Tikkun Olam at Temple Beth Am

Connecting our congregation to social action opportunities

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Reflections of a Young Jewish Feminist

Here is another in our occasional series of divrei Torah by our amazing TBA youth. This one was written by Rachel Warshaw for her bat mitzvah on May 11, 2013.

In my haftarah portion, the prophet Hosea refers to Israel as the cheating wife and God as the husband. The imagery Hosea uses is very negative towards women, and is hard for modern women to digest or accept. In my Torah portion, in the census, the men aged 21 and over are the only ones who are counted. These men were eligible to be drafted into a fighting force. Women are not mentioned at all. Men are the only ones who are counted. If we re-arrange that sentence, we find that in the time of my Torah portion, it seems that men were the only ones who counted, or in other words, the ones who were valued most.

In Reform Judaism, women are lucky to be treated in an equal way to men. And in our temple, girls and young women have had the opportunity to see that of 4 professional rabbis on the temple staff, three are women. Women who practice Orthodox Judaism are less lucky. Unlike us, they cannot stand on the bimah and read from the Torah. In Israel, the women who come to pray at the Western Wall can only pray in a certain less choice portion of it, whereas men can pray in the nice area. I believe the people in charge of who may pray and read Torah at the Western Wall are acting like the adulterous wife Hosea portrays in my portion. In the same way that Hosea says Israel has become adulterous towards God by straying from God, her husband, and going to other gods, people who will not allow others to further their relationship with God are ruining their own personal relationship with God.

While I would very much like to be able to say that our Torah is a feminist book, I cannot. There are so many instances in it of women being treated and portrayed as the “weaker vessel.” In fact, many of the matriarchs in the Torah are only special because they married men whom God called to do something great. Rachel, my namesake, did not do anything particularly special that was recorded in the Torah other than waiting 7 years to get married to a man who didn’t know her well enough to tell the difference between her and her sister. Leah did even less. She married the man her sister was promised to, because her father wanted to marry her off before she got any older. Neither of these “matriarchs” did anything to change her fate. I wish that the strong, smart women of the Biblical stories could have been shown as heroines, but women who thought for themselves and got what they wanted were either overlooked, or their stories are recorded in a way that does not focus on the heroic. How many women and girls were present at the counting my Torah portion represents? We cannot know. Their history is a blank, their numbers are invisible. And the people who were not included were not just the women, as Rachel Stock Spilker writes in the Women’s Torah Commentary, “What about the woman who might have wished to fight? Or how about the 19-year-old man, just months short of his 20th birthday, eager to serve God and his people? Or the 23-year-old male Israelite who can count the right number of years, but the not the right number of limbs since he lost one of his in a childhood accident?” This type of census was not fair.

As of today, women are now supposed to be treated the same way as men in the army, in what posts they are given, thanks to recent orders by the Defense Secretary to allow women in combat. Even though we consider our American society progressive, we were still woefully behind when it came to counting women for the army.

During the last war that people were drafted for, the Vietnam War, women were not drafted. Only men, aged 18 and above were drafted. I hope there will be no more wars that will call for anyone being drafted to serve in combat forces, but I do think that it is a big step for equality to know that women will be eligible to fight, too. In light of recent revelations about abuse of some female service members, there is obviously still a great deal of work to do for women’s presence and contributions to fully valued and respected. I am proud to go to a temple that will let me, a young woman, lead the prayer service, chant Torah and Haftarah, and give my D’var. In reaching this day, I am now able to be counted for a minyan, and can participate fully in Jewish prayer and Torah study.

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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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Marriage Equality on the Ballot this November

While we anticipated this day was coming, it is now official: marriage equality for loving, gay and lesbian couples will be on the ballot in November.

Temple Beth Am, the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, and twenty-five other Jewish organizations including the Anti-Defamation League, Jewish Family Service, Union for Reform Judaism, Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center and the National Council of Jewish Women, support Washington United for Marriage and the campaign to defend the marriage equality law in Washington State. We support marriage equality as a matter of basic religious liberty. Clergy should be free to decide for themselves what couples they choose to marry. Continue reading

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If Obama Will Put His Neck Out, Why Won’t You?

