Joint statement from CoH and BEB on UCC divestment resolution

Fisch Cazares

Rabbi Steve Fisch, left, and the Rev. Neil Cazares-Thomas

Joint Statement from Reverend Dr. Neil G. Cazares-Thomas of Cathedral of Hope (United Church of Christ) and Rabbi Steve Fisch of Congregation Beth El Binah (Union For Reform Judaism):

We are proud of the important and caring alliance that we at Congregation Beth El Binah and the Cathedral of Hope have on behalf of the LGBT and larger community in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Our respective congregations — one Protestant, one Jewish — agree completely on our philosophies and actions on behalf of all those who suffer from injustice.

However, we have deep concerns about the vote by the General Synod of the United Church of Christ on June 30 to approve Resolution No. 4 to divest from companies with business and to boycott products made in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. We believe the resolution failed to take into account the fullness of the complexity of the situation.

While we are in agreement that not all steps taken by the current Israeli government regarding the difficulties in dealing with their Palestinian neighbors have been the best decisions, the resolution appears to place the blame for problems in the region solely on Israel. Too many people continue to ignore Israel’s need to defend herself against governments united in their desire for the destruction of the Jewish State.

The United Church of Christ is progressive, open and affirming. However, from the LGBT perspective the resolution neglected to consider the treatment of LGBT folks in Palestinian-controlled territories who are refugees now in other countries because of the way the LGBT persons have been treated in Palestinian-controlled territories.

We believe these concerns make Resolution No. 4 shortsighted.

Our hope and prayers regarding the current conflict in the Middle East involve deep concern for both Israelis and Palestinians who are affected by the difficulties in this region.

While our two congregations cannot immediately create change in the Middle East, we pledge our respective efforts to help bring about peace and greater equality for all peoples, beginning here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

—  David Taffet

Responses to Pastor Jeffress comparison of gays to Nazis on Fox News

Moline.Rabbi

Rabbi Jack Moline

Rabbi Jack Moline, executive director of the Interfaith Alliance made up of representatives of 75 faith traditions, recently sent a letter to Robert Jeffress, the anti-LGBT bigot heading First Baptist Church objecting to the pastor’s comparison of LGBT people to Nazis.

“The honest disagreements that people of faith in this country have about public policy issues are hardly the beginning of a path towards genocide,” he wrote.

Using Jeffress’ logic, if today’s Christians are Germany’s Jews, then everyone else — including the Jewish community — are Nazi sympathizers.

Here’s the letter Moline sent to Jeffress followed by other comments I’ve received:

Dr. Robert Jeffress
First Baptist Church Dallas
1707 San Jacinto
Dallas, TX 75201

June 12, 2015

Pastor Jeffress,

Religious persecution is a significant problem around the world. Many people live in fear for their lives because of their faith, Christians included. You and I and everyone should do more to remedy the situation.

However, your recent comments on Fox News comparing your experience as a conservative Christian to Jews living in Nazi Germany show disrespect to the victims of the Holocaust, and do a disservice to the critically important cause of ending real religious persecution. The honest disagreements that people of faith in this country have about public policy issues are hardly the beginning of a path towards genocide.

Let’s understand the full import of what you are saying.  If Christians (as you define them) are the Jews of pre-Holocaust Europe, then the rest of us are the Nazis and their sympathizers. It serves your rhetorical purpose to demonize those with whom you disagree, but it shows that you lack a true understanding of what the term “Nazi” means or the history that led to their crimes. And in the practice of hyperbole, you reduce the progress and expansiveness of American values of inclusiveness and equal rights to a plot to steal the rightful dominance of people who are most like you.

You have a reputation for complaining that other faith traditions are evil, false and cultic. That is your right and, as strongly as I disagree with you, I will defend your right to be wrong. Ironically, the provisions of the Constitution, which extend that right to you, have been dismissed by you in the name of religious exclusivity. You owe the American people an apology. We are a nation that celebrates diverse beliefs and views and we are undeserving of the allegation you have made.

Someone once told me, “The first person to use ‘Nazi’ always loses the argument.”  You have proven her point.

Sincerely,

Rabbi Jack Moline
Executive Director
Interfaith Alliance

Other comments:

“Jeffress’ prejudice is only equaled by his ignorance and hatred.”

— Rabbi Stephen Fisch
Congregation Beth El Binah

“I make this comment as a member of the Jewish community, but I think it would be said by any logical member of the human community: Gays were slaughtered in the Holocaust. Someone who works hard to deprive the LGBT community of equality doesn’t get to analogize himself to the victims of the Holocaust, but rather, to the perpetrators.”

— Steve Rudner
President of Equality Texas Foundation Board but speaking as a member of the Jewish community

“So much irony in this statement. He is absolutely correct that it took the Nazis time to marginalize and ‘other’ Jewish people. Just as it has taken decades of conflating homosexuality and transgender identity with pedophilia…decades of insinuating that LGBT people are ‘other’ and ‘not like us’…decades of reframing this as a debate about whether one group of people is as human as the rest of us, and therefore as deserving of equal protection under the law. Jeffress and his predecessors have had to marginalize LGBT people over time, and they’ve done a damn good job of it. Unfortunately for them, America has woken up and started to change its mind en masse. They don’t like that, so they’re doing the classic rhetorical flip from aggressor to victim.”

— Jessica Jackson Shortall
Managing director. Texas Competes

—  David Taffet

2014 Black Tie Dinner: The Night in Photos

The Sheraton Dallas hotel was wall-to-wall Saturday night for the 33rd annual Black Tie Dinner, which raised funds for local beneficiaries and the Human Rights Campaign.

The event featured the presentation of the Kuchling Humanitarian Award to Mike Anglin, the Black Tie Media Award to Dale Hansen and the Elizabeth Birch Equality Award to attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies, along with special appearances by NBA star Jason Collins and the Prop 8 plaintiffs.

Comedienne Dana Goldberg emcees the evening, which also featured entertainment by Alex Newell and Steve Grand.

Dallas Voice photographer Cassie Quinn captured the evening in photos:

—  Tammye Nash

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