LGBT groups join forces for school supplies drive

imageRainbow LULAC has teamed up with Resource Center, Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, DIVA, Texas Latino Gay Pride and Congregation Beth El Binah for a school supplies drive for DISD students at 7-9 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 21 at Havana, 4006 Cedar Springs Road.

Dallas City Councilmen Adam Medrano and Philip Kingston and Dallas County Schools Trustee Omar Narvaez will be on hand to collect the supplies. Crayons, 3-ring binders, back packs, 5-subject notebooks, pens, pencils and writing tablets are among the supplies needed.

Supplies can be dropped off that night at Havana or during the business day at Dallas Voice, 4145 Travis, Third Floor through Aug. 22.

—  David Taffet

Texans in Tel Aviv for Pride

Tel Aviv Pride

גאווה on the T-shirts means Pride

Keshet Texas, the statewide organization of LGBT Jewish groups that includes Dallas’ Congregation Beth El Binah, has a group in Tel Aviv for Pride. Keshet is the Hebrew word for rainbow.

Michael Moore, from Keshet Houston, shared this picture of one of the Tel Aviv Pride celebrations on the beach this morning. He noticed some Texas Pride flags carried by other LGBT Texans in Israel for its biggest Pride celebration.

Because of discrimination against gays and lesbians in Russia as well as Russia’s historical antisemitism, many LGBT Jews have emigrated from Russia and settled in Tel Aviv. Recent estimates are 20 percent of the city’s population are LGBT.

—  David Taffet

Texas groups put together trip to Tel Aviv Pride

TLV Pride

Tel Aviv Pride 2013

The Jewish Community Centers of Dallas, Austin and Houston are organizing an LGBT trip to Israel for Tel Aviv Pride celebration.

Dallas’ LGBT synagogue Congregation Beth El Binah and Houston’s Jewish LGBT group Keshet are co-sponsors of the June 8–20 trip that coincides with Tel Aviv Pride.

Tel Aviv is known as the gay capital of the Middle East. The city’s LGBT population has grown to an estimated 20 percent as the city has become a refuge for many of Russia’s persecuted gay population. American Airlines named Tel Aviv best gay city in 2011.

The Pride parade takes place on Friday, June 8.

Aliza Orent, director of Jewish life and learning at the Austin JCC, put the trip together.

“This trip is timed to overlap with the multitude of Pride events occurring in Israel in June and in particular with the Tel Aviv Pride Parade and the International LGBT Film Festival,” Orent said. “The JCCA Boarding Pass trip has been designed to highlight all that is unique and incredible about Israel and provides a fabulous and inclusive itinerary that feature exclusively designed opportunities.”

More than 100,000 people attend the Tel Aviv Pride Parade.

The 12-day trip also includes visits to Jerusalem, Masada, the Dead Sea, Acco, Lake Kinneret (The Sea of Galilee), the Golan Heights and more.

The group will meet with founders of a religious gay group in Jerusalem and members of the LGBT community in Tel Aviv. Other trip highlights include cooking an Israeli meal with a professional chef, welcoming Shabbat with music and song at the Port of Tel Aviv, staying on a kibbutz, visiting an army base to learn about gays in the military and attending the LGBT film festival in Tel Aviv.

“We will have conversations with leaders in the Israeli LGBTQ movement, as well as meet with people whose lives have often been in the shadows of the Orthodox communities learning how they have integrated their relationship with their spirituality and their identity as gay citizens of Israel,” Orent said.

The trip is open to all religions.

For more information, contact organizer Aliza Orent by email or call 512-735-8030.

—  David Taffet

Resource Center food pantry benefits from emergency food drive

donations

Food donations poured in by the trunkful over the weekend (Courtesy of Roger Lippert)

In response to an urgent appeal for food, community groups rallied to assist Resource Center over the weekend.

Leather Knights, Dallas Bears, The DFW Sisters, Cheer Dallas and Congregation Beth El Binah were among the groups that answered the plea to fill the bare shelves of the Resource Center food pantry.

According to Resource Center spokesman Rafael McDonnell, the food pantry had peanut butter, tomato sauce and beans on Thursday. He said the shortage was due to a number of factors, including a static budget but an increasing number of clients, the economy and cutbacks in corporate donations to the pantry.

Quite a bit of the items stocked by the pantry comes from the North Texas Food Bank, which had equally bare shelves.

“Is this the bottom or is this the new normal?” he asked. He said Resource Center staff was trying to figure that out.

Groups helped fill the shelves mostly through urgent appeals to their members on Facebook. The Dallas Eagle became a collection point for evening and Sunday donations.

Nutrition Center Coordinator Daniel Sanchez became acting food pantry manager after food pantry manager Micki Garrison left Resource Center last week after 10 years. Sanchez said the emergency food drive made a difference.

