WORLD CONGRESS
DIGEST

Newsletter of the World Congress of Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Jewish Organizations

Post Office Box 23379, Washington, DC 20026-3379 USA
Phone (202)452-7424
BM World Congress, London WC1N 3XX United Kingdom
Phone / Fax +44-181-809-0877

Volume 18, Number 2
Spring 1999


MIDWEST REGIONAL CONFERENCE: SEE PRAIRIE LIGHTS IN MINNEAPOLIS

The Sixth Midwest Regional Conference of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (GLBT) Jews, co-sponsored by Keshet Ga'avah and the World Congress of Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Jewish Organizations, will be held in Minnesota's Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul on May 7 through May 9, 1999. This conference will feature seminars on a variety of topics, including family, spirituality, community, and culture. Shabbat and Havdalah services also will be held and a local panel will discuss significant contributions by local congregations, organizations, and Jewish individuals. Please contact the conference co-chairs immediately, or visit the WCGLBJO website, for registration information.

The official conference hotel, the Doubletree Park Place in St. Louis Park, is walking distance to the Minneapolis Jewish Community Center (JCC). The Shabbat activities will be held at the Minneapolis JCC, while the Sunday panel will be held at the St. Paul JCC, near the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport and the Mall of America. This location is convenient for conference participants to enjoy post-conference shopping, noshing, and airport departures.

Prairie Lights will overlap with and incorporate some elements of Into the Light: A Celebration of Jewish GLBT Arts and Culture, co-sponsored by the St. Paul JCC and the St. Paul Companies, Inc. Conference participants will have the opportunity to attend a specially commissioned play entitled, "I Did Not Speak in Secret," which debuts at the St. Paul JCC on Saturday night, May 8.

Contacts:
Keshet Ga'avah
3500 Holmes Ave. South
Minneapolis, MN 55408


Horizons 2000 --- Save the Date!

On the 20th Anniversary of the WCGLBJO,
The World Congress of Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Jewish Organizations
and
New Jersey’s Lesbian and Gay Havurah
present

Horizons 2000
The 16th World Conference of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Jews
Woodcliff Lake Hilton
Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey

Thursday - Sunday, 27 - 30 July, 2000
Support Conference Scholarships!
When you order from Amazon.com through our website: http://www.njhav.org,
5% of your order goes to conference scholarships.


World Congress Cosponsors Lesbian Rights Summit

Let your voice be heard! From April 23 - 25, 1999, lesbians and their allies from all over the US will gather in Washington, DC, for an event that could change the course of feminist organizing in the US.

The World Congress is pleased to be a cosponsor of the Summit. All are welcome to attend and there are some scholarships available for travel and registration costs.

The Lesbian Rights Summit is being organized by the National Organization for Women. According to conference organizers, "NOW recognizes that in order to win equal rights for all women, we need to continue the work to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation as we move forward into the new millennium. We are organizing this summit to bring together lesbians and supportive allies to discuss current challenges and future strategies. This summit will celebrate our diversity as well as our commonality, share our ideas, and create a framework to ensure values, vision, and inclusion of lesbians in all aspects of the feminist movement."

For more information on the summit contact http://www.now.org/lrsummit.html or contact Cindy Jordan (Lesbian Rights Field Organizer) at NOW +1-202-331-0066 extension 771, or lesbian.rights@now.org.


Eurovision Weekend in Israel

On 29 May, 1999, the Eurovision Song Contest takes place in Jerusalem following Dana International's victory in last year's contest in Birmingham. The Israeli LGBT organizations (the Agudah, the JOH, KLAF and the Asiron) are planning a special celebration weekend 27- 30 May for LGBT people and their friends. Costs have been kept to a minimum. Many events are free, and home hospitality will be available.

Highlights of the weekend include a Thursday reception at the Jerusalem Open House, a Special "Cafe +" in Tel Aviv for people living with HIV/AIDS, a feminist-inspired "Kabbalat Shabat" and dinner with the singer Schez, a picnic in Independence Park, and the grand finale Agudah Eurovision Party in Tel Aviv. A reception at the Agudah Tel Aviv Community Center with Knesset Member Yael Dayan is planned for Sunday.

Weekend planners say they hope to promote pluralism in Israel in general and in Jerusalem in particular, as well as to increase LGBT community cohesion both in Israel and between Israeli and European LGBT communities. They also hope to increase the contact and improve understanding between Israeli and European members of the World Congress of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Jewish Organizations.

