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Pride Month Celebrations

By Paul Grossberg and Aleeza Hoffert

Temple Beth El wove together a beautiful tapestry of Jewish values, tikkun olam, inclusion, diversity, immigration, and racial justice during PRIDE month in June. By celebrating LGBTQ people and values within our Temple and larger communities, we all felt valued, uplifted, informed, and motivated to help improve our world. We did this through many varied and engaging programs.

We decorated our digital world with rainbows, we filled our souls with music by LGBTQ composers and themes sung by Cantor Jacob Niemi each week, we added color to the recipes featured in our Quarantine Kitchen program (including two youth bakers), we learned with Rena Yehuda Newman about Queer Jewish Memory and with Cantor Niemi on looking at Jewish texts with a “bent lens,” we celebrated a spirited pride Shabbat, and we even learned how to make a few different Pride-themed friendship bracelets.

Rena Yehuda Newman’s Zoom meeting on Queer Jewish Memory was fascinating and provided a powerful message about “expanding the archives” and documenting personal stories to ensure that future historians have a complete picture. For example, Newman’s research showed that the history of the late-1960s Black student strike at UW reveals documents and perspectives of university administrators but few if any documents or perspectives from the Black students themselves. They challenged us to question what we would document and put in an archive to capture LGBTQ lives and struggles and what we want remembered, and to reach out to archives to do just that. What are we contributing to Queer Jewish memory?

Cantor Niemi’s insightful "bent lens” journey through Jewish texts was truly thought-provoking, depicting differing interpretations of texts through the ages. Cantor Niemi explained how the rabbis learned how to deal with gender fluidity and sexual differences because of the ancient Jewish tradition of having people bring questions and difficulties to the rabbis for advice and wisdom. While traditional norms may be continually reinforced through the centuries, there is ample evidence that Judaism has accepted and even embraced these differences.

Pride Shabbat was a beautiful service filled with meaningful prayers and heartwarming music from specially selected composers. We so appreciate our rabbi’s and cantor’s wisdom, caring messages and words, and inclusive support for all of us in our community.

The Pride committee also put together a wonderful list of resources that can be found on the
Temple blog.

You can continue to feel the Pride by watching these recordings:

Pride Shabbat June 2020

Pride Friendship bracelets (click here for instructions)

Quarantine Kitchen Pride Edition—Rainbow Challah with Jen Szlasa (click here for recipe)

Quarantine Kitchen Pride Edition—Pride Flag Cupcakes with Theo Jacobsohn (click  here for recipe)

Quarantine Kitchen Pride Edition—Rainbow Cheesecake Swirl Bars with Eliana Goff (click here for recipe)

Bo’u Nashir (“Come, Let Us Sing”) – June 2, 2020 

Bo’u Nashir (“Come, Let Us Sing”) – June 9, 2020 

Bo’u Nashir (“Come, Let Us Sing”) – June 16, 2020 

Bo’u Nashir (“Come, Let Us Sing”) – June 23, 2020 

Bo’u Nashir (“Come, Let Us Sing”) – June 30, 2020 

September 20, 2020 2 Tishrei 5781