On Monday August 11 I will be speaking at the Gay Games in Cleveland at the Interfaith Service at Trinity Cathedral. I hope some of you out there will be able to join with us in celebration of the athletes and competitors from around the world who will gather to enjoy a week of sporting events, community events, friendship events and more.
Here is my press statement on the Gay Games:
The Gay Games is a world-wide gathering of people that celebrates the heart, mind, body and soul of the individual in sports. Whether through individual competition or team endeavors, the Gay Games is an opportunity to celebrate the total person. As a rabbi and person of faith, I know that human beings need outlets for joy, celebration, competition, friendship, hope and triumph. The Gay Games gives gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and their allies an opportunity to pursue sound minds, bodies and spirit in a friendly competition while meeting and making friends from all over our earth.
As a rabbi, the Torah teaches that we human beings are created in the image of God, Btzelem Elohim, and that includes gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, too. God doesn’t have one mold. Each of us gay and straight alike contributes to the wonderful fabric of human diversity. The Gay Games celebrates that divinely molded diversity.
With so much of the world today in deep pain and warfare, it is good to come to Cleveland and celebrate health, and fitness, cooperation, and friendly competition. It is good to a direct our energies toward healing and hope rather than hatred and violence. It is good and fun to celebrate the summer with new and old friends from all the many participating communities. This is how friendships are built. This is how peace is made on the playing field; not the battlefield.
The pursuit of a sport can be a spiritual experience. Like our faith it provides a discipline of practice and focus. And coupled with faith in the Creator of All Goodness, our energy and our abilities soar. It is my fervent prayer that blessings abound at these games and the spirit of kindness, the fierceness of competition, the joy of winning, the ethics of sportsmanship, the exuberance of freedom and celebration of hope fill every heart and soul.
Rabbi Denise L. Eger is the founding Rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami, West Hollywood’s Reform Synagogue and the President Elect of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.
July 10, 2014
Dear Kol Ami Family and Friends,
I just concluded the second full day with the Rabbinic Mission of AIPAC. AIPAC is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and their mission is to be an effective lobby and bridge for Israel in the United States. Today I will always remember from this mission a puff of cloud.
While AIPAC is best known for making sure our American Elected Officials, Academics, and business leaders understand Israel, visit Israel and build relationships with their Israeli counterparts, this is the first time they have had a rabbinic mission to Israel. You can follow us on Twitter at #rabbinicmission2israel.
There are 20 rabbis mostly Reform and Conservative rabbis and one Modern Orthodox Rabbi in our group. Today we were supposed to have travelled to Ramallah to meet with a member of the Palestinian Authority and an important Palestinian political academic. But due to the changing situation here in Israel we were unable to go to Ramallah and the high ranking member of the Palestinian Authority was unable to leave Ramallah. But we did meet at the American Colony Hotel in East Jerusalem with an important Palestinian political academic.
He shared with us the most recent polls of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and their attitudes toward peace. They also surveyed Israelis and asked them prospects for peace. Among Palestinians there is clearly a generational divide. Those 35 and older according to his polling are willing to accept a two state solution and are willing to accept Israel side by side as a matter of pragmatic consideration. But those 34 years and younger are more militant and will only accept a one state solution. This means Palestine only to the sea. He told us most Palestinians are secular and that only 25 percent want an Islamic state run by Sharia law. Seventy five percent of Palestinians was a democratic state. However the PA is a basically a two party entity, much like the United States. Hamas and Fataq. There are smaller parties but the two major groups gather 80 percent of the vote.
Our afternoon included a visit to the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo which is on the far southern end of Jerusalem and was built beginning in 1967. It is annexed into Jerusalem and overlooks Bethlehem which is in the Palestinian Authority on the other side of the security fence.