Proceeds from the events will go to the establishment of a fund for Israeli LGBT youth in crisis, and for creating LGBT services in Arabic, such as a help line and AIDS awareness materials.

During more than twenty years of activism, the Agudah has led the way in the struggle for equal rights for LGBTs in Israel.

Registrations should be sent via mail or fax to: Eurovision Weekend, Association of Gays, Lesbians, and Bisexuals in Israel, P.O. Box 37604, Tel Aviv 61375, Israel. Fax: +972-3-525-2341.

- Ra'anan Gabay


The London Experience

London's Jewish Gay and Lesbian Group is proud to announce details of the London Experience. We are planning a special weekend of activities from 30 July to 1 August, 1999, for Jewish gay, lesbian and bisexual groups and individuals in Europe. Those who wish to come from countries outside Europe are also very welcome to participate.

The weekend begins with a welcome and Shabbat evening service led by the JGLG's Rabbis - Rabbi Mark Solomon and Rabbi Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah. A kiddush and buffet dinner will follow the service which will be held in Central London.

Saturday night, a big party is planned in Central London with the Klezmer Klub, a very popular British Klezmer band (whose recent CD was entitled 'Four Weddings and a Barmitzvah') which will be followed by a disco. The weekend will end with a farewell brunch on Sunday.

Home hospitality will be provided where possible for those who request it in advance. Anyone interested in attending, or who would like further information, please contact the JGLG by post, telephone +44-181 905 3531 or e-mail: jglg@jewishmail.com.

-Amanda Sudic


Congregation Etz Chaim's Silver Anniversary - A Gay and Lesbian Jewish Milestone

Congregation Etz Chaim, a spiritual home for gay and lesbian Jews in South Florida, celebrated its 25th Anniversary celebration on March 6, 1999. The gala dinner-dance honored the synagogue's first full-time spiritual leader, Rabbi Greg Kanter. The evening, complete with formal dinner and entertainment, was enjoyed by many.

Congregation Etz Chaim has been serving the needs of Gay and Lesbian Jews in South Florida for 25 years and has grown considerably since its inception in 1973. Currently, Congregation Etz Chaim offers regular Sabbath services, ongoing education programs and regular social events.

Congregation Etz Chaim's Shabbat services have grown in attendance and spirituality. Recently, Congregation Etz Chaim took on a regular soloist, Michael Greenspan, who has worked with Rabbi Kanter to make services more meaningful for everyone.

Rabbi Greg Kanter has been with Congregation Etz Chaim since July, 1995. Rabbi Kanter accepted the job as a part-time position with the goal of growing the synagogue so that some day the community could maintain a full-time rabbi serving the needs of the gay and lesbian community. Rabbi Kanter jumped in with both feet and in less than two years he achieved his goal. "Now that I am full-time, we're looking at bigger and better goals," said Kanter. The congregation is looking at ways to reach more people and serve the entire community in new ways.

"We have so many people yet to reach," Kanter added. "With time and hard work we should be meeting the needs of hundreds more who can call our home their home.

Kanter is flattered that they chose to honor him during their Silver Anniversary gala. "I feel this is an honor that should go to a person of more experience than me. I'm proud and overwhelmed." Since arriving in South Florida, Kanter has made it his mission to get involved in Jewish organizations and gay and lesbian organizations throughout the community. He's become a familiar face at several community meetings, which has no doubt had a major impact on the synagogue's growing success. "I'm blessed to have a great group of people who volunteer their time and effort," he added. "They make me look good!" Educational programs are beginning to flourish at the synagogue. For two years now, Rabbi Kanter has been teaching "Discovering Judaism," an introductory level Judaism course for the gay and lesbian community. The course offers a friendly environment in which to study basic Judaism with other gay and lesbian singles and couples. Says Rabbi Kanter, "It's been such a treat to teach this course to adults who really want to learn. The response has been tremendous."

Congregation Etz Chaim also offers an open monthly Torah study class and occasional seminars on various interesting topics.

