Israeli gay activist Gal Alperovitch rediscovered Judaism during his visit to Congregation Sha’ar Zahav while traveling in San Francisco
At a time when we are divided into religious against secular and good against evil, I found myself in an LGBT synagogue on the streets of San Francisco.
I’ve always seen the LGBT community as somewhat distant from religion. It didn’t make sense to me that there would be a connection between the two- they forbid me to love a man, so who are they and why should I listen to them?
And here I am, at a Jewish synagogue, a lesbian couple sitting to my left, a gay couple in front of me, and a transwoman to my right.
The Rabbi reads the prayer to welcome shabbat, says the blessing on the wine, we eat Challah…all the ceremony that we’re familiar with in our childhood homes.
When they read the prayers, they constantly point out the values that the Torah is trying to teach us: acceptance of the other, dignity, importance of family, and more.
Towards the end of the prayer the rabbi stops and asks the audience members to share something moving that they recently experienced, someone to wish a speedy recovery to, or even just to specify a name of someone close who passed away. “And it is important to share,” the rabbi says. “We are a family and there’s no reason for us to feel uncomfortable with each other.”
It doesn’t matter where you come from or who you are; at the moment you walk into the room you are part of an accepting and containing place, and that is exactly your place to be yourself. And suddenly it all very much connects the values of the LGBT community that I believe in and live according to.
The ceremony ends, everyone gets up to greet each other with a Shabbat Shalom, hugging each other, respecting everyone despite the difference- because what difference does it make if in the end we’re all brothers?
So, why hate?
Why do we always like to see the world in a stereotypical way if we hate so much when others judge us without really knowing us? Why even think to protest in Bnei Brak on Shabbat if that’s the belief of those people?
Religious people, same as people in the gay community, have a wide range of beliefs – from the most extreme to the most moderate – those who interpret things in one way, and those who interpret things in another. There is no yes or no, there’s only more or less. And if this scale exists, so there’s a place for a dialogue of coexistence of all existing beliefs and different colors.
Just like that gay guy sitting in a synagogue next to the transgender woman. Together they marked Shabbat, so they can do with straight, religious, black or white.
I hope that one day we can all listen to each other, stop looking at those around us with prejudice, without giving them even an opportunity to open their mouths.
And as usual, only when we can apply this to our own community, can we achieve bigger and wider goals.