Archive | April, 2012

Temple Beth El Board of Directors Unanimously Passes Anti-Amendment One Resolution

22 Apr

On Monday evening, April 16, Temple Beth El’s Board of Directors unanimously passed the following resolution:

WHEREAS Temple Beth El’s mission is to be a welcoming Reform congregation providing opportunity for ALL people to engage in Jewish life through social action, and its vision emphasizes inclusion and egalitarianism;

WHEREAS Temple Beth El seeks to be a sanctuary providing support, safety, healing, and justice, for the suffering and disenfranchised;

WHEREAS the Torah commands us to give the needy what they lack, in this case legal protection, civil rights and human dignity for Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender individuals, so Jewish ethics demand us to act;

WHEREAS justice and human dignity are cherished Jewish values;

WHEREAS the Torah has one text, yet the interpretation is never fixed but ever in flux;

WHEREAS our Reform Jewish tradition teaches us that all human beings — man, woman, gay, straight, bisexual, transgender — are made in the image of God; that God and holiness can be present in all loving, permanent Lesbian, Gay,  Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) and heterosexual relationships;

WHEREAS the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) stated: “All Jews are religiously equal regardless of their sexual orientation”;

WHEREAS in March 2000, the CCAR’s resolution on Same Gender Officiation states, “that the relationship of a Jewish, same gender couple is worthy of affirmation through appropriate Jewish ritual”;

WHEREAS the LGBT members of Temple Beth El are an integral part of our congregation, and that Keshet and its predecessor Chavurah Keshet have been active for over 15 years;

WHEREAS the current political climate challenges the human rights of members of our community and our nation because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and denies them legal rights;

WHEREAS Amendment #1 will appear on the North Carolina ballot on May 8, 2012, and it reads: “That marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State”; and this amendment clearly is antithetical to what Judaism and Temple Beth El stand for as outlined above;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Board of Temple Beth El opposes Amendment #1 that will appear on the North Carolina Ballot on May 8, 2012;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the President, the Board, and the Clergy, of Temple Beth El and will go on public record, through a letter to the congregation, educating and advocating against this Amendment on May 8, 2012.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED the President, the Board, and the Clergy of Temple Beth El, publically endorse Keshet’s active engagement with, and support of, other synagogues and houses of worship in North Carolina as allies in the efforts to advocate against this Amendment.

TBE Board Invites Keshet

6 Apr

The Board of Directors of Temple Beth El invited Keshet, the GLBT Education and Advocacy Committee at Beth El, to present a resolution surrounding Amendment One to the Board.

The Keshet Committee will meet this coming Monday, April 9, 2012 to draft the resolution and send it to the Board’s President.

The resolution will be discussed at the April 16, 2012 Board meeting.

I wish everyone a Happy Passover as we continue to think and act in ways that encourage freedom for all.

Religion and Politics: Rabbi Judy, Where Is the Line?

2 Apr

I love our congregation. I love it for our supportive congregants who daily make a difference, lift up the lives of those in need, and even lift me up when I am feeling burdened by the pain and loss of our members.  I love our congregants for the challenges they pose to me and for the diversity of opinions to which I must respond.  In recent weeks, two people have approached me with polar opposite views on Amendment One and our role as a congregation and my role as a rabbi.

It was at our March Congregational brunch that a congregant challenged me with passion: “Rabbi, why is our congregation not taking a stand on Amendment One? What happened to the political activism of our past? Just look at the role of religious leaders during the Civil Rights movement. Where would we be without them?” Another congregant made it to my office this past Friday with an urgent matter, “Rabbi, I have always appreciated your unifying voice. Why would you speak out on Amendment One and risk being divisive, especially in this time when you want to ensure the financial stability of our congregation?”

I care deeply about civil rights and human rights.  I care deeply about the line between politics and religion and do not want to overstep that place that would be unethical or would alienate. I care deeply about the financial stability of our congregation.  Leaving our Beth El children a building that is paid off and a sufficient endowment that enables our congregation to always be sustainable and never a burden on the next generation is one of my goals. It will allow Judaism in Charlotte to always survive and thrive.

It is for all of the above reasons that I search my soul and reflect deeply on the voice I have and the voice I use. I do not accept the multiple requests that come my way weekly for taking stands on pressing social justice issues and weigh each request carefully. So how do I choose, and why did I choose to stand last week with thirty other clergy in speaking out against Amendment One?

