Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another

Gay Synagogues’ Uncertain Future

As mainstream acceptance grows—along with membership—gay congregations face unexpected questions

Print Email
Beth Chayim Chadashim’s new green synagogue building, 2011. (Kenna Love)
Related Content

Building True Acceptance

By helping gay kids, synagogues and Jewish schools can make the community better for all of us

Getting Grandma’s Blessing

When I got engaged—to another rabbi, and another woman—my grandmother’s approval didn’t come easy

Gay Marriage’s Jewish Pioneer: Faygele ben Miriam

The activist called Faygele ben Miriam started Washington state’s battle over marriage more than 40 years ago

New York’s Congregation Beit Simchat Torah made news recently when it announced the purchase of a three-level space in a landmark tower on the west side of Manhattan. When construction is complete, the building in the Garment District will house CBST’s first permanent home in its 40-year history.

“We’ve been in a rental space that’s hard to find and reflects what the community was in the ’70s,” said Sharon Kleinbaum, senior rabbi at CBST—the country’s largest LGBT-founded synagogue, with over 1,100 adult members, up from about 650 just five years ago. “Now it will be part of the fabric of the city, out on the street, not hidden away. Without an address, it’s hard to be a firm presence, and that’s what we want to become. We want to say that we are a vibrant part of the life of New York City and the world.”

Across the country in Los Angeles, Beth Chayim Chadashim, the country’s oldest LGBT synagogue, recently reached a similar milestone, having moved into its own new building last year and celebrating its 40th anniversary this past June.

LGBT congregations have finally come into their own, providing a home for the Jewish community’s LGBT members and their friends and families in cities both large and small. But the increasing acceptance around gay issues in mainstream synagogues, from Reconstructionist to Reform to Conservative, and even on the fringes of Modern Orthodoxy, means that these synagogues are no longer the only option for LGBT Jews. So, the lines that once seemed so clear have begun to blur: LGBT synagogues in places like Cleveland and Atlanta are merging or outgrowing their original designation and drawing a more diverse membership, even as mainstream congregations sign up new gay members and become more diverse.

According to Jay Michaelson, founder of Nehirim, an organization dedicated to LGBT spirituality, “There are some people for whom living their Jewish identity is linked to their queer identity, but for others, 2013 isn’t 1983. Most synagogues, outside of the Orthodox world, are welcoming, or at least won’t slam the door in their faces. The LGBT synagogues that used to be the default option for gay people no longer are.”

The future for LGBT synagogues, therefore, is unclear. Have they achieved the goals that led to their establishment in the first place—and if so, have they already outlived their purpose, now that mainstream synagogues have become more welcoming? Where will these synagogues be in another 40 years?

***

1974 Advocate clipping of BCC leaders with survivor Torah

By the early 1970s, the gay-rights movement was gaining steam. Although not the first incident of its kind, the 1969 Stonewall police raid, and the riots that followed, galvanized the gay community, both in New York and nationally. Political and advocacy organizations formed, and Gay Pride parades started marching through American cities.

But politics was not the only arena seeing a surge in LGBT-oriented institution-building. The spiritually minded, long marginalized or rejected by mainstream religious institutions, began to demand places of their own where they could come together for community and prayer. Metropolitan Community Church, the nation’s first “gay church,” and other gay-friendly Christian institutions began hosting social and religious events that drew crowds of seekers. Despite the obvious theological barriers, some Jews participated at MCC, feeling they had no other choices open to them. They had found nowhere in the established Jewish world that would allow both their gay and Jewish identities to be fully and publicly expressed.

Eventually, small clusters of predominantly gay men and a few lesbians set up synagogues of their own in cities across the country, slowly growing from shoestring operations to full-service synagogues. BCC in Los Angeles opened its doors in 1972. CBST in New York followed in 1973. By the end of the 1970s, LGBT synagogues had opened in cities all around the country. In each, marginalized LGBT groups, desiring authentic communal and spiritual spaces, formed congregations that catered to their needs.

