Category Archives: lgbt rights

Jewish Values, Trans Inclusivity, and “Yes on 3” – Three Events With Rabbi Mike Moskowitz

There’s a lot happening at CBI next week! On Monday 10/15 at 7:30pm we’ll hear from speaker Kenneth Stern on Antisemitism In America: Past and Present. On Saturday 10/20 at 5:30pm we’ll gather for our 125th Anniversary Gala. And in between, there’s this:


What do Jewish texts say about trans inclusivity, and can we square the value we place on human rights and dignity across the spectrum of gender expression and sexual orientation with Jewish tradition? Spoiler: yes we can!

Come learn how with Rabbi Mike Moskowitz, Scholar-in-Residence for Queer and Trans Issues at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in New York City and also a co-founder of Bayit: Your Jewish Home with Rabbi Rachel (and with CBI Board member Steven Green).

Together we’ll open up some of what Jewish tradition teaches about trans rights and human dignity, and then we’ll explore the implications of those teachings for voting in Massachusetts this fall.

10/17: Torah discussion & study with R’ Mike Moskowitz at CBI, 7:30pm
10/18: Lunch & Learn with R’ Mike Moskowitz at Williams, 12pm
10/18: Torah discussion & Study with R’ Mike Moskowitz at Knesset Israel in Pittsfield, 7:30pm

Free and open to the public — all welcome.

Co-presented by Congregation Beth Israel, Knesset Israel, the Williams College Jewish Association, Keshet, and Congregation Beit Simchat Torah.

Joy amidst mourning

All week I’ve been thinking about what I might say here in shul this morning. Mere commentary on this week’s Torah portion feels insufficient. How can I talk about the rituals of the nazir, one who makes promises to God — or the ritual of the sotah, designed to banish a husband’s jealousy — or even the priestly blessing that we just read together — when LGBTQ members of our community are grieving so deeply? And yet faced with the enormity of the tragedy at Pulse last weekend, my words fail me.

Into this moment of grief comes an expression of great joy. Just moments ago we welcomed a beautiful little girl into the covenant and into our community. What words of meaning can I offer to her two mothers now?

I can say: you belong here. In this community those of us who are straight aspire to be thoughtful and sensitive allies, so that those of us who are queer can feel safe expressing all of who we are.

I can say: tell us what you need. Tell us where we are falling down on the job of making this a safe and celebratory and welcoming home for you, and we will try to do better. I can say: your child will always have a home here, no matter how her gender expression manifests or who she loves.

And I can say: all of us here commit ourselves to building a world in which hate crimes are unimaginable. A world in which no one could feel hatred toward another human being because of that person’s race or gender expression or sexual orientation or religion. Can you imagine what it would feel like to live in that world?

Can you imagine a world in which the tools of massacre no longer exist? In the words of the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai: “Don’t stop after beating the swords into plowshares, don’t stop! Go on beating and make musical instruments out of them. Whoever wants to make war again will have to turn them back into plowshares first.”

Our tradition has a name for this imagined world in which hatred has vanished like a wisp of smoke: moshiachtzeit, a world redeemed. I don’t know whether we will ever get there. But I know that we can’t stop trying.

And there is a very old Jewish teaching that each new baby contains all the promise of moshiachtzeit, all the promise of a world redeemed. Maybe this baby will help to bring about the healing of the world for which we so deeply yearn.

May we rise to the occasion of being her community. May we support her and her mothers. May we take action to lift them up and to keep them safe. And may we work toward a world redeemed in which all of our differences are celebrated and sanctified as reflections of the Holy One.

And let us say, together: amen.


These are the words Rabbi Rachel spoke from the bimah yesterday morning at CBI. (Cross-posted to Velveteen Rabbi.)

A Shabbat of solidarity and celebration

Screen-shot-2012-08-13-at-5.43.04-PM-325x167Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

Today the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality. The right to marry is now granted to all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation, in every state of the Union.

When Massachusetts first took the bold step of making gay marriage legal in 2004, I called a florist in Cambridge and ordered bouquets of flowers to be delivered to same-sex couples who were standing in line outside of city hall. I could not have imagined then that we would see this equality spread from our small state throughout the contours of our nation by 2015.

At tomorrow morning’s Shabbat service we will sing a shehecheyanu, the blessing which sanctifies time, and recite a special marriage equality blessing (from Siddur Sha’ar Zahav) in celebration of this historic moment.

Across the Jewish denominations this Shabbat had already been declared to be a Shabbat Of Solidarity With African Americans. Tomorrow morning we will also encounter a powerful poem by Rabbi James Stone Goodman written in the wake of the tragic shooting at “Mother” Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC.

We are also mindful of the three terrorist attacks which took place today across the globe — in France, Tunisia, and Kuwait. We grieve with those who lost loved ones in those places, and in Charleston, and everywhere else marred by violence… even as we celebrate today’s historic marriage equality victory.

At every Jewish wedding, we break a glass. Explanations for this custom abound, but the one which resonates most with me is that even in our moments of greatest celebration, we remember that there is brokenness in our world. May this Shabbat soothe the brokenness and lift up the celebration in our hearts.

Shabbat shalom —

Rabbi Rachel