Social events are a regular part of Congregation Etz Chaim's activities. Outings to the theater and parties and dinners celebrating various Jewish holidays are a regular feature of the synagogue calendar. Congregation Etz Chaim recently had a fabulous concert featuring new Jewish music and looks forward to more in the future. The congregation relies heavily on a committed core of volunteers who make these events happen on a regular basis. In addition, the synagogue sees as part of its ongoing mission to contribute back to the local and global communities with a monthly tzedakah (charity) cause. Past causes have included breast cancer research, badly needed AIDS support in Israel, hurricane relief and environmental causes. "Jews have always seen their mission as to support one another and to do good in the greater community," said Steve Leidner, chair of Congregation Etz Chaim's social action committee. "We are working to make a difference. It's a great feeling!"

Charles Green, President of Congregation Etz Chaim, is especially proud of the synagogue's ongoing success. Mr. Green became involved with the congregation's fundraising only a couple of years ago and has been involved in its leadership ever since. "Twenty-five years is an incredible milestone," Green noted. "But it's really just a start. As I look ahead, I see that there is a world of possibilities in our future."

Anyone interested in getting involved can contact Congregation Etz Chaim by calling +1-954-714-9232.


Ira J. Kulkin (1949-1999)

Ira Kulkin, long time board member of the World Congress, died February 25, 1999. Until his death, Ira was still active in Congregation Ahavat Shalom, of which he was a founding member. A memorial service was held in Alameda, California, on March 21.

Ira was known for his wry sense of humor, and will be remembered at Ahavat Shalom for his exquisitely crafted Yom Kippur sermons. He will be greatly missed.


Jerusalem Open House Open Its Doors

At a time when relations between Reform and Orthodox, right and left-wing, Arabs and Jews have reached the boiling point in this explosive metropolis, a center has been established in Jerusalem for gay persons of every creed, ethnic background, and political persuasion: the Jerusalem Open House (JOH). Gay and lesbian people are the driving force behind this initiative, which by its very existence will advance the causes of social tolerance and pluralism in the Holy City. On March 18, with a capacity crowd of 300 gays, lesbians, and supporters on hand, the JOH opened a community center in downtown Jerusalem, making it the first housed GLBT institution in the Holy City. All members of World Congress organizations, their friends and families are cordially invited to visit our new facility! Help us in making Jerusalem the world center of gay Jewish life.

Over the past year, even without a premises of our own, we've been working hard to build community by establishing a wide variety of activities and services. We are proud that at the Jerusalem Open House, women and men are working together on a truly equal footing to build a lesbigay community in the Holy City. The Open House is closely collaborating with KLAF (the Lesbian Feminist Community), and with a group called the "Orthodykes" (religious lesbians); we have created a discussion group for dialogue between gay men and lesbians; women and men collaborate in all decision-making forums, and persons of both genders have assumed positions of leadership within the organization. We are even playing together at picnics, folk dancing, soccer and bowling, not to mention crafts projects.

Besides an array of cultural activities and support groups, the JOH has established the first anonymous HIV testing center in Jerusalem (in conjunction with the Hadassah Medical Center and another World Congress member organization, the Israel AIDS Task Force); we've set up a youth group led by trained counselors who are supervised by a clinical psychologist, we've initiated a web site, an info line and an e-mail/ mailing service, an Amnesty International group to help stop human rights abuses against gay men and lesbians, a speakers bureau which is conducting lectures at area schools, colleges, youth movements and organizations, and various services for religious gays and married gays.

The JOH also has lobbied for a number of GLBT human rights issues. We are working to raise public consciousness regarding the plight of gay and lesbian youth under intense stress regarding their sexual orientation, who attempt suicide with alarming frequency. The JOH joined the Lesbian Feminist Community in December, 1998, in demonstrating against the Ministry of Education for its refusal to allow distribution of glbt educational materials in the school system.

Most recently (January 26), we organized a protest of all of the nation's GLBT organizations demanding that the award of the prestigious Israel Prize in Biblical Literature to Prof. Avraham Steinberg, scheduled for late April, be revoked. Steinberg, lecturer and head of the Hadassah Medical School Ethics Committee, was chosen for this year's Israel Prize on the basis of his recently-completed medical-halachic encyclopedia, which is replete with racist and homophobic statements. In his work, Steinberg attacks homosexuality as criminal deviance, compares the homosexual drive to the unrepressed urges of murderers and thieves, categorizes gays along with prostitutes, condemns the use of condoms as encouraging gay behavior and campaigns to force gays to undergo compulsory HIV testing (as reported in Kol Ha'Ir, 22 January, 1999). There is a way YOU can help on this issue: letters/e-mails in support of this effort are greatly needed; an international letter-writing campaign may be highly effective in persuading Prof. Steinberg not to accept the prize.

