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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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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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.


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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
FREE
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
FREE
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
FREE
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
FREE

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
FREE

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
FREE

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
FREE
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