While the earliest congregations appeared in the span of just a few years, there was no concerted effort to create a movement. Word trickled out into the national gay community that groups of people were getting together, but each nascent congregation formed independent of the others. In the very early years, they weren’t affiliated with any of the major Jewish denominations, either. No one expected any of the mainstream movements to want to add LGBT synagogues to their rosters. As a result, many within BCC were surprised when, in 1974, the Reform movement supported its bid for formal affiliation.

Advertisement in the Village Voice February 8, 1973, for CBST's first service the following evening, February 9, 1973CBST marching in support of Soviet Jewry, 1976

“The prevailing sense within the community at the time was an expectation of a negative response to the application,” according to Stephen Sass, BCC’s unofficial historian and president of the Jewish Historical Society of Southern California, “but when they went to meet with Rabbi Arnold Kaiman of the then-Union of American Hebrew Congregations, now the Union for Reform Judaism, his only question was, ‘How can we help you?’ ”

As the number of LGBT congregations around the country grew, many became affiliated with the Reform or Reconstructionist movements. Still, for decades, LGBT Jews faced a choice: They could be openly gay within LGBT synagogues, or remain closeted in mainstream congregations. The exclusion from those mainstream synagogues was real—temples and synagogues, even on the politically, socially, and religiously liberal end of the spectrum, did not welcome openly LGBT members.

While closeted individuals could attend services, and even join as members, LGBT couples and families had it harder. Partnerships were not acknowledged. Rabbis would not perform life-cycle events, such as bris or simchat bat ceremonies that named two men as fathers or two women as mothers. Even on a social level, participation could be difficult, even if just a handful of congregants were loudly uncomfortable with the presence of gay men or lesbians within the synagogue.

As Idit Klein, executive director of Keshet, a national Jewish LGBT advocacy organization, explained, “When I started doing this work as a paid professional, the refrain was ‘the Jewish community rejected me, or I know they would reject me.’ There was real hostility and rejection experienced.”

In the meantime, LGBT congregations focused on the work they set out to accomplish. They held Friday night and High Holiday services, as well as yearly community Seders. As the years passed, they grappled with the AIDS crisis and created ceremonies to mark the life-cycle events, tragic and joyous, reflective of the realities of their members’ lives.

Religious observance, social action, and political advocacy were entwined in the LGBT synagogue movement from the start. Founded by those who were fighting for their own legitimacy in a national culture that still enshrined homophobia in its jurisprudence and worldview, the congregations never saw themselves merely as a refuge from the larger world. Rather, as Kleinbaum stressed, they were a means to engaging with it. “We’re really addressing relevant issues of the 21st century. That comes from wisdom we’ve gained from being a gay shul,” she said, explaining CBST’s commitment to fighting not just against anti-gay bias but for the rights of immigrants, the homeless, and others.

By the 1990s, the daily reality for many LGBT Americans slowly began to shift. The drive for marriage equality was still years away, but acceptance was growing in both secular and Jewish spheres.

By the turn of the 21st century, LGBT individuals, couples, and same-sex-headed families were welcomed as full and equal participants in more liberal mainstream congregations. But the leadership lagged behind. While the Reconstructionist Movement ordained its first lesbian rabbi in 1985, and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion began admitting openly LGBT students to its Reform rabbinical seminary in 1990, it took until 2007 for the Conservative movement to follow suit.

***

No longer excluded, LGBT Jews found themselves in a novel position. For the first time, they could choose where to affiliate without denying part of their identity. The degree to which this is true varies from city to city—LGBT Jews outside metropolitan areas still struggle—but in many places around the country, being openly gay and committed Jews became possible.