We then spent a couple of hours at the Foreign Ministry learning about the challenges of Israel at the United Nations and a marvelous hour learning about MASHAV which is a department of the Foreign Ministry it is Israel’s International Agency for Development and Cooperation. Founded by David Ben-Gurion in 1958 this Agency works with countries around the world on issues of food sustainability, agriculture, health education, emergency response, and early childhood education and gender empowerment. They help developing nations around the globe and help by providing expertise and hands on experience to lift their nations up. Mashav works in countries like Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Eastern Europe, Micronesia, India, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Rawanda.
But just as we were learning more about Mashav. A blaring announcement came through the building, “Red Alert, Red Alert” with piercing sirens. Other employees joined us in the conference room we were in as it was a reinforced safe room. Four rockets had been launched at Jerusalem and we heard several booms. As the all clear sign was given and we exited the building, we could still see the cloud puffs where the Iron Dome had taken out the rockets.
We ended the day over dinner in a private home in Yemin Moshe (the Windmill neighborhood). Dr. Einat Wilf, a former member of Knesset with the Labor Party ( I met her last summer) gave a brilliant talk about the future of peace and the challenges and hurdles and opportunities between Israel and the Arabs.
There is no let up in the rockets landing all over Israel. Hamas has launched 400 rockets. There are only 6 Iron Dome batteries and Israel needs 14 to protect its cities.
Hamas who after 2008 was not supposed to have any more rockets has not only resupplied but has more sophisticated weaponry thanks to Iran. They used to only be able to reach Southern Israel. But now they can reach the entire nation.
The Israeli army has been firing and trying to take out rocket launchers and Hamas leadership. While civilian deaths are regrettable and deeply painful, Hamas uses them as human shields. Israel’s army not only leaflets before they shoot but they call the families to leave the buildings. What other army in the world calls the civilians and tells them to get out? Can you imagine Putin doing that in the Ukraine? Or the Taliban in Afghanistan? Or al-Sissi in Egypt?
The situation is complex here in Israel. And it has many nuances. And there isn’t time to recover from one trauma before there is another. But we in our comfort of the United States have no idea what it is like to try and run to shelter. And if you live in Sderot you only have 15 seconds. And in Tel Aviv 30 seconds to find shelter.
Yes we pray that there will be peace. And let us never lose that hope. And let us continue to urge Israel and her neighbors sit down and talk. And we should support organizations that help Israelis and Palestinians encounter one another. But this Shabbat will not be that time.
Tomorrow Shabbat will descend upon this holy city of Jerusalem. As the sun sets here the sky turns a beautiful shade of pink as the sun reflects off of the Jerusalem stone and the streets will get so quiet. I know as I attend services at Kol HaNeshama (One of Jerusalem’s Reform Synagogues) I will be praying for the peace of Israel and Jerusalem. I will be praying for the soldiers of the IDF who defend this country, her residents and its borders. I will be praying for the innocent Palestinians who are held captive by terrorists and corrupt leaders. And I will be praying for you and me.
Rabbi Denise L. Eger
Written July 9, 2014
It has been a difficult time in Israel. I have been here in Eretz Yisrael for more than a week now. Arriving just before they found the bodies of Eyal,Gilad and Naftali. When the news of the discovery of their bodies came over the news I was with several colleagues and it was a palpable moment that took our breath away. Israel went into mourning. Jews from the right or left cried with their families. I was surprised how few cars were out in the streets . I was glued to watching the funeral and crying too. And then in the midst of mourning, a young Arab teen burned alive. Retribution by a gang of Jewish thugs. But it was cold-blooded murder.
A country, a Jewish people that prides itself on the value “choose life” has within it such depravity. It shocks the nation. The burnt body of Muhammed Abu Khadeir gave Israel another blow and made many realize that the rhetoric that they have espoused has consequences. Words matter and the words of revenge, the cycle of violence represented by this has given Israel pause. This was a reason for more tears for Muhammed, his family and for my Israel who is so conflicted and so battered from every side. Even as the Army went door to door on the West Bank searching for the 2 murderers of Eyal, Naftali and Gilad.