Let me start with the choices of Temple Beth El.  How does our congregation choose which issues to become involved with?  There are some issues on which our congregation has passed resolutions – Preventing Domestic Abuse and Supporting Affordable Housing.  Dozens, if not hundreds, of congregants, had spent time and resources through Beth El volunteering to help victims of domestic abuse and working to shelter the homeless. Hence, congregants went through the process of writing congregational resolutions, creating forums for congregational input, and bringing the given resolutions to the Board, which affirmed congregants’ rights to work on the issue as a congregation.

To answer the question of the first congregant, “Rabbi, why is our congregation not taking a stand on Amendment One?” the simple answer is no one drafted a resolution, created forums for congregational input, and brought it the Board for debate so that they could decide the best path forward.  Dozens of congregations in Charlotte and many of the synagogues in the Raleigh/Durham area have done this and are working fervently on this issue. They are distributing “Vote Against Amendment One” yard signs at their Onegs and even their Youth Groups are educating their communities.

Had the Board been posed with this issue, they would have likely asked several questions.  First, can we legally work on this issue? They would have learned that in order to keep our not-for-profit 501(c)(3) status, we cannot spend more than five percent of our resources on this.  On one hand, Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center shared that no congregation has ever had their not-for-profit status revoked for this reason. On the other, our legal advisors to our Board feel that working on Amendment One is entering a legal gray area with which they do not feel comfortable.  Had the Board been brought this issue they would have additionally asked, “Is this work in agreement with our Reform Jewish tradition and does this issue matter deeply to our congregational community?” They would have looked to the social justice center of our Reform Judaism (the Religious Action Center) and found that the movement has taken a stand for decades on GLBT equality and in particular, over the past sixteen years, on marriage equality. Lastly, they would have asked, “For our congregation, is this issue divisive and controversial?” That one is harder to evaluate though the forums would have helped.

While this issue was not brought to the Congregational Board and hence, we are not working on Amendment One, the Keshet Committee, which has a primary goal of GLBT education and advocacy, has provided several forums for education on this legislative issue that impacts them directly and confronts them so painfully.

Our Beth El clergy, then, are left with the choice of acting on their own.  We can choose to take a stand on a political issue all the while recognizing the risks of creating discomfort, or worse, alienation of those congregants who hold different views, or we can choose to remain silent or support an issue in the background rather than out front.

There are many important legislative issues out there about which we have religious feelings – healthcare, birth control, immigration, so I can hear some of our congregants asking “So how do you choose Rabbi Schindler? Why would you step on the line of religion and politics on Amendment One?”

This one touched a chord. Amendment One discriminates and alienates. If you do not believe in the right of those who are gay and lesbian to marry, there are already laws on North Carolina’s books prohibiting same-sex marriage. This proposed amendment was put forth to further embed prejudice against those who are gay and lesbian into our North Carolina foundational document. It takes away the legal protections of so many of our own congregants in domestic partnerships.

As I said to my kids in the car, “I speak out on this issue because this law echoes in my mind the Nuremburg Laws which prevented Jews from marrying Germans. It also barred Jews from being professors in colleges and Jewish children from going to public schools. Your grandfather had private tutors for this precise reason.”

My father, their grandfather, was born in Munich and lost his childhood of normalcy and much of his family tree through the Holocaust. Not speaking out against this amendment to our North Carolina Constitution that similarly discriminates was not possible for me.  In recognition of the congregants who are uncomfortable with my taking such stands, I choose to speak out on issues only after deep reflection and dialogue with our congregants and leadership.  As I speak cautiously, and I pray, most often wisely in public, I hear your voices in mine and I work to honor the diversity of feelings that exist in our Beth El midst.

My door is open. My email always gets read. Your voice impacts mine. Your opinions and dialogue help me grow, and us to grow, always.

Rabbi Judy Schindler

Hello world!

2 Apr

TorahBuzz is the space where, we, Temple Beth El’s clergy reflect on the religiously relevant topics that are most meaningful to us. Here you will find musings on everything from prayer to politics, music to mysticism. From our iPads, smartphones, and laptops to yours, these are the things that keep us up at night, what fuels our own Jewish journeys.

Rabbi Judy Schindler

Cantor Andrew Bernard

Rabbi Jonathan Freirich

Cantor Mary R. Thomas