Inn riots in New York's Greenwich Village jump-started the modern gay and lesbian rights movement. (And now, in part to commemorate Stonewall, Gay Pride Month is celebrated every June.) The Stonewall riots may have put an end to the police raids of gay bars in New York, but not necessarily everywhere else. So when Beth Chayim Chadashim was founded in Los Angeles in 1972, some congregants were understandably wary of having their identity publicly revealed.
Read more on the RJ.org blog to learn about Beth Chayim Chadashim's members' journey of acceptance and how they coped with a sometimes inhospitable environment.
On Being Straight in the World's First Gay Synagogue
By Maggie Anton Parkhurst, Beth Chayim Chadashim, Los Angeles, CA
When asked to write a post about my "experience belonging to a diverse community" for the URJ blog, I took this as asking for my experience as a straight woman at Beth Chayim Chadashim (BCC), the world's first gay synagogue. Although more than 90% of the congregation identifies as LGBT, my husband and I, along with my daughter and son-in-law, have been members since 1999, making us the "odd man out."
So what are we doing here? What Jews do in other synagogues only more so, because for many of our members, BCC is not just their shul; it's also their family. Unfortunately, homophobia has forced some of our most dedicated and highly educated Jews out of less diverse and welcoming communities and into BCC, where we can learn and daven together.
Visit the RJ.org blog to learn more about Maggie's experience, including what happened when she read from the M'gillah in Klingon!
Register THIS WEEK for July 7-10 Schindler Fellows Program for Conversion Certification!
Are you interested in mentoring those people in the process of conversion to Judaism? Do you want to learn how to support Jews-by-Choice after their conversion, so we dont leave them wet at the mikveh? Then you want to be a Conversion Fellow!
The Schindler Fellows Program for Conversion Certification is designed to train lay people to work in partnership with their congregational rabbi to provide an extra level of support for those converting to Judaism. A congregation with a Conversion Fellow is able to add an additional layer of learning and integrate the new Jew into Jewish living and congregational life both during and after their conversion process. The benefit to a congregation and to the new Jew is significant.
In the words of Rabbi Arnie Gluck: Ive been fortunate enough to have a Conversion Fellow in my congregation for the last ten years, and it has been an enormous benefit in what the congregation and I are able to provide in terms of learning and support. Our Conversion Fellow meets on a regular basis with potential gerim, providing avenues for conversation and additional learning during and after the conversion process. His efforts have made it possible for us to not leave new Jews wet at the mikveh."
Schindler Fellows Program for Conversion Certification is part of the Summer Learning Institute being held this July 7-10 at the Princeton Marriott Forrestal in Princeton, NJ. Some partial scholarships are still available. Please contact Vicky Farhi at email@example.com if you would like to discuss scholarship availability.
LGBT Outreach Efforts Supported by URJ Incubator Grants
Out of nearly 170 applicants, 20 Reform congregations in North America were selected to receive a URJ Incubator Grant of up to $5,000 from the URJ to implement new programs to further engage current members and attract new members. These are two grant winners. Go to the Incubator Grants web page to learn more.
Beth Chayim Chadashim in Los Angeles, CA, was established in 1972 to serve the LGBT community. A chronically ill congregant helped several years ago to develop a means for "attending" services by phone, enabling the participation in weekly services of chronically ill congregants as well as others unable to attend for any reason. The success of this initiative, meant to keep people connected to the community, prompted plans to dramatically expand their "community at a distance" with BCC Live when their new facility opened in spring 2011.
Temple Sholom of Chicago in Chicago, IL, is an urban congregation entering a float in the Annual Chicago Pride Parade on June 26, 2011. A presence at the parade and the messages conveyed to the crowd of 500,000 spectators will truly demonstrate the congregations support of the LGBT community. Spectators (most of whom live near the temple) will recognize the building replica, populated with LGBT couples wearing shirts that read: I WAS MARRIED BY A TEMPLE SHOLOM RABBI. The process of planning the program will bolster a developing LGBT affinity group and launch a series of new programs.