Tikkun Olam at Temple Beth Am

Connecting our congregation to social action opportunities

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Freedom to Marry in Washington

[Cross-posted from the Religious Action Center blog, where you can also find posts about other Fain Award-winning programs and the work of the RAC.]

This post is part of a series highlighting the amazing work of our 2013 Irving J. Fain Award winners. Continue to check back to learn about the inspirational projects at Reform congregations across North America. 

The commandment “Justice, justice shall you pursue” wisely comes with no expectation that the results will be immediate. To the contrary, Rabbi Tarfon reminds us, “It is not incumbent on you to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” (Pirkei Avot 2:21)The task of achieving marriage equality nationwide is not yet complete, but at the state level there have been several hard-won victories over the past year. In Seattle, the members and clergy of Temple Beth Am (TBA) played an active role in the Jewish Marriage Equality Coalition and helped make Washington one of four states that supported marriage equality at the ballot box in November 2012.

TBA had been on the record supporting LGBT rights since 1994, when the membership voted at an annual meeting to oppose anti-gay initiatives that were then circulating in the state. Shortly after he was hired in 1995, Rabbi Jonathan Singer began performing same-sex commitment ceremonies, and over the years he spoke from the pulpit and at the state capitol in favor of LGBT rights, domestic partnership and marriage equality. By the time the freedom to marry campaign came to Washington in 2012, our congregation was on board and, frankly, wondering what was taking so long.

Outreach to faith communities was an important element of the campaign, and TBA members were involved both in interfaith efforts and also as part of the Jewish Marriage Equality Coalition. The Coalition grew to comprise 28 Jewish organizations statewide, including nine of the 17 Reform congregations and the Jewish Federation. The Orthodox community could not explicitly support marriage equality, but they were persuaded that the measure protected religious freedom by allowing individual clergy to personally decide which weddings he (or she) would perform – and therefore agreed not to publicly oppose it.

There were myriad ways for TBA members to get involved, and we leapt in with both feet. Among other things:

We fielded a contingent in the Seattle Pride March, carrying banners for marriage equality;We offered community service hours for youth group members who participated in the Pride March;

We hosted a training session for the Jewish community on “How to Have a Jewish Conversation About Marriage Equality;”

One of our members curated an exhibit of same-sex ketubot, called “Equal Vows,” which was the subject of a cover story in the JT News, our local Jewish community paper;

We hosted phone banks in the synagogue office and social hall one or two nights a week for the Washington United for Marriage campaign;

We joined with numerous other congregations and individuals for a “Faith Ballot March” to demonstrate the range of faith communities’ support for marriage equality; and

The shul was a distribution center for buttons, yard signs, and other campaign materials.

As we pursued justice together, we also learned much about each other. The campaign centered on having “courageous conversations” about what freedom to marry meant to each of us. For some, it was finally being able to say “I do” to a partner of many years; for others it was the chance to dance at a child’s wedding; and for still others it was simply being part of the civil rights struggle of our generation.

Shelly Cohen is a member of Temple Beth Am in Seattle, WA.

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A journey through the wilderness

Every Passover we relive the exodus from mitzrayim, a narrow or confining place, so that we can appreciate what it means to be free. For some it’s a history lesson; for many of us it is a powerful metaphor for the often difficult and arduous journey of self-discovery.

This month there are several opportunities to hear Yiscah Smith describe a courageous journey – one that led him away from Torah and finally led her back. Continue reading

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4th Annual Light the Night: A GLBTQ Hanukkah-December 11th

Hi everyone, I hope you had a good Thanksgiving and are still smiling because of our R74 victory.  Kolenu, Seattle’s Jewish LGBTQ Young Adult group(http://kolenuseattle.blogspot.com) hosts a Hanukkah party every year where they honor LGBTQ leaders in our community.  This year, the event will focus on the effort to achieve marriage equality in Washington State.  I want to encourage everyone to come and also to invite your friends, congregation, and organizational members to come also.  The event is open to the public.  There will be a program where we will honor individuals and communities.  Please come and please spread the word!  See below for more details.
Kolenu invites you to their 4th Annual Light the Night: A GLBTQ Hanukkah
Enjoy tasty latkes, colorful dreidels, music and a beautiful candle lighting symbolizing both the miracle of Hanukkah and the idea that great leadership and community action will prevail against oppression.
This year, we are fortunate to celebrate a new “miracle” in our time: marriage equality in Washington State. In this spirit, we will be honoring community leaders who were active in Referendum 74.
FREE and open to the community. Allies, friends and family welcome. Due to the location, this is a 21+ event.
This event is made possible through the generous support of Jconnect Seattle, The Lobby Bar, Three Dollar Bill Cinema, Jewish Family Service, and The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle.
What:                                     4th Annual Light the Night: A GLBTQ Hanukkah
Where:                                   The Lobby Bar (916 E. Pike Street, Seattle, Washington 98122)
When:                                    December 11, 2012 6-8 pm
Facebook Event:                  https://www.facebook.com/events/483533345003014/

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Questions About Same Sex Marriage in Washington?