Examples of ways in which mainstream synagogues have reached out to LGBT Jews are not hard to find. Not only do clergy at B’nai Jeshurun, the third-oldest Ashkenazi synagogue in America, perform gay marriages, the community as a whole was vocally active in calling for the ultimately successful call to legalize same-sex marriage in New York State. Valley Beth Shalom, a large Conservative synagogue in Los Angeles, has invited LGBT families to join as members for well over a decade and publicly took a stand against homophobia after the 2001 Boy Scouts of America decision to exclude gay men from leadership positions. Synagogues in cities with smaller Jewish populations have also stepped up: Ru’ach, the havurah dedicated to serving the LGBT community at Temple Israel of Greater Miami, runs programs year-round. And, despite the discomfort of some members, Agudas Achim, in Austin, Texas, performed what they called a brit ahavah (“covenant of love”) in 2005, solemnizing the relationship of a lesbian couple, on the synagogue’s bimah.

The shifts in mainstream synagogues and denominations have had a profound effect on LGBT synagogues and temples. Those in L.A., New York, and San Francisco continue to grow and thrive. It’s not just the physical buildings. Their missions and populations have expanded, too. In addition to children’s programming, they have seen their straight-identified membership increase. While CBST does not, on principle, count its members according to sexual orientation, it now boasts a large straight contingent. San Francisco’s Sha’ar Zahav, founded in 1977, has no such qualms: One-third of its 350 member families now identify as straight, according to longtime member and former President Alex Ingersoll.

These cities are big enough to accommodate both vibrant LGBT synagogues and any number of mainstream congregations that may hold more appeal to some gay Jews. In smaller cities, the ability of LGBT Jews to choose to affiliate with institutions that may once have been closed to them has produced different results.

In Boston, for example, the local LGBT synagogue Am Tikva has been in existence since 1976, but it remains small and lay-led. Similarly, Congregation Etz Chaim in Southern Florida maintains a devoted, if largely older membership. Both Boston and Southern Florida have sizable Jewish communities, but Am Tikva and CEC do not necessarily represent the center of LGBT Jewish life in their communities. As more options open, local LGBT Jews choose synagogues to pray at and affiliate with based not solely on where they will be welcome as gay men and lesbians, but on personal preferences: type of prayer service, religious and social programming, even how much traffic they’ll have to fight on Friday nights.

In still other cities, LGBT synagogues are losing their distinctive character. In Cleveland, Chevrei Tikvah became a havurah within a large, well-established mainstream Reform congregation in 2005. And in Atlanta, Congregation Bet Haverim has embraced the gradual expansion of its mission; now the city’s only Reconstuctionist temple, it proudly touts its founding by gay men and lesbians while serving a membership of which a full 50 percent identify as straight.

“We have been an incredible model of how to embrace differences and how to create a vibrant community.”

Jeri Kagel, president emerita at Bet Haverim, explained the process of opening up to more straight members. Established as an independent congregation by a group of gay men and lesbians, the synagogue began to expand its membership even before joining the Reconstructionist movement, when its progressive vision began to attract increasing numbers of non-LGBT people. Slowly, the criteria set by the congregation changed, from the demand that members had to be gay to belong to eventually abolishing all restrictions to membership.

“Our fear,” Kagel explained, “was that we’d be taken over, that our gay and lesbian identity would be lost, but ultimately we decided that we didn’t want to do to others what they did to us, which is not be welcoming.” But, she added, “thankfully, our fears have not been realized, and our dreams have. We have been an incredible model of how to embrace differences and how to create a vibrant community.”

Still, LGBT-oriented synagogues struggle with the same dilemmas as all other non-Orthodox congregations: Fewer and fewer people are joining as members. Even the most inclusive mainstream synagogues struggle to maintain their dues bases. The situation seems especially stark among LGBT Jews. According to Nehirim’s Michaelson, only 12 percent belong to any congregation. As Joan Schaeffer, the first lesbian president of the mainstream Temple Israel of Greater Miami said, “The Jewish community is looking for Jews. People aren’t aligning themselves with religious institutions as much as they used to, so it’s a little bit easier to be who you are these days.”