Today, after many years of tip-toeing around the issue, President Obama finally endorsed marriage for same-sex couples, encouraged, perhaps, by his vice president and secretary of education’s bolder steps in that direction earlier this week, but more likely because he believes that supporting gay marriage is not only the right thing to do, but also smart politics, according to The Atlantic editor Steve Clemons.

So if he can do it, why can’t you?

Washingtonians will soon need to commit themselves one way or another, as opponents are moving to overturn the same-sex marriage law that was enacted by the state legislature earlier this year.  They are collecting signatures to put two separate measures on the ballot this fall that would effectively negate the law. We’ll know if they have enough signatures by early summer.

In the interim, the coalition supporting same-sex marriage in Washington state, which includes the active support of 23 synagogues and Jewish institutions, is asking supporters of the marriage law to match name-for-name the number of signatures opponents need to qualify those measures for the ballot.   We hope to gather at least 2,000 signatures from the Jewish community.

So please sign the cards, which are in a basket in the Temple foyer.  If you signed the previous petition in February, you may sign again.  Alternatively, you can sign an online petition, here.

So when you’re thinking your position on this issue, consider the impact of Obama’s simple action, as described so eloquently by New York Times columnist Frank Bruni:

“I find myself thinking about all the teenagers and young adults out there who cower in silence because they worry about being ostracized if they speak the truth about their sexual orientation. I think about the ones who are bullied, even the ones who contemplate taking their own lives.

And I think about what it will mean to them to hear the president say what he did today, not because they’re focused on marriage but because they’re buoyed by any and every reassurance that there’s nothing wrong with them, nothing inferior about them. Today their president gave them that reassurance.”

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No “Pinkwashing” Here; Israeli LGBT Leaders to Discuss Achievements, Challenges

In all the hullaballoo over gay marriage in the U.S. these days, we forget that there are some countries that have made considerably more progress on LGBT rights. Israel, for one, is the only country in the Middle East and even Asia to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. They cannot be performed in Israel, however. Nor can inter-marriages (between those of different religions) or non-religious marriages, for that matter.

Israel was also the first country in Asia where gays were protected by anti-discrimination laws, and remains the only country in the Middle East to provide such legal protection. In most others, homosexuality is illegal and often punishable by corporal punishment, prison, or even death.

Between March 14th and March 17th we have many opportunities to learn from Israeli leaders in the LGBTQ movement at several venues, including Temple Beth Am:

On Saturday, March 17, Iris Sass-Kochavi, a leader with Tehila (Israeli PFLAG–Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays) will speak about Family Matters: New Generations of LGBTQ inclusion in Israel

Location: Temple Beth Am, 2632 NE 80th St. Seattle

Time: 10:30 AM – 12:00 PM followed by potluck lunch. I hope you all can bring a dish and make the minyan. It’s a sweet, low key service with singing.  Israel, incidentally, is one of only 11 other countries to have a PFLAG chapter. No RSVP required.  

A full schedule of events follows:

All events listed below are public. Unless otherwise noted, please RSVP to LaurenS@Standwithus.com

Wednesday – March 14th
The Quest for LGBTQ Civil Rights – From Tel Aviv to Washington state. 
Location: Jewish Family Service, 1601 16th Avenue, Seattle
Time: 1:50 – 3:30 PM
RSVP to anniej@jewishinseattle.org.
Co-sponsored by Jewish Federation and Jewish Family Service.
Full event description: https://www.facebook.com/events/248831681872380/.