But these deeply saddening events have taken place against a background of a barrage of rocket and missile fire from Hamas. Since the agreement of Fatah and Hamas to create their “unity” government, the rockets have fallen through the south with increasing volume. And then yesterday, as Israel called up reservists and gathered at the border of Gaza the rockets reigned down on an ever increasing circle of Israel. Sderot, Beersheva, Ashkelon, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Last night it took me a minute. I heard the sirens. But it didn’t compute. The TV was on. I was watching it and hearing it as if numb and realized this wasn’t just far away but overhead. Hurriedly I found the safety of the shelter with others in the hotel. Shaken and realizing that Israel has entered a new and frightening phase it was a night of little sleep. All of Israel is vulnerable to the missiles.
Even though I have had many tears this week. I am strengthened in my commitment to Israel by being here. By sharing in the Israel experience. Not just in times of quiet and celebration. But in these extraordinarily difficult times. And I know our rabbinic presence in Israel bring strength to Medinat Yisrael.
May Israel be kept in our prayers. For peace outside and within.
Rabbi Denise L. Eger is the founding rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami in West Hollywood, CA and is President Elect of the CCAR. You can follow her travels this week in Israel @deniseeger #rabbinicmission2Israel. Or @AIPAC
Community Vigil for Kidnapped Israeli Teenagers – Thursday Night at Pan Pacific Park | The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles•June 18, 2014 • Leave a Comment
I invite you to join me at the Community Vigil for the three Kidnapped Israeli teens, Gilad, Naftali and Eyal. 7pm-8 pm on Thursday June 19 at Pan Pacific Park near The Grove. I will be speaking along with the Counsel General of Israel, David Siegel, Interfaith Leaders, and elected officials. I hope you can join us in prayer and solidarity for these three young teens. And as a protest against terrorism.
News from the Jewish Journal on LGBT Heritage Month
This was my speech before the Los Angeles City Council on Friday May 30, 2014 as I had the privilege of being honored as a Hero and Legend for LGBT Heritage month. This was one of the most amazing honors of my career.
Thank you on being recognized for LGBT heritage month
Mayor Garcetti, Controller Galperin, honored City Council members, elected officials, city staff, community members: The book of Psalms teaches The stone the builders rejected has become the corner stone. (Psalm 118) and also this is the day The Lord has made let us rejoice and be happy in it.. With joy and gratitude I thank you for this tremendous honor from our beloved City.
For more than 25 years I have served the LGBTQ Jewish community. I have been blessed to serve and to be entrusted to lead.
During the last quarter century I have been so fortunate to minister to those with AIDS and HiV. To educate members of our government in those early years, to protest when our government failed to act and to comfort the sick the dying and their loved ones and the survivors.
I have had the privilege work with Transgender people, gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and straight allies, people of every race, creed and nationality, and people of no faith at all to be a part of change and history as we helped win equality for LGBTQ folks in our city first with domestic partnership rights and adoption rights, housing and job rights and now with marriage equality. I have been witness to and a participant in extraordinary change joined with so many of you our elected officials and fellow activists. I have worked to make Judaism an inclusive and welcoming religious tradition and have been involved in every corner of the Jewish world with discussing and teaching and urging acceptance tolerance
I have had the privilege of working collaboratively with many interfaith leaders
Thank you to the members of my congregation Kol Ami. To my partner Rabbi Eleanor Steinman. To my son Ben for supporting me as I work to lift up our city and our community with pride and hope. There is still much to do together, I look forward to joining together towards a day when when all the diverse people of Los Angeles can link arms and lift up all those who are impoverished, those who have come to seek a better life in Los Angeles and live in the shadows without proper papers, when we as a city can create educational opportunities for all our children. This is the true test of equality and pride. When gay and Trans and queer people everywhere will join with all of our neighbors to dream and build up our City of Angels. That is what gay pride should be. Holding our heads high and helping others do the same.
The late Maya Angelou wrote
Whoever you are, where ever you are, start there!”
“When we know better, we do better.”
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.”
“You alone are enough.”
Once not so long ago we were unable to tell our stories, we were the rejected stone
I rejoice with all of you that we can do better and rejoice in this day and this month together. Shalom.