Dear Beit Sefer Families,
In Exodus 34:21 it says, “Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall cease from labor; you shall cease from labor even at plowing time and harvest time.” (This isn’t the first time the Torah has told us to keep the Shabbat, but it’s the occurrence in this week’s Torah portion.) I have the distinct honor of spending many Shabbat mornings with the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community at Beth Chayim Chadashim (BCC – http://www.bcc-la.org/), a gay and lesbian synagogue in LA. There, I serve as the Director of Education for a family Shabbat program that meets once a week. Living in NYC as a dancer, theater artist and teacher, I have always known and been friendly with people who were lesbian or gay. But, it is from working directly with synagogues that advocate for the LGBT community that I have become a serious ally. I am an ally who advocates for full inclusion and equality not only because it benefits the LGBT community, our children, our siblings, our family, our friends, but because I believe that when we are inclusive of everyone, our community is stronger and better.
How can we work together to make sure that all our children feel safe and included at TBI, and that all our children learn to be tolerant and accepting of those they perceive to be different from them? I would like to think that I have done a good job moving us forward at TBI. But, in fact I know the opposite to be true. We do have at least one incident of a student being made to feel uncomfortable because his peers perceived him as gay and felt uncomfortable about it. I need to do a better job making sure that every student here feels emotionally safe no matter how they appear, or what others think of their lifestyle. It’s ironic that though I work with an LGBT congregation every week, know the families and children well, and create curriculum that serves them, I don’t know how to make sure the students at TBI will be fully inclusive and that a child who is LGBT or questioning will feel safe being himself/herself here. This letter is a way of moving this conversation forward. I hope you will support my efforts to be more explicit about working towards full inclusion and the safety of all our children.
“Six days you should work, but on the seventh day you shall cease from labor.” One of the things I do as the Director of Education at BCC is coordinate an LGBT Family Retreat at the Shalom Institute in Malibu. Over Shabbat, families eat, pray, schmooze, and do lots of camp activities. This year the retreat is scheduled for May 2-4th. If you are an LGBT family, have a child who is LGBT or questioning, or just want to show support and have a great Shabbat, I encourage you to join us in Malibu.