“The response was incredible,” he said. “It’s going to help us a lot.”

He said clients who took very little last week saw the variety on the shelves this morning and said, “Oh, my god, we’re gonna shop.”

Congregation Beth El Binah was using the center over the weekend for Yom Kippur services. Although the holiday is a day of fasting, members brought cans from home or made cash donations at the door. Because the back parking lot was closed for part of the day for a festival celebrating Resource Center’s 30th anniversary, the congregation hired a valet to park cars. In addition to juggling cars, the valets helped unload food as volunteers drove up with trunk loads.

On Saturday morning, Karen Lukin, community and media relations manager for Whole Foods North Texas division, said she shouldn’t be at work because it was Yom Kippur, but she had to come in to call the center and let them know the store would be donating $5,000 in food items this week. Sanchez said he was expecting those items to arrive later in the week.

Although the immediate crisis was averted because of the weekend collection, McDonnell said people have to eat next week and next month and next year. He asked the community to continue with its generosity until new funding streams and sources of new corporate donations appear.

—  David Taffet

Member put on DART board by LGBT allies won’t take stance on DP benefits

July DART meeting

LGBT advocates at the DART board meeting.

Four LGBT advocates spoke at a DART board meeting on Tuesday evening to encourage the agency to offer domestic partner benefits, but discussion of the topic was delayed until August. And a new DART board member refused to say whether she supported DP benefits.

Amanda Moreno Cross was nominated for the DART board by Councilwomen Monica Alonzo, Pauline Medrano and Delia Jasso. After the meeting, Cross said it was her first meeting and declined to comment on whether she supports equal benefits for the transit authority’s employees.

Transgender activist Pam Curry addressed the board wearing a sign that read: “I was born gay. Were you born hateful?”

“Once again, you have put off DP benefits,” she told the board. “Even our federal employees and military get benefits.”

—  David Taffet

Beth El Binah landscapes Legacy

Members of Congregation Beth El Binah and the Jewish Federation at Legacy Founders Cottage (photo by Barbara Rosenberg)

On Sunday,  Oct. 30, members of Congregation Beth El Binah participated in Mitzvah Day to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Jewish Federation of Dallas. About a dozen members spent the afternoon working at Legacy Founders Cottage. While the men planted flowers, the women did cement work on the garden path to prevent wheelchairs from getting stuck in the cracks between the paving stones.

Legacy Founders Cottage is part of Legacy Counseling Center and is a residential hospice in Oak Cliff for people with AIDS.

Other Beth El Binah members worked on the Dallas Holocaust Museum‘s memorial garden in downtown Dallas located behind the Sixth Floor Museum. Another group did pumpkin carving at Chai House, a residence for adults with cognitive disabilities.

Dozens of projects were planned throughout the city to celebrate the anniversary. Beth El Binah member Sandy Horwitz, who served on the federation’s planning committee, said that the group that worked at Legacy planned to make the project an annual event.

—  David Taffet

Gay exhibit installed at Dallas Holocaust Museum

From one of the crates

Last night, the exhibit Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933-1945 arrived from the U.S. Holocaust Museum in 13 crates each weighing 300 pounds. The exhibit opens at the Dallas Holocaust Museum on Friday — in time for LGBT Pride Month.

A group of about 10 volunteers from exhibit sponsors Texas Instruments and Congregation Beth El Binah unloaded the exhibit along with museum staff and moved it from the loading area into the museum’s temporary exhibition area.

The exhibit documents the approximately 100,000 gay men and several thousand lesbians who were arrested in Nazi Germany under Paragraph 175. That was the law dating from the 1880s making homosexuality illegal. The punishment was two years in prison.

But under the Nazi regime, those in prison were transferred to concentration camps. Thousands more were arrested and sent to brutal work camps to die. Few survived.

After the war, when others were released from concentration camps, those gays who did survive were sent to prison to complete their sentences. Homosexuality was still considered a crime. Time served in a concentration camp was not considered toward prison time.

Paragraph 175 wasn’t rescinded until 1994 and those who served sentences under the law were not pardoned until 2002.

Dallas Voice is the media sponsor of the exhibit.

The exhibit opens Friday, June 3 at Dallas Holocaust Museum, 211 N. Record St. at West End Station in Downtown Dallas. Mon.-Fri. 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. through Sept. 5. Admission $8 includes audio guide to the permanent exhibit.

—  David Taffet

LGBT community loses an ally

Rabbi Jake

When I hear about religious people being put on trial, as in the case of Rev. Jane Spahr, or religious schools rejecting children because their parents are gay or lesbian, it makes the death last week of Rabbi Lawrence Jackofsky so much sadder because we need religious allies.

Rabbi Jake was the director of the Southwest Council of the Union for Reform Judaism. His office was in Dallas and he was always on the side of the LGBT community.

