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.

Pictures from DC

Rev. Elder Darlene Garner, Rev. Candy Holmes and Rabbi Eger
Rev. Elder Darlene Garner, Rev. Candy Holmes and Rabbi Eger
The rally on Tuesday (Prop 8 day)
The rally on Tuesday (Prop 8 day)
Michael Toumayan (HRC) and I in the Green Room
Michael Toumayan (HRC) and I in the Green Room
Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer (UCC) and I
Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer (UCC) and I
Me and Bishop Gene Robinson, IX Bishop of New Hampshire
Me and Bishop Gene Robinson, IX Bishop of New Hampshire
Brendon Ayanbadejo of the Baltimore Ravens spoke before I did
I was so happy to see my good friend and colleague Dr. Sharon Groves from HRC across the crowd!
I was so happy to see my good friend and colleague Dr. Sharon Groves from HRC across the crowd!
Speaking at the rally!
Speaking at the rally!
Me, Rev. Rebecca Voelkel (NGLTF) and her daughter, Shannon, the afikomen finder at the Seder!
Me, Rev. Rebecca Voelkel (NGLTF) and her daughter, Shannon, the afikomen finder at the Seder!
Lots of people in front of the Supreme Court (note that the building is being renovated so there is a false facade)
Lots of people in front of the Supreme Court (note that the building is being renovated so there is a false facade)

If you haven’t seen my remarks, you can watch a video here.

Kol Ami celebrates Gay Pride from the Jewish Journal


LGBT Jews take pride in inclusiveness



Crowds of revellers pack Santa Monica Boulevard during the L.A. Pride Parade in West Hollywood on June 10. Photo by Jonathan Alcorn/Reutershttp://platform.twitter.com/widgets/tweet_button.1338995330.html#_=1339704744007&count=horizontal&id=twitter-widget-0&lang=en&original_referer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.jewishjournal.com%2Flos_angeles%2Farticle%2Flgbt_jews_take_pride_in_inclusiveness_20120613%2F&size=m&text=LGBT%20Jews%20take%20pride%20in%20inclusiveness%20%7C%20Los%20Angeles%20%7C%20Jewish%20Journal&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.jewishjournal.com%2Flos_angeles%2Farticle%2Flgbt_jews_take_pride_in_inclusiveness_20120613%2F&via=jewishjournal Share Repost This
Crowds of revellers pack Santa Monica Boulevard during the L.A. Pride Parade in West Hollywood on June 10. Photo by Jonathan Alcorn/ReutersCrowds of revellers pack Santa Monica Boulevard during the L.A. Pride Parade in West Hollywood on June 10. Photo by Jonathan Alcorn/Reuters

Before he told members of his family, Nathan Looney told members of his synagogue, Beth Chayim Chadashim (BCC), that he was transitioning from female to male. He says the encouragement he received is typical for members of this Pico Boulevard congregation.

“I see my family once in a while, but I see the people here once a week, sometimes more,” said Looney, who added that the synagogue gave him “perfect support.”

Looney was among more than 100 participants who attended Pride Shabbat at BCC, a Friday night kickoff to a weekend of activities celebrating the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.

Marking the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a watershed moment in the LGBT rights movement, Pride festivities in Los Angeles included parties, a lesbian-led march, a festival and a Sunday afternoon parade along Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood. In a year that has seen the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and President Barack Obama becoming the first president to support same-sex marriage, the LGBT communities had much to celebrate.

The Jewish community participated in LGBT events throughout the weekend with a combination of philanthropy and prayer as well as celebration.

In addition to Pride, BCC’s Friday night service also marked the 40th anniversary of its first Shabbat service. Congregants were invited to prepare short speeches to read from the bimah throughout the service to share memories, describing their personal journeys to spirituality as well as coming out to themselves and their communities. The congregants’ stories started with the earliest members of the congregation and continued toward the more recent.