At the same time, a demographic shift began. By the 1990s, more and more nuclear families were becoming part of the fabric of the LGBT synagogue. For the first time, integrating children into synagogue life became an issue in environments that had been formed by adults. What Kleinbaum notes about CBST is true across the board: LGBT congregations “started as adult-oriented communities.” In this, they broke from the model of other liberal temples and synagogues in America, which were established to serve families with young children right from the start.

According to Steven M. Cohen, director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, the number of LGBT people affiliating will only grow when they have more children, explaining, “The people who are most involved are the ones raising Jewish children, because at that point in their lives they have to reflect upon what it means to be Jewish, and they need the help of other Jews to socialize their children into Jewish life.”

That day may come, but for now, most LGBT Jews don’t have children. Those who choose to participate in synagogue life do so for any number of other reasons. “There are people,” said Keshet’s Klein, “who wanted to go to a ‘regular’ shul. Or wanted a rabbi. Or wanted services every week. Or wanted a particular service or a shul with its own building. Or a host of other reasons that people will choose one shul over another.”

***

CBST's new building
The building that will house CBST’s new home at 130 W. 30th St.

LGBT congregations have proven themselves to be an important part of the landscape of organized Judaism. In welcoming members’ straight families and allies, they continue to teach mainstream synagogues how to become more inclusive. They have led the way in creating prayers and ceremonies that are both steeped in tradition and speak to the needs of the modern world. They dedicated themselves to social action long before it became a catchword in the broader Jewish world.

But what of the future? As liberal synagogues, both LGBT and mainstream, struggle to attract and retain members, will they band together to change the way organized Jewish life functions? Will mainstream synagogues catch up and render LGBT-identified synagogues irrelevant?

Cohen thinks so, especially because there is a significant minority of LGBT “younger adults, who are post-sexual orientation about identity.” Nehirim’s Michaelson agrees: “Generally, millennials are a generation of people not interested in self-segregation. Just being gay is boring. To choose an LGBT-specific community, there has to be another compelling reason, something more than mere identity.”

That trend will no doubt continue, but it may not presage the end of the LGBT synagogue movement. Judaism, after all, has never been uniform. It has long accommodated differences, whether between Sephardi and Ashkenazi, Orthodox and liberal, LGBT and mainstream. Keshet’s Klein predicts, “In 40 years, LGBT shuls will be alive and well and will continue the current trend of being ever more diverse and ever more sensitive to inclusion while still being particularly attuned to the needs of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.”

***

Like this article? Sign up for our Daily Digest to get Tablet Magazine’s new content in your inbox each morning.

1 2 3View as single page
Print Email
Rabbi AlanHenkin says:

One small clarification to an otherwise terrific article: the Union of American Hebrew Congregations’ rabbi, to whom Sass refers, was Erwin Herman, who courageously championed the chartering of BCC in the face of ferocious opposition. His son Jeff came out of the closet and eventually died from complications of AIDS in 1992. In memory of Jeff, Erv and his wife Aggie created the Jeff Herman Virtual Resource Center for Sexual Orientation at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion. http://huc.edu/ijso/jhvrc/jhvrc.php

simon.lissak@gmail.com says:

Funny… An LGBT shul is fine…. But a Messianic Shul is heresy!? How does that work?

oaklandj says:

One is Jewish, and the other is Christian. That’s why.

Not heresy, but a church.

An interesting question this article hints at – is there a uniquely LGBT perspective on Judaism, in addition to simply being welcoming of LGBT individuals and families? I believe there is – an understanding of the need to engage with the text, an empathy for the other, a commitment to the need to be “out” in all the ways one might be, a deep commitment to social justice, a genuine intention to let our children be exactly who they are – but that it is not necessary to be LGBT to embrace that perspective.

simon.lissak@gmail.com says:

church=gathering=assembly=synagogue=same

simon.lissak@gmail.com says:

Christ-ian = Moshiach-ian = Jewish and Maimonides
states that one who does not believe in Moshiach, or does not await
his coming, denies the validity of the Torah and of our teacher
Moses.

oaklandj says:

I’m not going to get into an argument about Jewish theology with a Christian on a Jewish site. Sorry.

