Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2019-11-13
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

Kol Hadash Congregation embraces LGBTQ inclusivity
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times
2019-10-02

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Kol Hadash Humanistic Congregation, which is housed inside North Shore Unitarian Church in Deerfield, has been a leader in LGBTQ-inclusivity since its founding in 2001. The congregation emerged from the now-defunct Congregation Beth Or and celebrates Humanistic Judaism. And yet, this year they have made changes to become even more welcoming.

"Humanistic Judaism has always prided itself on being inclusive and welcoming: from our founding in 1963, we have celebrated interfaith marriages and families, accepted those who self-identified as Jewish regardless of which parent or grandparent, if any were Jewish, and for many years have been LGBTQ inclusive," said Kol Hadash Rabbi Adam Chalom. "Our rabbis have happily celebrated same-sex commitment ceremonies and now weddings for decades. I myself enjoy officiating at same-sex weddings, in part because it is not radical to celebrate loving commitment between two individuals."

Chalom said Humanistic Judaism's founding rabbi, the late Sherwin Wine, was gay and partnered for more than 20 years, and his Humanistic Judaism thinking defines the congregation's practices—blending Jewish culture with a Humanistic and secular philosophy of life.

"Kol Hadash practices Humanistic Judaism by replacing worship with human knowledge, responsibility, and action because it is about people, not prayer," said Chalom. "We connect with our Jewish heritage through holidays, life cycle celebrations, history, languages, music, food, literature and the arts—everything that is part of culture. And we emphasize the power people have, independent of supernatural authority or intervention, to understand and improve our world individually and together.

The congregation's motto is "Doing Jewish Differently." Chalom explained that this means that Kol Hadash celebrates Jewish inheritance but does not act as "museum curators who must keep everything the same."

Chalom said the services include traditional, new and modified traditional texts that celebrate Humanistic beliefs and the educational programs focus more on Jewish history and culture than memorizing texts so students can explore what they think rather than learning what to think.

"Another thing we do differently is most traditional High Holy Day liturgy looks above and beyond for divine apology and forgiveness, while ours looks out at each other to repair our relationships and inside ourselves to come to terms with our strengths and our failures," said Chalom.

"I am really proud to work at Kol Hadash, both as a Jewish person and a queer person," said Kol Hadash Office Administrator Jeremy Owens. "The space they offer for Jewish people who do not want to force themselves into the more traditional Jewish mold of Conservative or Reform Judaism is a real revelation. Why chant along with old songs and prayers that say things you do not believe, just because Jews have being doing it forever?

"Kol Hadash is a truly inclusive space for those of us who crave a Jewish connection, without having to worry about the old outdated gender rules/roles, or judgments on sexuality, or even judgments on a complicated religious background. It is a place for everyone."

Two outward ways Kol Hadash shows its LGBTQ-inclusive Humanistic Judaism is through the Pride flag at the entrance to its ceremonial space and gender-inclusive bathroom signs. Chalom explained that their membership forms have member one and member two instead of husband and wife and have modified the model wedding the second and third grade Sunday school class performs as a part of the lesson on Jewish life cycle ceremonies to include both opposite-sex and same-sex couples.

Chalom said the congregation's confirmation class students ( the youth group ) visit other religious institutions and have discussions afterward, middle school students study the ways LGBTQ people ( along with other groups ) were persecuted during the Holocaust, fourth and fifth grade student's lessons on heroes will also include LGBTQ people and the entire school has a new anti-bullying awareness initiatives to create a more welcoming environment.

Additionally, Kol Hadash's social media accounts will be posting messages to raise awareness on important LGBTQ-specific dates like National Coming Out Day and the start of Pride month every June.

Another way Kol Hadash has embraced the LGBTQ community is with the Jewish coming of age ceremony where in addition to gender-specific Bar Mitzvahs and Bat Mitzvahs, there is a non-binary, gender-neutral B Mitzvahs.

"In terms of our B Mitzvahs, it is important for our students to feel like they are making their Jewish connection their own," said Chalom. "Rather than be assigned a traditional Torah reading by the date of their celebration, our students choose the focus of their presentations: it could be Torah reading, or another reading from Hebrew literature like later in the Bible or modern poetry, or it could be a topic or individual from the wide sweep of the Jewish experience paired with a Hebrew reading."

Larry Deutsch, his then wife and daughters Cathy, Leigh and Loren became early members of Congregation Beth Or and made Humanistic Judaism their belief system. They moved to Kol Hadash upon its founding.

"The beauty of the Humanistic Bar/Bat Mitzvah is that it offers the student a chance to fulfill a project, not only read a Torah portion," said Larry. "One granddaughter raised monies to build a bridge for Nicaraguan school children to cross the water swollen river, in the Monsoon season, so they could attend school. Other grandchildren's projects were equally stimulating."

