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. We hope they inspire you.
Rabbi Amy Morrison first caught our attention when we heard that when she was a rabbinical student, she refused to take on any internship where she could not address LGBT issues. When we learned that Morrison works at Temple Beth Sholom in Miami, a city famous for both LGBT and Jewish life in a state not known for inclusive laws, we were eager to catch up with her about how she, and Beth Sholom, create a welcoming environment.
To what extent has being openly out affected your rabbinate? Any memorable responses from congregants or colleagues?
For as long as I can remember I have been on a journey to be true to myself. As a nurturer, a listener, a healer, a connector, and a spiritual seeker, being a rabbi allows me a chance to do all the things I love to do and be the kind of person I want to be. And in order to that with integrity I needed to be clear about being gay. At Temple Beth Sholom I have been fortunate to be surrounded by people who support me; and I have found that being open and honest attract the same.
We heard that prior to your ordination, you wouldn’t take any internship that forbade you to do work on LGBT inclusion, so clearly, this is a priority for you. So what successes – programs, classes, policies – in this area characterize your work at Beth Sholom?
Temple Beth Sholom and its leadership are always looking for ways to bring all types of Jews together under their roof and their success can be seen when you walk through the hallways. As the only out lesbian rabbi in South Florida and someone who does not cater to an exclusively gay constituency, Temple Beth Sholom is certainly making a statement. Once I joined the clergy I wanted to make sure that every pride event had a strong Jewish presence. In addition, I launched an interfaith LGBT group.