From LGBT synagogues to the part Israel played in making the Jewish people more tolerant and inclusive: Neil Goldstein Glick counts the LGBT jewels in Queen Esther’s crown
Last year, my husband and I joined the fun of DC’s LGBT congregation, Bet Mishpocha & the Washington Jewish Federation’s Gay Lesbian Outreach & Engagement (GLOE) program for Purim. There was a campy Purim Spiel (aren’t they all campy?), followed by a costumed dance party. There was a plethora of fabulous drag outfits among all the attending Queens (Queen Esthers, of course). And we cannot overlook the hirsute, and sexy Mordechai’s that also celebrated. Unashamedly, we confess we dressed as one of the more glittering modern gay couples, Liberace and Scott Thorson.
When a King married a Queen, she was presented with jewels and a crown by the King, and received gifts of jewels by prominent citizens and foreign leaders seeking to curry favor. This would be true for our Esther and King Achashversosh. Queen Esther wears a crown of all the Jewish people. When we do great things for one another, and tikkun olam, her crown – our crown – shines brighter. When Jews do great things to add to our community, we add jewels to Queen Esther’s crown.
Not long ago, LGBT Jews did not always feel welcomed in the larger Jewish community. This dimmed the sparkle and shine of Queen Esther’s crown. To brighten the crown again, we had to present our gems.
Pioneering LGBT Jews came together in Los Angeles in 1972 to establish the first LGBT Synagogue – Beth Chayim Chadashim – the House of New Life. This became a prominent LGBT jewel in Queen Esther’s crown.
LGBT Jews established communities in several places, like Bet Mishpocha in DC (1975), Shaar Zahav in San Francisco (1977). We worked for complete participation and acceptance in every aspect of Jewish life. When there was no seat at the table for LGBT Jews, we brought our own chairs. More jewels in Esther’s crown.
The Reconstructionist Movement first accepted LGBT Jews in their Rabbinical College in 1985. The Reform Movement then followed in the late 1980’s. The Conservative Movement came along in 2006. Today, some branches of Orthondox Judaism are more welcoming of LGBT Jews. These waves crossed the Atlantic and Mediterranean, and had an impact on Israel. Esther’s crown fills up with more LGBT jewels.
Today in 5775/2015, we see a level of tolerance and acceptance for LGBT Jews incomprehensible even 15 years ago.
We cannot forget that Israel plays an important part in changing attitudes in worldwide Jewish communities.
Israel, in 1993, was one of the very first nations to allow LGBT citizens to serve with full equality in the Israel Defense Forces, 18 years before the USA followed suit. Another jewel for Esther’s crown.
Unlike more than half of the USA, Russia, Iran, every Arab nation, much of Asia and Africa (with the notable exception of South Africa), employment discrimination based on sexual orientation is illegal in Israel. That’s a huge jewel in the crown.
Gay Arabs (and some who identify as Palestinians), threatened with ‘honor’ killings in their towns, find sanctuary and tolerance in Tel Aviv.
Since 2005, Israeli same sex couples can legally adopt each other’s children. This is still not legal in 12 US states. LGBT people can be fired from their jobs just because they are gay in a majority of US states – but not in Israel.
Another jewel in Queen Esther’s crown is Tel Aviv Pride. It is the best and most colorful LGBT Pride in Europe or the Middle East. And you should join the A Wider Bridge journey coinciding with Tel Aviv Pride.
On Purim we celebrate by letting out inner Queen Esther, or inner scruffy Mordechai. My Purim wish for you is to keep adding jewels to Queen Esther’s crown by being out and involved in your local Jewish community. Through your support of Israel, your support of our global, national and local Jewish communities, you add more jewels to Queen Esther’s crown. Thank you for making our Queen Esther’s fabulous crown sparkle!
Happy Purim! Am Yisrael Chai! The Jewish people live!