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Posts for October, 2013

NJ’s largest synagogue on marriage

Timothy Kincaid

October 21st, 2013

Hufpo

In the seven blessings we bestow upon couples under the wedding canopy (Sheva B’rachot), there is one that will resonate particularly for us in the legal marriages we will be blessed to perform as of today, October 21st, 2013: “Praised are you, Adonai our God, for the creation of people.” Indeed, all people. We are so fortunate to now be able to bless those who stand under the wedding canopy without question of their sexual orientation. This is a milestone moment for our state and a milestone moment for us as God’s servants, who feel renewed in our privilege to serve all of God’s people.

Prominent conservative rabbi in LA to conduct marriages

Timothy Kincaid

July 5th, 2013

Founded in 1906, Los Angeles’ Sinai Temple is one of the nation’s larger and more vibrant Conservative synagogues, serving the affluent Westwood community. It is also one of the spiritual home of many Persian Jews who fled Iran when the Iranian Revolution turned that nation into an intolerant theocracy.

There’s an interesting article in the NY Times about how the decision by Rabbi David Wolpe to bless same-sex marriages has upset and challenged that congregation.

Reconstructionist Judaism selects gay leader

Timothy Kincaid

March 13th, 2013

As best I can tell, this is a really really big deal. (Haaretz)

The newly elected leader of the Reconstructionist movement’s rabbinic association will be the first openly gay man to lead a national rabbinic association in the United States.

Rabbi Jason Klein, a Hillel rabbi at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, was elected to lead the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association at the group’s annual meeting taking place this week in New Orleans.

There have been gay and lesbian priests and pastors and rabbis and even bishops, and of course the Metropolitan Community Church was founded by a gay man, but I don’t think there has ever been a major denomination of any faith – in the US – headed by an openly gay individual.

American Jewish World Service Condemns Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

November 29th, 2012

And they see parallels between Uganda’s attempt to wipe out gay people from their country and another historical precedent:

Ruth Messinger, president of American Jewish World Service (AJWS), today issued the following statement about Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which may be voted upon by that country’s parliament in the coming days:

Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill is an abhorrent violation of human rights against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and a grave threat to civil society in Uganda. Whenever basic human rights such as equal treatment under the law and the rights to safety, assembly, association, expression and privacy are denied, we are compelled to speak out.

The most tragic chapter of Jewish history provides a bitter lesson that the stripping away of human rights from specific minorities is often a precursor to the targeted destruction of oppressed people.

We stand in solidarity with Uganda’s LGBT community and with the defenders of human rights in Uganda, who work tirelessly to safeguard the rights and dignity of all.

If you wear good shoes you won’t get glass shards in your feet

Timothy Kincaid

June 1st, 2012

Dancing the horah at the 2009 wedding of Andrew Shulman and Jeremy Hooper of goodasyou.org

There are about 7 million Jews living in the United States and about 4.3 million are religious to some extent. Unlike Christianity with it gazillion different variations and denominations, Judaism basically falls into a handful of camps:

  • 38% Reform
  • 33% Conservative
  • 22% Orthodox
  • 2% Reconstructionist
  • 5% Et Cetera

For several years Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism have been active supporters of marriage equality and have permitted and supported same-sex marriages. And now we welcome a new participant and ally: (Fox News)

The Conservative branch of American Judaism has formally approved same-sex marriage ceremonies, nearly six years after lifting a ban on ordaining gays and lesbians.

The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards issued the ruling Thursday on a 13-0 vote with one abstention, said Rabbi Elliot Dorff, the committee chairman. The panel of scholars approved two model wedding ceremonies and guidelines for a same-sex divorce. Rabbis can adapt the marriage ceremonies for the couples.

There are some distinctions between the new “Covenant of Loving Partners” and more traditional heterosexual marriages but the rabbis declare it to be “a Jewish wedding” nevertheless.

Mazel Tov!!

Gay Orthodox Jews Living With the Contradictions

Jim Burroway

February 15th, 2011

Dr. Jack Drescher, former editor of the Journal of Gay and Lesbian Mental Health, grew up an observant Jew in a kosher household. He’s not observant now, but he recently had the opportunity to attend a retreat for LGBT Orthodox Jews:

This group’s love of Jewish ritual both puzzles and intrigues me. When I have gone to religious events in recent years, I always feel like a gay outsider. Here, amidst all this religious celebration, I realize I am not a gay outsider as most of the celebrants are LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender). I’m an outsider here because I’m not frum (observant of Jewish orthodox rituals).

…I was invited to speak about “sexual conversion therapies” at a Shabbaton, a weekend retreat from Friday through Sunday, organized by a group called Eshel. The group’s mission is to provide “a place of SHELTER for Orthodox, frum, and other traditional gay and lesbian Jews seeking to maintain their Jewish observance and find meaningful religious community. We also welcome all those who are formerly Orthodox, ‘Orthodox-curious,’ or otherwise interested in maintaining a connection to traditional Judaism as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender Jews.” Ortho-curious? Who knew?