Davi Cheng, a computer graphics designer who helped create the biblically themed stained glass windows in the sanctuary, first came to BCC in 1996 when her partner, Bracha, began keeping a more Jewish household. Cheng, a former BCC president, recalled how she celebrated her 17th anniversary with her partner at the synagogue.

“[Bracha] arranged to have ‘The Song of Songs’ sung to me during Friday night services. We were invited to light the Shabbat candles. What a powerful night that was — to be able to be who we are and celebrating publicly our anniversary. Just this act of sharing our love with the community was very affirming,” she said.

At Congregation Kol Ami, a congregation in West Hollywood, Rabbi Denise L. Eger and Cantor Mark Saltzman led Pride Shabbat services. Congregants also took part in a professional clothing drive for the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center’s Jeff Griffith Youth Center, which gives shelter and supplies to homeless LGBT youth as well as helping them obtain GEDs and vocational assistance.

“That is really what gay and lesbian pride is about,” said Eger, who served as a judge for the parade. “It is about creating an environment of total inclusion. Tolerance does not mean that anyone does anything. To really include means you go another step further.”

Celebration of diversity was also reflected in an interfaith service at the intersection of Santa Monica and La Cienega boulevards before the start of the Pride Parade on Sunday. The service included live music and was led by spiritual leaders from Kol Ami, BCC, Metropolitan Community Church Los Angeles (MCCLA), the International Buddhist Meditation Center and the Los Angeles Queer Interfaith Clergy Council.

The Rev. Neil Thomas of MCCLA worries that young people are leaving the church “because they are equating religion with bigotry and hatred.” He believes the interfaith service is important for dispelling the idea that God does not love gay people.

Victor Bumbalo of the Buddhist Meditation Center agreed. “Young people coming out think people of faith have turned their backs on them. Being LGBT should not stop someone from being spiritual,” he said.

While the mood throughout the weekend was supportive and optimistic, it was also acknowledged that there is still work to be done in obtaining civil rights for the LGBT community.

Eger stressed that the LGBT community will continue to exist in a state of second-class citizenship until the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Rabbi Lisa Edwards of BCC agreed.

“It was great to see that the president came out in support of gay marriage, but that same week, North Carolina passed the law banning it. … Minuses always come with pluses. It’s two steps forward and one step back, to put it in parade terms. But we’re still moving forward.”

A version of this article appeared in print.


Source: Jewish Journal (http://s.tt/1esW2)

Joint Statement in Response to Yehuda Levin on the Death of Leiby Kletzky.

The murder of Leiby Kletzky was a tragic event that has brought together people of all faiths and creeds in grief and heartache. Young Leiby’s death reminds us that consolation comes from all peoples, not just peoples of a particular stripe.


The disgusting attribution made by Yehuda Levin, that young Leiby’s death happened because of the recent acceptance of same sex marriage in the state of New York is a bastardization of Jewish law and a deep insensitivity to the family of this innocent and sweet child. Yehuda Levin’s public displays are an abomination.


Some in the Jewish faith might be opposed to marriage for gay men and lesbians while others celebrate this law as a watershed moment of our religious history . In essence, those differing views are the beauty of Judaism; different colors and voices that make the tapestry and harmony of the Jewish religion.

  As our Sages teach: “These and these are the voice of the Living God.” But, no one in our tradition can take any comfort in the senseless death of this young boy, regardless of his religion, background or orientation.


Our good senses might tell us to ignore such fringe behavior exemplified by Yehuda Levin. However, trivializing the murder of this boy undermines the very core principles that are undeniably part of our Jewish faith. For this reason, we cannot sit by silently while the props and garb of Judaism are being used in disguise to espouse un-Jewish behavior.


We condemn, without reservation, these deeply painful correlations of Leiby’s death. We offer our condolences to the Kletzky family. May Leiby Kletzky’s soul be bound in the bond of life. May his memory be a blessing.


Rabbi Denise 

 L. Eger

Congregation Kol Ami, West Hollywood, CA

Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner

Temple Emanu-El, Closter NJ