Marriage for lesbian and gay couples is legal! What’s next? Legal Voice (www.legalvoice.org) created a memo, Questions and Answers: Marriage for Same-Sex Couples in Washington, to answer many frequently asked questions regarding marriage in Washington. Take a look:


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Referendum 74 Update– Phone Bank Push

Election Day is less than three weeks away.  Ballots started arriving in the mail this week.  Washington United for Marriage and the effort to Approve R74 need your help today.  More than 100 phone banks are operating across Washington State.  Five of the phone banks are being held at Jewish locations.

Now more than ever, volunteers are needed to contact undecided voters.  Calling undecided voters will make the difference between winning and losing R74.  Please consider volunteering a couple of nights each week until Election Day.

 The following phone banks need your help!  If you can help on any of the days listed please RSVP to the contact for each phone bank.  Volunteers are trained, fed, and supported throughout. If you have a laptop and a cellphone bring both.  Weekday phone banks run from 5:30 – 8:30 pm.  Weekend phone banks have more shifts available.

Temple Beth Am: W, Th

2632 Northeast 80th Street, Seattle, WA 98115

RSVP: Rhiannon@WashingtonUnited.org (mailto:Rhiannon@WashingtonUnited.org)

Kol HaNeshamah: M, Th

Alki United Congregational Church

6115 Southwest Hinds Street, Seattle, WA 98116

RSVP: Rhiannon@WashingtonUnited.org (mailto:Rhiannon@WashingtonUnited.org)

Hillel-UW: Th

4745 17^th Avenue NE, Seattle, WA 98105

RSVP: Rhiannon@WashingtonUnited.org (mailto:Rhiannon@WashingtonUnited.org)

Temple De Hirsch Sinai: Everyday

1511 E. Pike Street, Seattle, WA 98122

RSVP: Rhiannon@WashingtonUnited.org

Temple Beth Hatfiloh: M

201 8th Ave SE, Olympia, WA 98501

RSVP: Noah@WashingtonUnited.org (mailto:Noah@WashingtonUnited.org)

Bellevue Action Center: Sun-Th

13300 SE 30^th Suite 200, Bellevue, WA 98005

RSVP: Joy@WashingtonUnited.org (mailto:Joy@WashingtonUnited.org)

Thank you for everything you have done to date.  In just a few weeks and with your help Washington will APPROVE R 74 and guarantee the freedom to marry for all loving and committed couples.

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TBA Joins in Greenwood/Phinney Faith March to Approve R. 74

On Sunday, over 250 faith leaders and church goers marched more than a mile through the Greenwood and Phinney Ridge neighborhoods of Seattle in support of Referendum 74. The all-ages crowd waved signs and carried banners as passing motorists waved and honked in support of the right of marriage for all.

The march was organized by Broadview United Church of Christ, St. John United Lutheran Church, St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, and Woodland Park United Methodist Church.
Dozens of people spontaneously joined in as the marchers walked from Woodland Park UMC down Greenwood and Phinney avenues to St. John United Lutheran across from Woodland Park Zoo.

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Praying with my legs……

Submitted by Diane Baer

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel is a personal ‘hero’ of mine.  A Rabbi and scholar, he showed us by his actions what the essential message of Judaism is, at least in my belief.  In marching side by side with the leaders of the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s he called to us to recognize that Judaism commands us to ‘do justice’ and not only to ‘learn about it and talk about it’.  Today Temple Beth Am and over 25 other Washington Jewish organizations are heeding Heschel’s call to ‘justice’ as we engage in ending the discrimination against gay and lesbian couples in Washington state.

Under current law same-sex couples are not free to legally marry the person they love, the person to whom they are committed and with whom they want to share their lives.  We want that to change with a Yes vote to Approve Referendum 74 in November.  The Washington State Legislature passed a bill, signed by the Governor early this year that legalized civil marriage for same-sex couples in Washington State.  Now it is up to all registered state voters to confirm that with a Yes – Approve 74 vote on your ballot.  Approval of Referendum 74 will give gay and lesbian couples the freedom to legally marry in Washington State.

Join me in ‘praying with our legs’ on Sunday, September 30, 12:30PM at Woodland Park United Methodist Church at N. 78th and Greenwood N.  People of faith from the Phinneywood neighborhood and beyond will walk together the 1.2 miles to St. John’s United Lutheran Church to demonstrate faith community support for Marriage Equality, for the Approval of Referendum 74 in November, to support the freedom for same-sex couples to legally marry in Washington State.

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Help Secure Marriage Rights for Same Sex Couples

We’re coming into the final stretch of our effort to secure marriage rights for same-sex couples.  Referendum 74 will appear on the November ballot, and asks voters to approve legislation passed by the Washington State Legislature and signed by the governor authorizing same-sex marriage.

Approval of Ref. 74 is not assured, so your efforts are very important.

Following is a list of some things you can do:

First of all, and most importantly, VOTE to Approve Referendum 74.  If you haven’t registered yet, go register.  Registration deadlines are Oct. 6 for mail-in registrations, and Oct. 8 for online registration.  You can register here.