Hawaii civil unions battle illustrates real motivation of gay foes

Timothy Kincaid

June 14th, 2010

Republican Governor Linda Lingle will decide within the next week whether to veto the civil unions bill passed by the Hawaii legislature. As part of her process, she has met with both supporters and opponents of the bill and an AP article gives a little insight into what they said.

Lingle is Jewish and, as such, is probably not much swayed by appeals to Christian orthodoxy. But the activism and approach by the two rabbis most influential with the Governor does reflect on what is behind most anti-gay activism.

Krasnjansky, who heads the Orthodox community group Chabad of Hawaii, said the Torah teaches that homosexuality, and by extension same-sex marriage, “is not something that should be condoned or should be legalized,” he said.

But Schaktman, who leads the Reform Temple Emanu-El, insists Judaism teaches that all people regardless of sexual orientation are and should be treated as “children of God,” and thus should not face discrimination.

“Civil unions are a legal arrangement,” he said. “Therefore, anyone who uses religion to oppose civil unions is purely using religion to further homophobia.”

Lingle is Jewish, but has rarely — if ever — publicly discussed her faith in considering an issue. Lingle’s office did not respond to phone or e-mail questions about her religious affiliation.

The debate between Krasnjansky and Schaktman mirrors that of Hawaii’s Christians. Catholic, evangelical and conservative pastors have waged a months-long effort to prod the Legislature and now Lingle to block the measure, HB 444. Mainline Protestant and more liberal preachers have worked to get the bill signed.

But I think the matter is bigger than just discrimination towards the gay and lesbian children of God. It’s a battle over the establishment of religion.

There is a concerted attempt on the part of State Churchists (of various faiths) to legislate their doctrine and thus claim the mantle of “real Christians” and “real Jews”. And, sadly, I don’t think that the more liberal religious adherents have yet realized what is at risk.

Poland’s Gay Rabbi

Timothy Kincaid

June 23rd, 2009

Fox News has an interesting article about Rabbi Aaron Katz of the Reform Synagogue in Warsaw’s former Jewish quarter.

Katz is certainly an anomaly in conservative Poland, where to be either Jewish or gay is challenge enough — at least outside the cities. Of a population of 38 million, about 5,000 are registered as Jews, while thousands more have part-Jewish ancestry, and some have returned to their roots since Poland shed its communist dictatorship.

Prior to WWII, about one in ten Poles were Jewish.

Reconstructionist Jews Sad About Proposition 8

Timothy Kincaid

November 18th, 2008

Per JTA:

In a statement adopted in conjunction with its rabbinical association and rabbinical college, the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation voted at its convention in Boston to condemn the passage of Proposition 8, a state ballot initiative that restricted the definition of marriage to a union between a man and a woman. The measure narrowly passed Nov. 4.

“We are saddened and deeply disturbed by the denial of fundamental human rights—to marry, to adopt and care for foster children—to thousands of gay and lesbian citizens across the United States,” the statement said. “We are particularly dismayed by the passage of initiatives that have reversed previously recognized equality for same-sex unions.”

Council of Churches Ad

Timothy Kincaid

October 27th, 2008

The Santa Clara County Council of Churches is so committed to the Christian principle of justice and compassion that they ran a full page ad in the San Jose Mercury News giving their brothers, sisters, neighbors, and parishioners the following message:

As people of faith,
We believe that all people are made in the image of God.
We believe in loving, faithful and committed relationships.
We affirm everyone’s right to the freedom to marry.
We urge you to..
VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION 8.
Don’t eliminate marriage for anyone.

The ad was signed by 23 member churches. There is also an accompanying videowith statements from ministers from Unitarian Universalist, Disciples of Christ, MCC, Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist and Jewish congregations. The Council is also running phone banks for No on 8 out of local churches.

Too often anti-gay activists coopt the name Christian or Religion in the same way they seek to control the word Marriage. It is encouraging to see people of faith willing to stand up for principles that are inclusive and based on love, compassion, and a deep desire to treat their neighbor as they want to be treated and declare to the world that neither faith nor Christianity is any barrier to equality and decency.

Jewish Weekly News Opposes Proposition 8

Timothy Kincaid

October 23rd, 2008

The Jewish Weekly News of Northern California strongly opposes religion-based marriage discrimination

If Prop. 8 passes, what a terrible precedent to set, especially in a state that so often leads the country into the future.

As Jews, we cannot help being sensitive to this encroachment on liberties. It’s the slipperiest of slopes, far worse than any perceived moral breakdown due to same-sex marriage.

Don’t let it happen here.

Let us as a community speak loudly and clearly. Please vote “No” on Proposition 8.

This is a community very familiar with what happens when religious values are given higher priority than civil rights.

Newspapers Endorse

We Found ‘Em: Jews for Prop 8

Timothy Kincaid

September 29th, 2008

There are, no doubt, many Orthodox Jews who devoutly believe that their faith requires that they oppose same-sex marriage, yet do so with decency, compassion, and empathy. Rabbi Yehuda Levin isn’t one of them.

In response to the Southern California Board of Rabbis’ decision to oppose Proposition 8, Levin has released a statement – on the Christian News Wire. Here are a few observations:

Levin chooses not to recognize gay persons as distinctly existing:

We have opposed the homosexual agenda from ‘day-one,’ when they attempted to craft a separate class based on their bedroom misbehavior.

