Every year as we read of the building of the mishkan in all its ornate details, I think to myself, Beztalel (the artist of the Torah) must really have been a flaming gay man. Who else would have such attention to color, fabric, and gemstone?! As someone who does not feel gifted with interior design skills, I am in awe of the Torah's artistry. This week, I am feeling so grateful to be part of a community where I can openly share this totally ridiculous queer reading of Torah.
It is my sense that what binds Kol Tzedek together as a community is the desire for each of us to be wholly ourselves. This is why I start every service with what has become somewhat of a creed, that you are welcome here just as you are. While this seems obvious on so many levels, it is hardly the normative experience of religious spaces and religious movements.
I am grateful that for so many of us, Kol Tzedek is a refuge; a place to reimagine family; a place to truly be our full selves; a place to connect to something beyond ourselves. We are healing from the Judaism of our childhood or the religion of our childhood. In particular, we are healing from homophobic and transphobic sentiments of our childhood denominations.
For all of these reasons and more, it was painful to witness this week when the General Conference of the United Methodist Church voted against LGBTQ inclusion, maintaining that "Homosexuality is incompatible with Christianity." This vote was the culmination of years of exclusion and hurt, and decades of organizing momentum trying to make the church's insides match its outsides.
I have spoke with Pastor John and members of Calvary United Methodist. They are heartbroken and grieving. The future of the denomination, the building, and the community is uncertain. This is a very tender moment for our neighbors and spiritual housemates.
Certainly this vote did not happen in isolation. It is part of the right-wing backlash that is emboldened by our current administration. It is also helpful to understand that the Methodist church is a global denomination with more than 12 million members. So this is not necessarily a barometer of US sentiments. Having said that, it is painful to even be adjacent to the indignity of religious voices. I can't imagine what it feels like to be inside of it. And I can imagine that for some of you and your family members, this touches you personally.
As the United Methodist Church integrates this new reality, I have had many instincts and responses. I share this article to encourage us to be helpful and not harmful allies to Calvary United Methodist. Knowing that there is not unanimous queer support in all Jewish communities and denominations, I invite us to send love to them and ourselves. To know that we are all called to build sanctuaries full of flamboyant beauty, justice, and love.
In the words of Adrienne Rich,
I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
Rabbi Ari Lev
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Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari brings Torat Hayyim, a living tradition, to Kol Tzedek Synagogue through thoughts about prayer, justice, and community.