Deutsch has been with Bill Parker for 30 years and five years ago Chalom officiated their wedding.

"Following our ceremony, another granddaughter, while crying, delivered a stirring discourse on how a New Trier male classmate would now know that he would be able to marry and enjoy a full life as a gay man with no religious or state limitations," said Larry. "That is what Kol Hadash offers."

Victoria Ratnaswamy and her family joined Kol Hadash for many reasons including that it was a good philosophical fit.

"We like the way that questions and issues are explored," said Ratnaswamy. "We did not have to pretend to believe or recite things that did not make sense to us. Likewise, we knew that our children would be experiencing a rich curriculum in Sunday school which also reflected our values. Our family also knew that we would be embraced for exactly who we were. My husband and I come from different backgrounds and neither is more worthwhile. We do not downplay aspects of our identities that differ from Humanistic Judaism.

"It is great to be able to enjoy the company and relationships we have formed in an LGBTQ-inclusive setting that has evolved over the years. I never doubted that my pansexual daughter would be fully embraced and valued as a member of this community."

Chalom said many of these changes came about due to a leadership project training program Keshet, a national organization working for LGBTQ inclusion and celebration in Jewish life, held last summer in Chicago.

"We were able to evaluate what we were doing well, what needed improvement and the 'unknown unknowns' that we did not even realize needed fixing," said Chalom. "This resulted in updating our website, program descriptions and designating an all-gender restroom and initiating Pride month programming this past summer."

This year's Pride-focused events featured GenderCool Project Co-Founder and LGBTQ advocate Gearah Goldstein in June where she spoke about her journey and what GenderCool does to support transgender youth and author Rebecca Makkai in August who talked about her Chicago 1980s AIDS epidemic-focused novel, The Great Believers.

Chalom explained that they held these public Pride programs because it was the right thing to do, not for potential membership growth. He said they plan on doing Pride month programs going forward and will participate in the newly created Buffalo Grove Pride parade next June.

As for Chalom's message for the wider world, he said "I hope people who live mostly secular lives yet connect with Jewish culture realize that there is a way of being Jewish that celebrates who they are, what they believe and how they live their lives."

To book Chalom as a wedding officiant, visit Pridezillas.com/listing/humanistic-rabbi-adam-chalom/. See KolHadash.com for more information.


facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email





Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

Same-sex marriage overturned in Caymans 2019-11-08 - The Cayman Islands Court of Appeal has ruled in favor of the government, overturning Chief Justice Anthony Smellie's previous ruling that legalized same-sex ...


Gay News

Appeals court hears discrimination case against archdiocese 2019-11-07 - On Nav. 5, attorneys for former Catholic church music director Sandor Demkovich appeared in the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh ...


Gay News

MOVIES Ozon layer, French director's new film looks at church coverup 2019-10-30 - A few years back, French director Francois Ozon, whose films—among them Swimming Pool, 8 Women and L'Amant Double—had largely centered on female characters, ...


Gay News

ACE Comic Con has same-sex marriage proposal 2019-10-29 - At ACE Comic Con, which took place Oct. 11-13 in Rosemont, John Chambrone proposed to his boyfriend, Richard Owen—while Oscar-winning actress Brie Larson ...


Gay News

WORLD Marriage news, Oscar Wilde, Ugandan activist dies, Iris Prize 2019-10-22 - People of the same sex are now allowed to get married in Northern Ireland, the BBC reported. It's been legal in England, Wales ...


Gay News

NATIONAL Marriage advocate divorcing, Black gay couple, trans death 2019-10-08 - A Utah state lawmaker who filed a lawsuit that successfully overturned the state's ban on same-sex marriage is separating from his husband, U.S. ...


Gay News

WORLD Japanese case, Jamaica event canceled, Putin's law 2019-09-24 - A Japanese court awarded damages to a woman who broke up with her same-sex partner because of infidelity—recognizing their common-law partnership despite same-sex ...


Gay News

Incoming Second Unitarian minister discusses new role 2019-09-18 - Rev. Jason Lydon, who in August took over as minister at Second Unitarian Church of Chicago, 656 W. Barry Ave., said that his ...


Gay News

WORLD Gay leaders, Mexican trans women, Czech marriage bill 2019-09-17 - In a notable meeting between two out heads of government, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel of Luxembourg hosted his counterpart from Serbia, Ana Brnabic, ...


Gay News

Arizona Supreme Court grants Phoenix stationary shop license to discriminate 2019-09-16 - (Phoenix, AZ, September 16, 2019) — The Arizona Supreme Court today issued a 4-3 decision reversing a lower court ruling that had denied ...


 



Copyright © 2019 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor


 



About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.