Beth El Binah hosts Pride-themed Shabbat

Dallas’ LGBT Jewish synagogue Beth El Binah is celebrating Pride month with a family and friends Shabbat June 22.

Rabbi Steve Fisch

Rabbi Steve Fisch said the congregation has been doing the Pride-themed Shabbat for many years but it is the second year the congregation has held it at the Cathedral of Hope.

Fisch, who joined the synagogue last June, will deliver the sermon at the Pride Shabbat for the first time. Calling his first year at the synagogue “the most fulfilling experience I’ve had as a rabbi,” he said his sermon will combine the Hebrew words for friend and family, chaver and mishpacha. The two words help form the word for life, chayim, he said, so his message will focus on the vital ties our personal relationships have in impacting and enriching our lives.

Although the event is called the family and friends Shabbat, Fisch said the theme reflects pride in life and how “we are truly fulfilled and our lives are complete” when we reach out to those who are important in our lives.

“In many cases we form families not only from our families of origin but from those people who surround us with love and they become more important in some cases then our family of origin,” he said.

He said having the Pride Shabbat was important because June is LGBT Pride Month and he wants members of the congregation to embrace their religion and sexuality. He said when people pride themselves on who they are they lead “full and enriching” lives, learning to accept themselves and share their lives with others.

“We want our family and friends to know that we’re very proud of our status and very proud of our religion and that we can combine the two,” he said. “We’re very proud of being liberal Jews and we’re very proud of being gay and that the two are very much intertwined.”

Beth El Binah’s Family and Friends Shabbat is at 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 22, at the Interfaith Peace Chapel at Cathedral of Hope, 5910 Cedar Springs Road.

—  Anna Waugh

Glenn Beck equates Reform Jews to radical Islam over support of Obama’s DOMA position

Glenn Beck

After the Obama administration decided to drop its defense of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism praised the move.

In reaction, Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck compared Reform Judaism, the largest branch of Judaism in North America, to radical Islam.

The RAC, a social action organization affiliated with Reform Judaism, wrote, “The announcement by the Obama Administration, through the Justice Department, that it will no longer defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage act is as welcome as it is overdue. Now is the time for Congress to repeal the discriminatory law once and for all.”

Beck’s anti-Semitic response was: “Reform rabbis are generally political in nature. It’s almost like Islam, radicalized Islam in a way… radicalized Islam is less about religion than it is about politics. When you look at Reform Judaism, it is more about politics.”

But most mainstream Jewish groups supported the Obama administration’s decision.

—  David Taffet

Debbie Friedman, lesbian who composed prayer of healing used in service for Giffords, dies

Monday evening, as I drove home from work, I was listening to All Things Considered on KERA 90.1 radio. They were, as you would expect, talking about the shootings Saturday in Tucson. The announcer segued from one segment to another by noting that Congregation Chaverim, the reform synagogue of which Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is a member, had held a service in which they prayed for healing for the congresswoman injured in the assassination attempt.

Debbie Friedman

One of the prayers the congregation sang, the announcer said, was the Mi Shebeirach, a prayer for healing by Debbie Friedman, who translated the words and wrote the music. There was a particular line that really caught my attention: “May the source of strength, who blessed the ones before us, help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing. And let us say Amen.”

That was, to me, such a beautiful piece of poetry that I posted it as my status on Facebook.

What made it even more poignant was the fact that Friedman died Sunday, Jan. 9, of complications from pneumonia. She was, according to The New York Times (free subscription), “credited with helping give ancient liturgy broad appeal to late-20th-century worshippers.”

That’s when my co-worker, David Taffet, stepped in to explain to me that Friedman was a lesbian, and that her music is very popular not only in Reform Judaism congregations, but also in some Conservative and Modern Orthodox congregations — and even, according to The New York Times, in some Christian congregations.

David also told me that Mi Shebeirach (though not necessarily Friedman’s version) started to become popular as a prayer of healing in Reform congregations with large LGBT memberships in the 1980s in response to the AIDS epidemic. (He also acknowledged that mainstream congregations might argue with that, but insisted he is right — as usual.) Not being Jewish nor ever having attended a Jewish service, I had never heard the prayer. And so it’s simple beauty really touched me when I heard Friedman singing it on the radio last night, especially since it was sung for Congresswoman Giffords and that Friedman had died the day after the congresswoman was shot.

So now, I have learned something new about my LGBT community. It’s just too bad, I think, that I learned it so late.

—  admin