When someone with the authority of a teacher, say, describes the world and you are not in it, there is a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked in the mirror and saw nothing.
Imagine what it’s like to look in the mirror and see nothing. For many lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) people – or their children – that’s an all-too-common experience: textbooks with stories about “Abba and Ima” but never “Ima and Ima” or “Abba and Abba;” teachers who take no action when a student taunts, “Oh, that’s so gay;” lists of famous Jews that either leave out those who are LGBT (Harvey Milk) or don’t mention it if they are (Annie Leibovitz).
It isn’t enough to say “everyone is welcome here” for LGBT people to see themselves in that mirror. This is one of the reasons Temple Beth Am recently revised the welcoming statement on our Web site to specifically mention “people who are single, partnered, straight, gay, lesbian and transgendered.”
As one of a handful of synagogues selected to be a pilot site for the Welcoming Synagogues Project (WSP), TBA is working to make sure that LGBT people see themselves included in all facets of synagogue life.
At a recent Sunday forum, we presented the goals of the WSP to TBA members, and asked for feedback about where we should be focusing our efforts. The most common area of concern was making sure the Religious School provides a safe and inclusive environment for our children. It’s not enough just to say all families are welcome; creating an inclusive space might mean revising the curriculum to add mention of families with two moms or two dads, or adding LGBT Jewish heroes to a history lesson.
TBA’s Welcoming Synagogues Task Force is still in the process of developing our work plan. If you would like more information about the Welcoming Synagogues Project, contact the task force co-chairs, Carol Sanders and Lori Gradinger.