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 lessons learned. The “Tachlis of Inclusion” series is meant to spotlight practices and policies that have worked for Jewish institutions all over the country. We hope they inspire you.
At UJA Federation’s December conference, Michelle Steinhart, Director of Inclusion at Temple Israel Center, gave a testimonial about the work that her congregation had accomplished as a result of their participation in Keshet’s 2015 Leadership Project with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. We interviewed her to get an in-depth account of her congregation’s impressive accomplishments in the realm of LGBTQ inclusion and the role that our program played in helping them move forward.
In what ways did LGBTQ inclusion — or lack thereof — come up in your congregation prior to participating in the Keshet Leadership Project?
At Temple Israel Center we have an inclusion committee that looks to support anyone who is feeling excluded or alienated for any reason. In the inclusion committee’s exploration, LGBTQ issues definitely came up on our radar. We read about Keshet’s Leadership Project and thought it was the perfect opportunity for us. LGBTQ members weren’t coming to us for help; it was more that our committee was trying to understand where we were or weren’t being effective in this area of inclusion. We knew of a smattering of people who had children who were gay, but we didn’t, and still don’t know of any trans members, although we do have a student who is non-binary. It might have to do with our geographical location in White Plains, NY, or it could be that the trans members are not comfortable sharing yet.