Jewish community reacts to the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage | Nation | Jewish Journal



See mu we my comments on our big win at the Supreme Court  Amazing Love does win  and Justice too!


Jewish community reacts to the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage | Nation | Jewish Journal.

What Does Judaism Say About LGBT People? |

Here is my interview in the Advocate.  Although they got some facts wrong.  My Ordination year is wrong—it is HUC-JIR 1988.  I came out publicly in 1988




What Does Judaism Say About LGBT People? |

L.A. Panel Features Prominent Pro-LGBT Religious Figures |


Here is an article from the Advocate about the Panel I was on discussing Religion and LGBTQ Equality.  It was a very provocative and profound event.


L.A. Panel Features Prominent Pro-LGBT Religious Figures |

On Being Honored for 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.

Do Not Forget

 Shabbat Shalom

      Mr. and Mrs. Mandel felt they were becoming forgetful and signed up for a class that guaranteed to help improve memory. When they’d completed the course they raved to all of their friends and neighbors about how wonderful it was and how many things they’d learned.

     Several months later as Mr. Mandel tackled some yard work a neighbor approached and asked, “Hey, who was the instructor who taught the memory course you took?”

     “I need to think about this a minute,” Mr. Mandel said as he tapped his forehead with his finger.

    Several minutes passed before Mr. Mandel asked, “What is the name of the flower that smells really good?”

          “Lots of flowers smell good,” the neighbor answered.

          “Yeah I know, but this one comes in all sorts of colors and has thorny stems.”

          “You mean a rose?” the neighbor said.

          “Yes!” Mr. Mandel replied and then turned toward his house and shouted, “Hey Rose, honey, what was the name of that teacher we had for that memory class?”

It can be easy to forget and need reminders. 

This week we have been given a reminder that the work of equality is not yet over. 
Here is our own state of California with achieving marriage equality by the Court last June we assume that the fight for equality is over. And we move on living our lives with relative ease on the freedom front. And we forget how difficult the struggle through the years to have protections in housing and jobs.  We forget quickly the days of the Briggs initiative that wanted to remove gay teachers from the classroom. 

          And then right next door. We and our neighbors in Arizona are jarred from the euphoria of the rolling tide of marriage equality across America, to a new attack on LGBT Americans under the guise of religious freedom.  The new bill that passed the Arizona legislature would, like the Citizens United Supreme Court Ruling, give Arizona businesses and corporations, individual rights to discriminate against LGBT people. No need to serve a gay couple in a restaurant Tuscon. No longer does a Sedona hotel have to honor your reservation if you’re a lesbian.  No Tucson or Temple store has to have you in their store. 

          This Senate bill 1062 has been pushed by the very Conservative Center for Arizona Policy. 

          It seems that in the latest attempt to figure out how to discriminate against gay and lesbian people and those perceived to be gay and lesbian, Arizona legislators forgot the application of the United States Constitution and the Equal Protection Clause.   Does the First Amendment that calls for Religious Freedom and Freedom from the government establishing religion trump equality and freedom in the public sphere?

  Seems like Mr. Mandel isn’t alone in forgetting.

 This Arizona bill is not that much different from those introduced in several other states this week.   Hawaii, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Mississippi have introduced broader “religious freedom” bills with a unique provision that would also allow people to deny services or employment to LGBT Americans, legal experts say.

          We also saw Kansas pass equally heinous legislation pass the Kansas house which was thankfully killed by the  Kansas Senate President.  The bill, which covered both private businesses and individuals, including government employees, would have barred same-sex couples from suing anyone who denies them food service, hotel rooms, social services, adoption rights, or employment—as long as the person denying the service said he or she had a religious objection to homosexuality.  HB 2453, allowed individuals, groups, and private businesses to refuse service to gay couples, fire gay people, and even block entry to buildings to folks based purely on their sexuality, ”a blank check to discriminate.” The legislation was centered specifically around marriage and other forms of unions by same-sex couples, but because it was written to preserve “religious liberty,” all individual employees can use their own religion to justify discrimination — including cops, teachers, nurses, pharmacists, hotel owners, and doctors alike. Gay people could be banished from public life, one by one, employee by employee and business by business. No gay people in the park, no gay people in the grocery store, no gay people in hospitals or schools.

    People who attempted, as they inevitably would, to challenge anti-gay discrimination would get stuck paying the lawyer fees for their opponents. The legislation would bring a new era of segregation in Kansas. ”If the bill passes,” Lisbeth Hunter wrote for Ryot, ”gay people won’t be able to feel safe anywhere.” As of this week, the legislation was dead in the Senate. But the Kansas bill is not a one-state try. Republicans in Idaho, Oregon, South Dakota, and Tennessee recently introduced provisions that mimic the Kansas legislation.

  Even as the Oregon State Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum ( a member of Reform Congregation Beth Israel in Portland) refused to defend the state in upholding the marriage ban, equality for lgbt people take a few steps forward, only to find others that want to hold us back.

   Just because we are comfortable here in California we cannot forget that freedom is not won by sitting on our laurels. 

          And not just in our country but the hate and discrimination that is being fomented in Russia, Uganda, Nigeria, the Congo and other countries around the world-pit those in the former Soviet sphere against the West—in a twisted replay of the Cold War with LGBT rights being one of the defining issues.  Do not think for one moment that Mr. Putin’s calculations are only based on a hatred of LGBT people-it is his way to distinguish himself from the policies of the American and European spheres of power. 

          So what can we do? We who sit here in the comfort of California?  With laws to protect us in jobs and housing.  With the freedom to marry and adopt children.  To have our gay kids protected in school from bullying and harassment- How blessed we are. 

But we dare not be silent. 
So get out your phones…   The Governor of Arizona-Jan Brewer’s office number is (602) 542-4331.  I want you to take out your phone right now.   (520) 628-6580

Or send an email right now  to  –  Dear Gov. Brewer.

I am writing to you to protest SB1062 that would discriminiate against LGBT people under the so-called “freedom of religion”.  But discrimination in the public sphere is what this bill will promote. 

I urge you to veto this heinous act.  This isn’t religious freedom but old fashioned hate hiding behind government permission.  Please veto SB 1062. 

This week’s Torah portion Vayakhel- Moses gathers all the people of Israel together.  To execute the plans for the building of the Tabernacle.  He does this after last week’s fiasco—when the people built an idol, the golden calf as a way to see God in their midst once Moses went up to Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments.  But without visible proof the people afraid, already forgot the Ten Commandments and specifically the commandment that said-Make no graven images!

And out of the shattering of the first set of Commandment, Moses and God realize that there must be a sign in their midst so that the People of Israel don’t forget.

And so with the Help of Bezalel and Ohaliab the people come together to build the Mishkan, the place where God would dwell among them.

God still dwells among us today.  In our acts of social justice, in the hearts of our neighbors.  As Rabbi Yossi teaches in Pirke Avot: Let you neighbor’s property be as dear to you as your own.  And as the Mishnah further teaches us:  May your neighbor’s honor be as dear to you as your own.

On this Shabbat –let us act on behalf of not only ourselves-but our neighbors. Act for equality and justice and freedom wherever our neighbor dwells.


Waiting for the Supreme Court

Please read this Psalm as written by Rabbi Eleanor Steinman in her capacity as Executive Director of California Faith for Equality.   This is a wonderful Psalm for waiting for a decision on the Supreme Court rulings on Prop 8 and DOMA.  Prayer can be helpful. I urge you to add this to your daily meditation and prayer life. And by the way make a donation to CFE, California Faith for Equality for all the work they are doing to educate and change hearts and minds in the interfaith religious world on LGBTQI issues!   Donate here.