For more information, please contact us at any of the addresses below.

-Jerry Levinson
P.O.B. 33107
91037 Jerusalem, ISRAEL
e-mail: gayj@hotmail.com
website: http://www.poboxes.com/gayj


Welcome, National Union of Jewish GLBT Students!

The newest member of the World Congress of Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Jewish Organizations is the National Union of Jewish LGBT Students, based in Washington, DC. NUJLS, with its worthy mission of supporting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Jewish students across the country, recently held its very successful third annual National Jewish LGBT Student Leadership Conference at Smith College, in Northampton, Massachusetts.

A planning retreat is being considered for this summer, and the fourth annual NUJLS conference will be held in Syracuse, NY, in 2000. NUJLS is particularly interested in contacting glbt Jewish students, who may e-mail the organization at nujls98@hotmail.com.

-Bernard Cherkasov

Executive Director, NUJLS


Coming Home to Temple Again (in West Hollywood, California)

When I was ten, we moved to a new house. I dreamed of a house with a real attic for playing in and a bedroom for me that would not have to be shared with my sister. The new house came with neither. What it did come with was a brand new neighborhood, new adventures, and new friends. All that newness took some getting used to, however, and there were occasional rough spots along the path toward turning this new house into home.

Long after my family's move to our new house, I came out. Again I found myself in a new neighborhood, having new adventures, and making new friends. And how did I finally turn this new experience into home? By becoming one of the founding members of Congregation Kol Ami, West Hollywood's Reform Synagogue.

Congregation Kol Ami is now preparing to celebrate its seventh anniversary, and in the years of its growth, it has developed many wonderfully exciting and interesting programs and traditions. Rabbi Denise L. Eger is particularly gifted at fostering an atmosphere of inclusion and joy for the many diverse folk who find their way to Kol Ami's doors. Our cantor, Mark Saltzman, inspires us with his beautifully touching blend of traditional and modern melodies. In the arms of this warm and welcoming spiritual community, hundreds of people have found a home.

We worship together on Friday nights, explore our traditions and laws together at our monthly Torah Study, and we enjoy our families at monthly family Shabbat services and Tot Shabbat mornings. As each holiday and festival comes around, we gather together to feast or fast and to sing and pray and study. Most recently we held for our annual Community Passover Seder, which moved participants from slavery to freedom as we recounted the story of our ancestors' journey in story, song, and food. In May plans are underway for a gala anniversary Dinner Dance.

A vibrant congregation, always seeking ways to expand its service to the community, Kol Ami is proud of its many Social Action projects and awards. We co-sponsor Yom Ha'Shoah memorial programs with our local Russian Jewish immigrant neighbors, and we provide Hanukah toys for their newly arrived children. We work to create a liaison to the African American community, we remind our state and federal representatives of the need for continued work toward protection of gay and lesbian people as well as other minorities, we plant trees and feed the sick, and we provide support to the too many individuals in our community whose lives are tinged by HIV/AIDS, and other serious illnesses.

Congregation Kol Ami offers a vibrant men's group, the Men of Kol Ami, who socialize, study, worship, and explore the nature of their male Jewish spiritual lives. For the women, a growing monthly Rosh Chodesh group provides a joyous environment for remembering women's contributions to Judaism and for expanding each woman's personal connection to our heritage. Two recent additions to Kol Ami's 'curriculum' are classes in Torah Trop and in American Sign Language. Our bimonthly newsletter, Koleinu, is always full of news and thoughtful commentary. Participating in the community that is Congregation Kol Ami is one of the most meaningful aspects of my life. As Kol Ami moves into its seventh year, led by Rabbi Eger, Cantor Saltzman, and our newly elected Board of Directors and President, Cary Davidson, we all look forward to many more opportunities to enrich our personal lives and the life of our Jewish community.

To reach Congregation Kol Ami, call +1-310-248-6320, e-mail staff@kol-ami.org, or visit our website: http://www.kol-ami.org/cka. Congregation Kol Ami is affiliated with the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and is a member of the World Congress of Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Jewish Organizations.

-Jane Drucker, Ph.D. author of Families of Value: Gay and Lesbian Parents and Their Children Speak Out, Insight Books, NY, 1998. Dr. Drucker can be reached at {phone number deleted}.