Building an inclusive LGBTQ community in a diverse and dynamic society 
Location: Seattle First Baptist Church, 1111 Harvard Ave., Seattle
Time: 6 – 8 PM
Community dinner @ 6PM (cost $5 – RSVP to front_office@seattlefirstbaptist.org)
7PM presentation and discussio – FREE.
Co-sponsored by Seattle First Baptist Church and Bet Alef Meditative Synagogue.
Full event description: https://www.facebook.com/events/363487657018214/

Thursday – March 15th

Puget Sound & Israeli LGBTQ Youth Leaders Professional Convening 
Location: First United Methodist Church, 621 Tacoma Ave S, Tacoma
Time: Noon – 3PM
RSVP to https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/LGBTQA
Co-sponsored by The Rainbow Center & Oasis Center.
Full event description: https://www.facebook.com/events/343039739072529/.

LGBTQ Life & Civil Rights in Israel presentation and discussion: The panel will share their thoughts on the fight for LGBT civil rights globally, in Israel, and right here in Washington State.
Location: Kitzel’s Crazy Delicious Delicatessen, 514 S. Capitol Way, Olympia
Time: 5-7 PM
Co-sponsored by Kitzel’s Crazy Delicious Delicatessen
RSVP to LaurenS@standwithus.com

Friday – March 16th

The Case that Changed Marital Rights in Israel: A presentation with Adir Steiner and members of the Alliance of Israeli LGBTQ Educational Organizations.
Location: Perkins Coie, 1201 3rd Ave., Suite 4800, Seattle
Time: 12PM – 1PM Brown Bag Lunch
Co-sponsored by QLaw – the LGBT Washington Bar Association
RSVP to LaurenS@standwithus.com

LGBTQ Life & Civil Rights in Israel presentation & discussion: Shabbat Service, Community Dinner & Discussion. The panel will share their thoughts on the fight for LGBT civil rights globally, in Israel, and right here in Washington State.
Location: Kol HaNeshamah: West Seattle’s Progressive Synagogue Community @ Alki UCC – 6115 SW Hinds St., Seattle WA
Time: 7 – 9 PM

Saturday – March 17th

Kol HaNeshamah Torah Study presentation & discussion
Location: Kol HaNeshamah: West Seattle’s Progressive Synagogue Community @ Alki UCC – 6115 SW Hinds St., Seattle WA
Time: 9:30 – 10:30 am

LGBTQ Life & Civil Rights in Israel presentation & discussion: Shabbat Service & Community Lunch. Adir Steiner who works for the mayor’s office of the City of Tel Aviv, will share his experience and thoughts on the fight for LGBT civil rights globally, in Israel, and here in Washington.
Location: Congregation Beth Shalom, 6800 35th Ave NE, Seattle
Time: 10am – 2:30 pm

Family Matters: New Generations of LGBTQ inclusion in Israel. Iris Sass-Kochavi, a leader with Tehila (Israeli PFLAG) will talk about LGBTQ family and youth support and community in Israel.
Location: Temple Beth Am, 2632 NE 80th St. Seattle
Time: 10:30 AM – 1:30 PM

FREE Screening of “Gay Days,” a documentary about the growth of the LGBTQ movement in Israel, followed by a panel discussion including Adir Steiner who is featured in the film.
Location: Temple De Hirsch Sinai, 1511 E. Pike St., Seattle
Time: 7 – 10 PM
RSVP to LaurenS@standwithus.com
Co-sponsors: Temple De Hirsch Sinai, Congregation Tikvah Chadashah, JConnect, NCJW Seattle Section, Bet Alef Meditative Synagogue, Herzl Ner Tamid Conservative Congregation, Temple Beth Am, Congregation Beth Shalom

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Have a Real Impact: Contact Your Legislator NOW on Same-Sex Marriage!

News reports say the Washington state Senate is just one vote away from achieving a majority in support of same-sex marriage And two of the senators still on the fence represent districts in Beth Am’s backyard: Lynnwood’s Paull Shin and Redmond’s Andy Hill.
So if you live in one of these districts, tell your legislator how you feel! (Even if you don’t, your legislator wants to know how much support there is.)
Here is a link to an online petition from the Jewish community.
And remember Marriage Equality Advocacy Day is Thursday, Feb. 16. Join a delegation from TBA and other members of the Jewish community in Olympia to lobby state legislators on this issue.
Contact David Jacobson for more information.