Sh3LLz2 says:

The Jews have been disobeying God since they left Egypt. No surprise here even though the Torah says all of these people should be (or wouldve been) stoned. Thats why they have been abandoned as Gods people.

oaklandj says:

Three issues: God, gays, and Israel, attract Christians to Tablet (and other online Jewish sites) like white on rice…

why dont you THINK before asking? well,my son,lgbt are sinning jews,so they may pray. messianic as you said ,is heresy,there is no synagogue for christian prayer.

elie says:

you can gather in a parc or on the beach,for you it’s all the same.

perot says:

God bless all Jews! Gay, straight or otherwise.

That being said, I’m sad that in this day and age any Jew should chose to separate from the greater community..or cause another to need to separate.

We are one..am yisroel.

The article misses several important elements to the acceptance and support of LGBT Jews to prove that Abraham’s Tent is open on all side. The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles recognizes that young adult LGBT Jews deserved a pathway into the community and has supported the mission of JQ International (jqinternational.org) to this end. Founded in 2005, JQ partners with area Jewish organizations, including congregations, to present holiday celebrations and other programs (educational, social action, etc.) of interest to this otherwise “ad hoc” segment of the population. This spring, JQ and the JFed are co-spoonsoring a BIrthright – Taglit trip to Israel for Jewish LGBT and their Allies.

wolfpeace@aol.com says:

I am a male to female transsexual and Jewishly, a “Traditional Egalitarian Conservative.” I accept that being Orthodox, Reconstructionist, or Reform os right for other Jews, but for me, personally, I cannot accept another choice. Unfortunately, the only LGBT synagogues are either Reform or Reconstructionist. I must be where I am mot comfortable. I belong to and have belong to synagogues that are closer to what I believe: “Traditional Egalitarian Conservative.”

wolfpeace@aol.com says:

A Jewish criminal is still counted in the minyon.

Gregg says:

I’m not sure where Jay Michaelson got that figure of 12% of LGBT Jews being synagogue members. In an article published a few years ago in the Journal of Jewish Communal Service (Vol. 84, No. 1, Winter/Spring 2009), a figure of 16% was cited (vs. 39% for non-LGBT Jews). The same article noted that at least 7% of American Jews identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual (the study didn’t have data on transgender Jews).

02Dave12345 says:

Sounds like some good changes overall.

If a straight person can imagine living in a world where going to work is a mostly LGBT environment, going to the shopping mall it’s the same, almost any restaurant, mostly LGBT people sitting around you, waiting on you. Maybe you can imagine why a mostly LGBT synagogue would be attractive to queer Jews. As much as people are trying these days, we’re still made to feel different much of the time.

elie says:

who cares?

elie says:

you’ve got the point!—is a minyan of criminals a minyan?

oaklandj says:

Are there no trans-accepting Conservative shuls near you? I’m not Conservative myself, but I was under the impression that there are many Conservative congregations that accept trans members.

rebmark says:

I am glad to have had my small part in helping this change come about. Thank you to my various friends who pointed the article (and photo) out to me.

Temple de Hirsch-Sinai in Seattle has always been accepting of my husband and I. There were no issues with our conversion. During Rosh ha-Shanah last year, Rabbi Meyer used his sermon to advocate strongly for voting yes on gay marriage, and the first day it was legal, he performed our wedding. We’re both involved in leadership positions. I know Tikvah Hadashah exists in Seattle, but I’ve just never felt the need to join a specifically LGBT congregation.

