Tag Archives: LGBT inclusion

A Champion for Inclusion

After nearly ten years of doing LGBT inclusion work in the Jewish LGBT community, first as the founding director of Jewish Mosaic and now with Keshet, our colleague Gregg Drinkwater is leaving Keshet to pursue his Ph.D. He will be missed sorely by those who work with him, but his ground-breaking work will have a lasting impact. We caught up with Gregg to discuss what the changes he’s seen within the Jewish community and larger American community, what he’s most proud of, and what he’s most looking forward to.

Gregg in Paris

Gregg Drinkwater

As you look back over your time at Jewish Mosaic and Keshet, what are you most proud of? You played a role in galvanizing support in the Jewish community for civil unions in Colorado; you created the Queer Seder, the biggest queer Jewish event in Denver; and you created the idea for – and co-edited the book of – Torah Queeries. What strike you as your biggest successes?

I’m most proud of the way my Jewish community, not just here in Colorado, but across the country, has stepped up and become a champion for inclusion. We still have much work to do and some Jewish communities in the U.S. remain deeply unwelcoming for LGBT Jews. But with so many Jewish voices speaking out for respect and inclusion, I couldn’t be more proud today to be an American Jew. Continue reading

Posted on May 30, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Parashat Emor: Every Body Worship

Jews read sections of the Torah each week, and these sections, known as parshiyot, inspire endless examination year after year. Each week we will bring you regular essays examining these portions from a queer perspective, drawn from the book Torah Queeries: Weekly Commentaries on the Hebrew Bible and the Torah Queeries online collection. This week, Rabbi Joshua Lesser considers the discriminating qualifications for the priesthood, and what they mean for the LGBT and disabled communities.

Creative Common/lifeonthe inside

Creative Common/lifeonthe inside

An Israeli friend of mine had a provocative part-time job as a “selector” for TLV, a gay nightclub in Tel Aviv. He would point to people waiting behind the velvet rope and grant them access to the club. Friends were shown a certain favoritism; however, much like the selection of the Cohanim in Parashat Emor, those with “defects” were often prohibited from offering up their gifts to the dance floor gods. In Leviticus 21, the Torah specifies quite a long list of physical disabilities and ailments that would disqualify people from serving as priests. Long acknowledged as one of the more painful parts of the Torah, it elevates the perfect male body as one that is best to ritually serve God. Before the Hellenistic model of male beauty, there was Leviticus and the Temple cult. Continue reading

Posted on April 22, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

The Kavannah for Gay Ordination

On March 26, 2007, the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, the legal and spiritual center for Conservative Judaism in America, responded to a new tshuvah, or Jewish legal ruling, issued by that movement, and officially announced it would ordain openly gay and lesbian rabbis.

Keshet JTS

This rainbow sign says “Welcome!” in Hebrew. Photo via Keshet JTS

At an all day conference at the Seminary marking the one year anniversary of this historic decision, two rabbis offered a special kavannah, or guiding intention.

Rabbis Karen Reiss Medwed and Francince Roston wrote this kavannah to commemorate the occasion, using a traditional format and liturgical vocabulary. We bring you this kavannah to commemorate the sixth anniversary of the Conservative movement’s decision to ordain gay and lesbian rabbis, a major step towards making the Jewish world an more inclusive space for LGBTQ Jews.

אלוהי כל בריות
יוצר אדם בצלמו
בצלם דמות תבניתו
עומדים אנחנו היום לפניך
בהודיה והלל
על פתיחת שער קהילתנו
בחזקה ובעצמה
Dearest Shekhina of all humanity
who embraces us together
under her wings of peace
We stand before you today
with open pride
Celebrating this tremendous day!
אל נא רפא נא
כי קלה לא הייתה הדרך
בהגיענו עד סף הפתח
:ונאמר היום
Be Strong:
For our reservoirs of individual strength as we journeyed in masked silence awaiting this day
Be Strong:
For the triumph of justice and צדק [tzedek] as we held to truth to illuminate the path to this day
And let us be strengthened
As we continue forward and gain strength to bring completeness to this journey
כי נדע שעוד רבה הדרך
אך היום במרגע, בתפילה, ובנשימה עמוקה
אנו נהלל את האל הייחודי
אשר את כולנו ברא
:ונאמר היום
Be Strong:
And celebrate the open inclusion of all Jews to this House of Study and Place of worship
Be Strong:
And celebrate the open inclusion and acceptance of all Jews as כלי קודש [holy vessels] in this community
And be strengthened
As we celebrate today the simple yet elusive blessing written by Marcia Falk:
to be who we are and to be blessed in all that we are
נהיה אשר נהיה
ונהיה ברוכים באשר נהיה
Let us say together – with passion and conviction, with love and affirmation, through tears and through joyous proclamation -
חזק   חזק    ונתחזק

Posted on March 28, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Rock and Roll Jews

There’s acid rock, blues rock, glam rock, punk rock, and about 100 more variations of good ol’ rock and roll. But readers, there is also Jewish Rock!

And two of the top stars of this genre, Billy Jonas and Naomi Less (whose website has a rock star worthy url), are putting on a concert just for you.

Jewish Rock Radio is streaming a series of six online interactive concerts, and each concert benefits a great Jewish organization. We’re grateful that two of the concerts will directly benefit Keshet’s work for a fully inclusive Jewish community. You can catch Billy Jonas on January 30th and Naomi Less on February 6th, both at 8:30 EST. Pay what you can and listen to a great 30 minute concert.

Billy Jonas

Billy Jonas

Meet Billy Jonas
“I am so excited to be able to support Keshet in all their endeavors! I believe that music is a vehicle for opening the heart and the mind — and in the journey towards creating a world that accepts and embraces people of all sexual orientations and persuasions, open hearts and open minds are what we need the most.”

When Billy Jonas hits the stage, all bets are off. Is it a musical conversation? A sonic celebration? At a Billy Jonas show, the ensemble is…everyone. A “neo-tribal hootenanny” with a generous dose of audience participation, a Billy Jonas concert mixes conventional instruments (guitar, bass, marimba) with homemade creations (using buckets and barrels, keys and cans, bells and body percussion). The big-tent festival quality of Billy’s music facilitates connection and community while fostering inspiration and, most importantly, fun! Watch Billy Jonas perform his song “One” at a live show.

Naomi Less

Naomi Less

Meet Naomi Less
“I passionately advocate for the full legal rights for LGBT citizens and believe those with privileges are morally compelled to advocate for those who do not have them. I promote the mission of Keshet by producing music that tackles issues of LGBT inclusion and leading workshops that help educators and parents address, not evade, sexuality and gender. I’m super proud that the curriculum I co-created with Dr. Shira D Epstein,”Addressing Evaded Issues in Jewish Education,” is now a core part of Keshet’s own Training Curriculum!”

It’s impossible to define Naomi Less. She’s a songwriter, an activist, a rocker, a worship leader, an educator, and much more! Naomi is the founder of Jewish Chicks Rock and Jewish Kids Rock, as well as a Storahtelling founding company member and Director of Education and Training. Naomi builds Jewish rock programs across the U.S. that encourage the next generation of voices to speak out and be heard. She tours worldwide with her band, sharing music from her album, “The Real Me,” a tour through her own personal wrestling with self-worth, religion, and being oneself! Watch Naomi Less perform “What You Give.”

Don’t miss these two amazing concerts!

Posted on January 25, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy