Tachlis of Inclusion: Congregation Beth Shalom of Seattle

Creating inclusive Jewish spaces is a great goal — but how do you do it? While the answer is likely different for every synagogue, school, and youth group, it’s helpful and encouraging to hear about others’ successes, triumphs, and their lessons learned. So we’re running this regular column, called “The Tachlis of Inclusion,” to spotlight practices and policies that have worked for Jewish institutions all over the country.

Rabbi Jill Borodin

Rabbi Jill Borodin

We spoke with Rabbi Jill Borodin of Congregation Beth Shalom, a Conservative synagogue in Seattle, WA, to find out how this congregation has evolved on the issue of LGBT inclusion, to become a place where the rabbi performs same-sex marriages and speaks publicly in support of marriage equality. Learn more about Congregation Beth Shalom’s LGBT inclusive offerings here.

What does Congregation Beth Shalom do for same-sex commitment ceremonies and weddings? I’ve read that in 2001 your predecessor took a year to deliberate whether or not to perform a commitment ceremony. I know you weren’t at Beth Shalom then, but can you speak to where you are as a community now? What did the process of that evolution look like? Was there community support?

You’re right – we do both commitment ceremonies and same-sex weddings. My predecessor did one, but I think that’s because he was only asked once. I’ve done three in the last eight years, and I’ve got another one on the calendar.

Same-sex weddings are basically the same at Beth Shalom as other weddings, except the couple has more leeway in choosing the language for what we call the ceremony: do they want to refer to it as a wedding, as a huppah – meaning not as a weddingand so on. Everything else is basically as it is for straight couples: we have the huppah, the
, the
sheva brachot
. We even mark anniversaries the same way, because couples are generally invited up for an
 together on their anniversaries. I guess there’s a small difference there, because we let same-sex couples determine their anniversary, in case they had a commitment ceremony and later a wedding, or something similar.