Daniel Cheshire says:

Hey, have you heard? All religions are doomed. Atheism is the fastest growing religious belief in the world. The latest statistics, (repeated by the Catholic Church recently), show that in 20 years by 2033, there will likely only be 50% as many religious followers as today. And in 40 years, (2053), there are likely to only be as few as 10% as the number of today. The Vatican made an announcement last month that by 2050, there could be no more Catholic Church. We can only hope. All gods are false and all religions are cults. Science, logic, common sense and international cooperation will be the only savior for mankind. The day we move forward without religious mythology as truth is the moment we will truly be a civilized society.

oaklandj says:

Maybe you can post that on a Catholic site. You don’t understand Judaism if you’re posting it here.

GameTime says:

One thing about gay people is they don’t WANT to be like you or me or anybody else. They have to be different and special and unique. They think their gayness entitles them to it.

GameTime says:

Hey if there were a 1000 shuls near them they would still create their own place. It’s just an excuse to not blend in.

oaklandj says:

With all due respect, you’re missing the point: *why* would an LGBT Jew choose a LGBT-specific synagogue rather than “blend in”?

elie says:

your rabbi is a real bastard!

elie says:

i’m glad to find a man living mentally in 19th century!
anyway,we jews,its not by our number that we exist,but by our personal qualities and our fidelity!

Jack Hillelsohn says:

With all due respect, you are missing the point. A queer person (to use the umbrella term for all who are not strictly hetero-oriented) wants a synagogue to feel that is a home. Many schuls can and have become be welcoming, they can be inclusive, but a Queer synagogue is a HOME for people like me, who want to pray in using gender neutral siddur and environment that is truly non=judgemental and open to all. That is whjy I would choose a Queer schul because I don’t want to and shouldn’t have to “blend-in”.

wolfpeace@aol.com says:

I belonged to two and belong now to one trans accepting Conservative synagogues. The two are past tense because I have moved.

wolfpeace@aol.com says:

Unfortunately, you are both missing the point. There are advantages to both.

wolfpeace@aol.com says:

Yes. What can ten Jewish ganoofs (thieves) do that nine tzadickim can’t? Publicly praise Hashem.

oaklandj says:

Jack: I’m assuming you’re responding to GameTime, not me. You and I seem to be in agreement.

oaklandj says:

So the only thing missing in the one you belong to now is…?

oaklandj says:

All gays think the exact same way? Stop stereotyping.

I believe it is a wonderful sign of the ever-evolving communities and world we live in that more and more LGBT Jews are choosing to and feel comfortable being members of mainstream congregations in every city and suburb throughout the US. At the same time, I entirely recognize the desire and need for LGBT Jews to find their community within community, and finding the LGBT Jewish community at a LGBT synagogue which may recognize special needs and interests of that community more readily is entirely understandable and applauded. In mainstream congregations, I often have experienced LGBT members forming their own chavurot, be they small or large– once again building community within community and no different than any other of the many chavurot that exist, bringing together people of certain demographics, etc.

wolfpeace@aol.com says:

Duchan (priestly blessings) on holy days

Kohen HaGadol says:

Very well put!

Stephen Sass says:

For the record, two events in Beth Chayim Chadashim’s early history as the world’s first LGBT synagogue were unfortunately inadvertently conflated in the article: the initial meeting in 1972 between BCC’s Jerry Small, one of the congregation’s founders, with the UAHC’s Rabbi Arnold Kaiman, who was soon succeeded by Rabbi Erwin L. Herman; and BCC’s 1973 groundbreaking application for membership as a UAHC-affiliated congregation, which was indeed championed, as Rabbi Henkin notes, by Rabbi Herman, zichrono livracha, who was a lifelong advocate, with his wife Agnes, for BCC and for the inclusion in Jewish life of LGBT individuals and families.
As I wrote in the history of BCC published on the occasion of its 30th anniversary: “The ad hoc committee heard a report of Jerry Small’s meeting with Rabbi Arnold Kaiman of the UAHC. Small called Kaiman after learning that the Reform movement of Judaism was the only denomination that might provide assistance to the group. Small reported that he went to the meeting with Rabbi Kaiman expecting to put up a fight. Instead, Rabbi Kaiman’s only response was, ‘How can we help you?’…Soon, Rabbi Erwin L. Herman, then director of UAHC’s Pacific Southwest Council and national director of regional activities was enthusiastically assisting the fledgling congregation, helping develop the lay-led services and adult education classes, obtaining speakers, and lending a Torah and other ritual objects. ‘Rabbi Herman became our champion…he was our advisor, our friend and mentor. I can’t begin to thank him for all of his work on our behalf,’ wrote Lorena Wellington, secretary of the congregation’s board of directors.”
BCC’s 1974 admission to the UAHC, initially welcomed by Rabbi Kaiman and shepherded by Rabbi Herman “through the complex maze of surprise, resistance, ignorance, prejudice, love and goodwill” as noted in a contemporaneous account, marked the first time a synagogue with an outreach to gay men and lesbians was accepted by one of the Jewish congregational movements. It was also the first gay and lesbian congregation of any faith group accepted by a mainstream religious denomination.

