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Marching From Margin to Center

08/22/2019 08:47:10 PM


[To mark the opening of Capital Pride Week we are reprinting a Words of the Spirit column from August 9, 2016]
In the early 1980s, when the AIDS crisis had already begun to cut its wide swath of devastation in the United States, the epidemic was just emerging in Canada. After my dearest high school friend died with AIDS in 1983, I vowed to do something to honour his memory.
A few years later, while living in Toronto, I launched the CHAI Project – AIDS education in the Jewish Community. At the same time, I was a volunteer with ACT, the AIDS Committee of Toronto, speaking in the community at large, and developing resource material on AIDS and Judaism for the ACT resource library.
I’ll never forget a phone call I placed to the then-director of a Jewish community social service agency, during which he declared, in a tone that was both confident and hostile, that this wasn’t a Jewish issue, and thus he didn’t see why his agency needed to address it.
Those of you who work or intersect with the broader Jewish community on other issues may recognize this attitude from your work in the fields of domestic violence, or substance abuse, or other conditions that have been relegated to the margins. We can agree that in these times, for the most part, the Institutional Jewish Community has moved tremendously, integrating programs, allocating resources and moving the issues - as Bell Hooks, the American womanist writer might say - from margin to center.
For me, there is no distance between my Jewish and queer identities. That was not always the case. It took some time, mainly through my twenties and early thirties, to recognize that I had been “balkanizing” my identities. Their integration is what led me to rabbinical studies, for it was only as an everything-I-am that I could fully do my work in the world.

The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College was the only seminary I would have considered – then or now:

“Of the four leading Jewish denominations, the Reconstructionist Movement is considered the most consistently welcoming and affirming. The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College was the first Jewish seminary to accept openly LGBTQ students, and the Reconstructionist Movement is committed to creating communities that welcome all people, including LGBTQ individuals and their families. The Movement celebrates same-sex marriages, allows LGBTQ ordination, and includes the representation of LGBTQ people in its religious school curricula.

The Reconstructionist Movement welcomes transgender individuals, accepts transgender students to the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and ordains transgender rabbis. Rituals and prayers specific to the life events of a transgender person have been developed, and support is provided to Reconstructionist communities working toward becoming more fully welcoming and affirming of transgender members.” [].
Join in, with pride, in celebrating our community, and our values.
-- Rabbi Liz
For a listing of all jewish community Pride events, including our special Pride Shabbat service at KBI, go to

Mon, March 30 2020 5 Nisan 5780