Noticias Latinoamericanas

Me da mucho gusto informarles que varios paisanos argentinos de Buenos Aires han decidido constituir el primer grupo formal que se incorpora al World Congress. Se llama Tango L'Jaim , muy apropiadamente para mostrar su origen.

Su primera actividad sera en Pesaj. Para cualquier informacion favor de contactar por el momento a shalomamigos@hotmail.com.

We are happy to announce that the first gay/lesbian Jewish group has begun to form in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Their first official meeting is scheduled for Passover. Their name, appropiately, is Tango L'Chaim. For information please contact Shalomamigos@hotmail.com for the time being.

-Lior


A New San Francisco Synagogue

Congregation Sha'ar Zahav welcomes all members of the WCGLBJO, and their friends and families, to help us celebrate our new home at the corner of 16th and Dolores Street in the historic Mission District of San Francisco, California. On December 19, 1998, hundreds of synagogue members and friends, more than could fit inside, filled the sidewalk and street to light Hanukah candles and dedicate our new synagogue, the new spiritual home for our more than 500 members and their 130 children.

As we nailed the mezuzah to the front door, and a klezmer band played Jewish melodies, we also celebrated the completion of a US $2.0 million capital campaign to purchase and remodel the property. The efforts of the entire congregation were involved in acquiring the new property, planning its complete redesign and reconstruction, demolishing old walls, painting new walls and ceilings, and of course, raising the money. That, plus the work of skilled architects, contractors, artists and craftspeople, helped complete a sanctuary with soaring steel and wood beams, stained glass windows, an ark and bimah on the Eastern wall and a circular platform in the center for reading Torah. High above the heads of the congregation, a cupola with airy glass windows brings in light and releases our prayers to the heavens.

What began as a dream in 1995, what was not even imagined in 1977 when three gay men decided to form a gay-outreach synagogue in San Francisco, has become a reality, a new Golden Gate to match our name, Sha'ar Zahav. And not a moment too soon! Faced with a five-fold increase in membership over the past ten years, and with an explosion of children appearing as if from nowhere, our beloved, but very small, synagogue on Danvers Street was bursting at the seams. Our new home is more than twice the size and houses meeting rooms, classrooms, a gift shop, a social hall with gourmet kitchen, library, administrative offices, and a Rabbi's study. State of the art sound and lighting, new heating, plumbing, electrical, and life-safety systems, bicycle storage, ramps and a new elevator ensure full accessibility for all, and a secure environment for our children. The names of all contributors are memorialized in etched glass panels, which are displayed on the walls of the two-story entrance hall.

If your travels bring you to San Francisco, please visit us and share our joy in celebrating our new and beautiful home.

-David R. Gellman, Vice-President, Congregation Sha'ar Zahav


Scholar in Residence at Beth Chayim Chadashim

Rabbi Steven Greenberg will be welcomed as a scholar in residence at Beth Chayim Chadashim of Los Angeles on Friday and Saturday, May 14 - 15, 1999, and the World Congress is pleased to be a cosponsor of this event.

Rabbi Greenberg is associated with CLAL- The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership - where he is a Senior Teaching Fellow. Rabbi Greenberg is a scholar for CLAL's national programs, ongoing classes and shabbatons throughtout North America. He is the educational advisor of the Jerusalem Open House, a cutting edge organization advancing the cause of social tolerance in the Holy City. (See article elsewhere in this issue.) Rabbi Greenberg is an Orthodox rabbi who also happens to be gay and is out of the closet.

The program will begin on Friday night when Rabbi Greenberg speaks on "Adam and Steve, the Denaturalization of Heterosexuality". This will give congregants a chance to meet the Rabbi at the Oneg following Shabbat services. On Saturday the formal program begins at 3 pm. The two topics on Saturday will be "The Genesis of Hope: Noah and Sodom", and "Making Sense of Leviticus." The Saturday program will be from 3pm -9pm and will include breaks, snacks, and dinner. The event will finish with Havdalah. The World Congress is pleased to be able to present Rabbi Greenberg's scholar in residence program. Please mark your calendars and join us for the extrordinary event. For ticket information, contact Beth Chayim Chadashim, bcc@bcc-la.org.

-Charle Taylor


Editorial information

The World Congress Digest is published by the World Congress of Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Jewish Organizations.

The Digest is edited by Lee Walzer and Jonathan Falk. Submissions can be sent to secretary.


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