He denies the ability of others to disagree with him and call themselves an Orthodox Jew and accuses the vast majority of Jews in this country of being “anti-Torah”:

Additionally, no one can claim to be an Orthodox Jew while denying the very commandments of the Almighty Himself. Thus, we condemn the misrepresentation on the part of any “fringe Orthodox” Jew associated with the Southern California Board Of Rabbis, or any other anti-Torah group, who seeks to pervert Divine Law to ‘conform’ to Human depravity.

Then, having insulted his fellow Jews, he demands their vote.

Finally, he calls for “militant opposition” to “propagators of cultural contamination”. Now I’m not entirely sure I know what this means, but it sounds an awful lot like “let’s go beat some gay people” to me.

Sure there are lots of decent supporters of Proposition 8. And I hope they are embarassed to be associated with someone like Levin.

Rabbis Oppose Proposition 8

Timothy Kincaid

September 26th, 2008

Anti-marriage activists like to present their constitutional amendment efforts as appealing to those “from secular and faith backgrounds, from Christian to Jewish, Mormon to Muslim“. The amendments are based, they’ll tell you, on “Judeo-Christian values”.

But their Judeo-Christian efforts seem to be missing the “Judeo” component.

The LA Times is reporting that the Board of Rabbis of Southern California has overwhelmingly decided to oppose Proposition 8.

The board — a collection of leaders from the Reconstructionist, Reform, Conservative and Orthodox movements — this week declared its opposition to the measure, which would amend the California Constitution to define marriage as only between a man and a woman. Leaders of the board said they wanted protect the civil rights of gay and lesbian couples.

And this was not some rote decision by some ivory towered committee

The board has more than 290 members. Roughly 120 took part in Wednesday’s vote, the largest number of rabbis to weigh in on such an issue in recent memory. Vogel said Friday that 93% of those who cast votes supported the resolution.

Many of the Rabbis do not support religious same-sex marriages within their faith. But they recognize that the terms of civil marriage should not be dictated by a religious majority.

So where then is the Jewish support for Proposition 8?

Well, perhaps they are referring to Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc. After all, I doubt the “New Testament Jews” are part of the Board of Rabbis.

Reform Jews Offer Congratulations

Timothy Kincaid

May 15th, 2008

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism has issued a statement in support of today’s California Supreme Court Decision.

The Reform Jewish Movement has long been committed to welcoming GLBT Jews into our congregations, synagogues and communal life and strongly supports legislative efforts to provide equal opportunity through civil marriage for gay and lesbian individuals. As we teach our children, all individuals are created b’tselem elohim, in the image of the Divine; today’s ruling reflects that concept of inherent equality.

This is a historic day, a day to celebrate. Tomorrow, however, is the day to begin organizing against the all-but-inevitable initiatives to amend the state’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage equality. As soon as we finish today’s victory toast, we are ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work.

Their efforts are more than welcome.

A Happy Dilemma for Gay and Lesbian Jews

Timothy Kincaid

March 21st, 2008

gaystar.bmpSometimes you come across a problem that seems more of reason for celebration than a reason for concern: My raise put me in a new tax bracket; My friends are throwing me a birthday party on the day of American Idol results; All the candidates for my congressional district are supportive of my rights, have great ideas about the economy and local jobs, and all have a creative solution for Iraq.

What’s a guy to do?

The Jewish Daily Forward reports just such a dilemma for gay Jews. In the 70’s, the major branches of Judaism were not supportive of their gay members so separate synagogues were established.

But since that time our Jewish brothers and sisters have achieved incredible support from the leaders of their faith. The Reconstructionist and the Reform branches both endorse marriage equality (under civil law) and the Conservative branch allows rabbis to determine whether they will perform same-sex ceremonies. Only Orthodox leaders are not supportive of gay equality.

But now gay synagogues face a serious question:

As the mainstream Jewish world has increasingly accepted gay and lesbian Jews, gay-and-lesbian-founded synagogues like Bet Haverim have grappled with questions that go to the core of their identity: How accepting should they be of straight members? Can they accept straight members and still remain distinct? Is there still a future for gay and lesbian synagogues, or will they slowly merge into the mainstream?

You see, it seems that straight Jewish families like the friendliness of gay synagogues and want to join. They aren’t worried about what the neighbors may think nor are they squeamish that someone may look at them funny. In fact, some seem more at home than in a more conventional synagogue.

Oy vey!

Now I do recognize that this is a genuine issue of concern. It truly does continue to be of vital importance that gay Jewish kids growing up in non-supportive families have models to look to.

“There are people who reach out to us from all over the world — from phone booths in [the ultra-Orthodox Brooklyn enclave of] Boro Park, e-mails from Kansas and Pakistan,” Cohen said. “The fact that there is a gay synagogue gives people hope in an incredible and lifesaving way.”

But, nonetheless, too much support and inclusion is a problem I’d gladly welcome in the Christian faith.

So to our gay Jewish readers I say, “Congratulations on your terrible problem. And thank you for creating within the Jewish community in America some of our strongest allies.”