Second, pick up a green information card in the Temple foyer.

Third, participate in a phone bank.  Temple Beth Am is hosting the “North End” phone bank every Wednesday and Thursday (after Yom Kippur, Sept. 26) from 5:30 to 8:30pm.  You need not be a TBA member (or even Jewish) to join in.  Volunteers will get training… and dinner.  Remember to bring your cell phone, and if possible, a laptop or tablet.  For more information, contact Diane Baer (drbaer11@hotmail.com) or Shelly Cohen (shellyfcohen@gmail.com).

Fourth, ‘pray with your legs’ on Sunday, Sept. 30, 12:30pm at Woodland Park United Methodist Church at N. 78th and Greenwood N.  Join people of faith from the Phinneywood neighborhood and beyond to demonstrate faith community support for marriage equality.

Fifth, check out Equal Vows:  Same-sex Ketubot in Washington State.”  It is the first art exhibit nationwide of same-sex ketubot (decorated marriage contracts) and features several Beth Am artists and couples.  It will take place at the Linda Hodges Gallery at 316 First Ave. S. (in Pioneer Square) on Thursday, Oct. 4, from 5 to 8pm.  For more information, contact David Jacobson (david.jacobson@earthlink.net) or check out the event’s Facebook page.


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99 Days Left to Work to Approve Ref. 74 and Maintain Marriage Equality

Hi Everybody —
We’re coming down the home stretch in the fight to retain the marriage equality law passed by the Washington state legislature.  This note is intended to alert you to some upcoming events and volunteer opportunities for the campaign to approve Ref. 74.  
Three Events
1) Jewish Family Service is hosting a discussion on marriage equality titled: Three Flavors of Marriage Equality.  It will be held at JFS’s campus on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Aug. 14. There will be ice cream too!  For more information, see:
2) Temple B’nai Torah is hosting an interfaith dialogue on marriage equality moderated by Rabbi Jay Rosenbaum on Wednesday, Aug. 15.  For details, see:  https://www.facebook.com/events/250206498412245/
3) And on Oct. 4, from 5-8pm, the Linda Hodges Gallery in Pioneer Square will be hosting a one-night exhibit of same-sex ketubot, the first such exhibit nationwide.  I am personally organizing and curating this event, so I hope you can all come.  For event information, see:  http://www.facebook.com/events/447797798575439
Phone banks
The Jewish Coalition along with the Faith Outreach Program of Washington United for Marriage will be contributing to the get out the vote phone banking effort of the campaign beginning in August by helping to fill two Thursday evening phone banks. 
The phone banking will occur on Aug. 23 and Aug. 30 from 5:30 to 8:30 pm.  The Jewish coalition will help man the phone bank at Equal Rights Washington’s office downtown in the Vance Building (1402 3rd Avenue #201  Seattle, WA 98101).  This phone bank only has spots for 10-12 people so it is very important that people RSVP if they intend on helping. 
Anyone interested in helping to fill these phone banks should RSVP to: jewsformarriageequality@gmail.com   
For every phone bank there will be a training, food, and a debrief at the end of the phone bank.  Scripts and assistance will be provided throughout.  Volunteers will be calling undecided voters.
Best regards, 
David Jacobson
Temple Beth Am liaison to the Jewish Marriage Equality Coalition

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Talking Jewishly about Marriage Equality

In November, citizens of Washington state will vote on whether to approve Referendum 74 and thereby uphold the law enabling gay and lesbian couples to marry. This is a complex issue, and winning over undecided voters will require meaningful conversations on many levels – including faith-based values. TBA is hosting a training session to help you have those conversations in a Jewish context. Please join us.

Learn How to Have a Jewish Conversation
About Marriage Equality and Referendum 74

  July 24, 6:30-9:00PM
  Temple Beth Am K’hilah Center
  2632 NE 80th St.
  Seattle, WA 98115

When David Boies and Ted Olson received the esteemed URJ Eisendrath Bearer of Light Award at the URJ Biennial in 2011, they encouraged the thousands in attendance to go out and have conversations with neighbors, friends, colleagues, and family members to persuade them that marriage equality is consistent with American values, with family values, with strong community and with human rights. Boies and Olson, who were on opposite sides of Bush v. Gore before the Supreme Court in 2000, have since joined forces in the effort to end what they refer to as the last vestige of blatant government sponsored discrimination in our country: denial of the basic right to marry for our gay and lesbian fellow citizens at the federal level and in most states.

Temple Beth Am and the Jewish Coalition for Marriage Equality are hosting an informal event with Boies and Olson’s advice in mind. Come learn what Judaism says about marriage equality and get some pointers about how to have a Jewish conversation on the issue. Adding the Jewish perspective to the faith based conversation that is filling the air is important, and each of us can contribute to the understanding that marriage equality is also consistent with Jewish values. Each supporter persuading even one undecided voter to support marriage equality with an “Approve Referendum 74” vote in November can make an important difference in the lives of Washingtonians.

For more information and to RSVP, click here.