By Vivica Michel and Luis Sanchez
The LGBT Network is inviting over 100 people to attend a “Pride Shabbat” service on June 21, during Pride Weekend, in Long Beach to celebrate members of the LGBTQ community who are Jewish.
The service will be hosted at the Temple Emanu-El of Long Beach. The temple is expected to begin advertising in mid April along with the LGBT network. Weekly announcements during Shabbat services will begin on Friday. Temple Emanu-El has invited the LGBTQ community on Long Island, and a guest speaker from the LGBT Network David Klimnick, CEO of the LGBT Network, to have an open discussion about acceptance and inclusion within Judaism.
“The overall goal is to make sure that all LGBT people can live free no matter where they live, learn, work, play and pray,” David Kilmnick, the CEO of the LGBT Network, said. “Religious institutions have not been the most friendly to LGBT folks, so by establishing relationships with affirming congregations, it tends to open the door to LGBT people who wants to practice and also brings along more advocates who want to create a change that is needed in our society.”
The LGBT Network is an association of four non-profit organizations on Long Island and Queens that aims to end discrimination against those who identify as LGBTQ, while advocating for equality. Beside Shabbat services, the network has also hosted Pride mass services and will host one on Pride Weekend this year too.
“The LGBT Network partners with a couple of dozen congregations, whether it’s Judaism or other religions,” Kilmnick, said.
The town of Long Beach is expecting to hold approximately 15 events during Pride week for the community. This Shabbat service is one of those events included on the list, and members of the congregation are stressing the attendance of the LGBT community.
“Because we are hosting the service called Pride Shabbat, we are signaling that Emanu-El Temple is clear, that we are open to anyone who is Jewish or has a Jewish partner,” Rabbi Jack Zanerhaft of Temple Emanu-El of Long Beach, said. “That we do not discriminate, that we treat them with quality, dignity, and respect and that they are welcome to worship side by side, shoulder to shoulder with us.”
Temple Emanu-El of Long Beach is one reform congregation out of 27 temples on Long Island and nearly 900 temples in North America. About 35 percent of Jews in the U.S. identifies as a Reform Jew out of the 5.3 million who identify as Jewish. In the past, this temple has hosted other Shabbat services to cater to other communities.
“We really believe in bringing in people of the community,” Marist Warfman, an employee at Temple Emanu-El of Long Beach, said. “We have hosted other Shabbats such as a Latino Shabbat, a MLK Shabbat, a gospel Shabbat to show we respect all members of the community,”
One of the principles held by reform congregations is to be inclusive, whether it is towards gender or sexual orientation.
“It would be nice if others can follow by example. If they see that we are being open, they might want to do the same too,” Warfman, said.