LGBTRAN, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Religious Archives Network, has a new online exhibit about Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, the largest lgbt Jewish congregation in the world.
The congregation is dear to me, as one of my closest and oldest friends has been an active member for years. I have accompanied him to Shabbat services on many occasions and have found them to be the most beautiful and joyful Jewish liturgical gatherings I have experienced.
The congregation was entirely lay-run for its first 18 or 19 years. As the devastation of the HIV/AIDS pandemic progressed and the need for pastoral care increased, CBST hired its first rabbi (now Senior Rabbi), Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum. Its Associate Rabbi is a straight woman, Rabbi Ayelet Cohen. Both rabbis are noted public leaders and leaders in the Jewish community in addition to their roles within the CBST congregation. You can read about them by clicking their names on the upper left hand side of the CBST website.
CBST itself fulfills a vital public role in New York City and indeed internationally, with liturgical, social, educational, and many other aspects.
While CBST has a meeting space in the West Village, they have outgrown the space for services and for the last few years have been holding Friday night Shabbat services at the Church of the Holy Apostles, Episcopal, in the Chelsea neigborhood of Manhattan. (Some congregants of CBST refer affectionately to Holy Apostles in Yiddish as heiligen tzaddikim. A tzaddik means a righteous person and can also be a name for a rabbi or a Hassidic leader.)
Have a look at the exhibit! And if you are in NYC, whatever your gender or sexual orientation, do visit. All are welcome.
LGBTRAN is one of two major lgbt religious resources in the U.S., each with a distinctive mission. It is a project of CTS, the Chicago Theological Seminary. (Where, speaking of old friends, I see they have hired my esteemed colleague and friend Dr. Seung Ai Yang to teach biblical studies! Good for them. CTS is a seminary of the United Church of Christ. Seung Ai is Catholic and taught for some years at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. She and her husband moved to the Twin Cities after their time in Berkeley, and she taught at the University of St. Thomas.)
The other resource is CLGS, the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry at the Pacific School of Religion (PSR), part of the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) consortium in Berkeley. (CLGS's Programming and Development Director, currently Acting Executive Director of CLGS, is an old friend, the Rev. Dr. Jay Emerson Johnson, and a wonderful preacher and presider he is, too.)