Rabbi Jake helped Congregation Beth El Binah become a member of the Union for Reform Judaism. His only change in the temple’s bylaws was wording of a sentence that called the group a gay and lesbian synagogue. He said synagogues don’t have a sexual orientation and other synagogues weren’t straight synagogues.

But at the time other synagogues weren’t welcoming the LGBT community. His goal was to have a synagogue with outreach to the LGBT community in every city in his district.

In San Antonio, that meant a new small temple. Beth El Binah now has a torah on long-term loan to that synagogue. In Houston, it meant connecting LGBT leaders from that city and Dallas. There, the larger synagogues established programs to welcome the LGBT community. In New Orleans and Austin, it meant bringing speakers from Beth El Binah to help open their temples to LGBT members where they are now important parts of their synagogues.

When the AIDS crisis hit Congregation Beth El Binah hard in the early 90s, Rabbi Jake spent quite a bit of time visiting members in hospitals and at home. In June, Rabbi Jake was diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. He died on Aug. 23 and is survived by his wife, Ellen, and son Daniel.

—  David Taffet

A day of tolerance begins at the Holocaust Museum and ends at the Resource Center

Fred Phelps

The Dallas Holocaust Museum has asked Dallas Holocaust survivors to stay home for the day on Friday, July 9. But the museum will open its doors free beginning at 1 p.m.

The Fred Phelps clan of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., is scheduled to picket the museum at 2:15 p.m. WBC’s picket schedule also includes a number of other stops around Dallas this weekend targeting the Jewish community.

Laura Martin, the Dallas Police Department’s liaison to the LGBT community, asked people not to engage the Phelps clan. They make their money suing anyone and everyone — including the police, she said.

Holocaust Museum President Alice Murray agreed.

“We do not want to legitimatize the hatred of a small number of people who comprise this group by inadvertently providing fodder for media coverage,” she said.

The museum will be open with docents promoting its mission of tolerance and be selling its “upstander” T-shirts.

Rafael McDonnell of Resource Center Dallas said donations have been pouring in for “Hell Freezes Over,” the counterprotest fundraiser to replace the Center’s ice maker. He expects the new Westboro Baptist Church Memorial Ice Maker to be fully funded by Friday evening.

The Phelps gang is expected to gather near the Center at 6:15 p.m. The parking lots will be blocked off so McDonnell recommends street parking.

McDonnell said someone will have a stop watch and a horn. After one minute, he said, the horn will blow and people will throw money into a Pride flag. Each minute Phelps protests, more money will be raised.

“Bring lots of singles,” he said.

Bottled water and Fig Newtons will be served. “Figs” refers to a biblical quote Phelps used to denounce Dallas’ Jewish community.

The target of the evening Phelps protest is Congregation Beth El Binah, a Reform synagogue that meets at the Resource Center. (Full disclosure: I am a member of Congregation Beth El Binah and received the original fax from the Phelps gang about their impending visit).

Beth El Binah’s services will be held on a normal schedule. Everyone is welcome. Rabbi Jeffrey Leynor conducts services that last about an hour beginning at 7:30 p.m.

—  David Taffet

Newsweek’s list of 50 top rabbis includes gays, Dallasites

Rabbi Steve Gutow
Rabbi Steve Gutow

Newsweek released its list of the 50 most influential rabbis in America for 2010 with some interesting characters on the list. A surprising number of gay and lesbian rabbis make the list, and a couple of the rabbis are from Dallas.

Rabbi Steve Gutow is listed at No. 20 for a second year. Gutow, originally a Dallas attorney, worked in Gov. Ann Richards’ administration and went to rabbinical school after she left office. Since then, he has conducted services at Dallas LGBTA Congregation Beth El Binah a number of times and is currently president and CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

No. 47 on the list is Rabbi David Stern, the head rabbi at Temple Emanu-el on Northwest Highway in Dallas who has come under criticism by some members of his congregation for one particular position.

Stern will not do interfaith weddings and is clear about that position, but members of his congregation often ask him to perform them anyway. A same-sex wedding he performed at the temple in the early 1990s is often thrown in his face when he refuses to do interfaith opposite-sex marriages.

“But you married those two damn lesbians,” people tell him.

“Yes, and they were both Jewish,” he tells them.

Stern is straight.

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum takes the No. 25 position. Her New York City congregation, Beit Simchat Torah, is the largest LGBTA synagogue. For High Holidays, they rent out the Jacob Javitz Convention Center in Manhattan to hold services.

Rabbi Elliot Dorff is No. 43. He contributed to the book “Torah Queeries,” which provides an LGBT perspective on the first five books of the Bible and has written on medical ethics for gays and lesbians. He made the list because he chairs the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards for Conservative Judaism, which has become much more liberal under his guidance.

—  David Taffet