I am not Jewish, but isn’t a gay synagogue a contradiction in terms? Don’t they accept the Old Testament with its story of Sodom and Gomorrah? How about sodomy being called an abomination in the O.T.? I am puzzled.

It may be: on the other hand, it might not be. Who knows?

Adultery is a far worse sin then homosexuality in the Torah. Look and see how many condemnations there are against adultery.

As for homosexuality, when done as a form of idolatry , then of course it is banned.

IMO I am for live and let live as far as LBGT congregations go. Being Orthodox makes it a bit hard for to embrace them, but it is not my right to judge them and as Jews they are my people too.

Shiju says:

I wonder if the God of Bible did wrong by destroying Sodom. If he was right, Sodom will be repeated.

Seems similar to what happened to the negro baseball teams after Jackie Robinson.

Crossroads says:

You cannot pretend to worship the G_d of the Old Testament, or the New, while practicing homosexuality……..

……..1 Corinthians 6:8-11……

8 No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren! 9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals,[a] nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

Tablet decided GLBT synagogues will soon be gone and then says CBST just bought its own space for the first time. Guess no one told Rabbi Kleinbaum that she’ll be out of a job soon.

Here in Dallas, Congregation Beth El Binah is celebrating its 20 anniversary of its affiliation with URJ. We’re doing it with more money in the bank than ever, higher attendance than ever, more programs and classes than ever and a new 2-year contract with our rabbi. We’re partnering with Resource Center Dallas to build the new Gay and Lesbian Community Center to replace the one we’ve called home for 22 years. We partner with Black Tie Dinner each year to raise money for us, a couple of churches, and 15 other AIDS and gay groups in Dallas. Just last night we talked with someone from Cathedral of Hope, the largest GLBT church in the world, to do some joint Hebrew and Jewish education classes. Our rabbi this week led an interfaith anti-Bush library service.

But you’re right. We’re irrelevant and will probably be gone soon.

Mark Slitt says:

Not all LGBT people feel comfortable in a mainstream synagogue. For that matter, neither do many straight people. That’s why safe, welcoming, accepting, mainly-LGBT congregations like Beth El Binah in Dallas (which I led for four years as president in the 90s) will always be relevant. It was the work of my life and I refuse to let articles such as this marginalize it. Kudos to the accepting mainstream congregations – it sure took you long enough to accept us – but please, we still have a role to play.

There are so many other reasons we’re still around that aren’t LGBT. We’re the downtown synagogue. The other Reform synagogues are all in North Dallas or the suburbs. We’re the small synagogue. One of the North Dallas synagogues is among the largest in the country and the other one is just huge. We do programming of interest to our members – gay and straight. We welcome people with disabilities. Those members haven’t felt welcome at the mega-synagogues. So many other reasons for us to continue as well. .

2000

Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Gay Synagogues’ Uncertain Future

As mainstream acceptance grows—along with membership—gay congregations face unexpected questions

More on Tablet:

A Rosh Hashanah Meal With Meaning

By Rachel Harkham — Recipes featuring the Talmud’s five ingredients for a sweet new year