Beth Shalom is
welcoming and inclusive
Letter from the Rabbi
On behalf of our Board, Clergy, membership, and staff, welcome to Beth Shalom Congregation. Everyone here is on a journey; we are all growing as human beings and as part of a holy community. Our synagogue welcomes everyone who wishes to enjoy the sweetness and beauty of Jewish life.
Whether you are seeking a spiritual home, an opportunity to celebrate Shabbat, Jewish holidays and a range of lifecycle experiences, or simply a place to build friendships and enjoy a variety of cultural and educational activities, you can find your place here at Beth Shalom.
We are strongly committed to equal participation of women and men in the life of the congregation and to the inclusion and celebration of individuals of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Our members include singles and couples without children, two parent families and single parents with children, step and blended families, and grandparents or other relatives raising children.
Here at Beth Shalom, we celebrated the 2015 Supreme Court victories in the journey toward equal marriage rights for same-sex couples as a matter of tikkun olam (social justice) consistent with our Torah teaching that everyone is created in the image of God (b’tzelem Elohim).
Our Beth Shalom Rabbinic History affirms our commitment to inclusion: Our first full time Rabbi (Rabbi Noah Golinkin) marched with the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960’s before he came to Beth Shalom.
Proudly continuing this commitment to championing equality and justice for all, our Rabbi Emerita (Rabbi Susan Grossman) was a faith leader in the discussions surrounding Maryland’s 2012 ballot referendum on same sex marriage, and many of our members were instrumental in passing the measure. In addition, as chair of the committee on Personal Status for the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (the body that decides matters of Jewish observance and law for the Conservative Movement), and she shepherded the passage of the decisions to permit and celebrate same-sex weddings and admit to the seminary and ordain openly gay and lesbian rabbis and cantors.
I am proud to have attended the first of our Movement’s Rabbinical Schools to adopt this t’shuvah, and as a student a preliminary paper based on the CJLS’s 2016 affirmation of trans rights in our Movement. As an undergraduate, I worked with a team of students to demand that the UC Santa Cruz student health plan included trans-affirming care.
I invite you to call, e-mail, or visit with me so we can begin a dialogue about your own journey and how the wonderful opportunities Beth Shalom offers can provide a warm and caring community.
With blessings for your journey,
Rabbi Jenni Greenspan
Our Family Values
We are eager to welcome you to our spiritual home. We think you will appreciate the following about us:
- We value the institution of marriage as an option for all adults. We celebrate the beauty of family life as well as the choice to remain single. We respect the choices of those who bring children into their lives and those who do not for any reason of choice or circumstance. We acknowledge these can be very difficult and highly personal choices deserving of privacy.
- We provide pastoral and community support for our members who bring children into their homes through traditional and alternative means including adoption, surrogacy, in vitro fertilization (IVF), etc., and facilitate the corollary life cycle ceremonies (baby namings, brit milah, conversions, and b’nai mitzvah).
- We recognize that not all families look alike and that children grow up best when they are loved and appreciated, no matter the gender or number of parents. We recognize that many children have grown up in households before same sex marriage was available to their parents, and our congregation has always treated the entire family as a unit for membership purposes.
- We reject gender stereotypes and appreciate diversity of men and women in our congregation. Our Sisterhood and Men’s Club activities are welcoming to all who identify with the respective groups and our activities go well beyond traditional gender roles. Transgender and gender diverse children, adolescents, and adults are respected with regards to name and pronoun use, and treated with the dignity every individual is due.
- We teach our children tolerance and celebrate diversity in our Religious School, Hebrew High School and Youth Group programs (Kadima/USY). We do not condone bullying for any reason. We want our young people to know they should feel free to be themselves without fear and we strive to cultivate an environment where this is possible.
Celebrations and Ritual
Beth Shalom belongs to the Conservative Movement of American Judaism which permits same-sex unions and provides for full participation of gay and lesbian Jews and their families in congregational life. From simchas (joyous times) to tzoris (sadness), lifecycle events are celebrated with sensitivity and respect regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
In addition to celebrating marriages, Rabbi Greenspan will partner with congregants to create and perform sensitive and meaningful rituals (such as aliyot, misheberach prayers, naming ceremonies, b’nai mitzvah, and mikveh immersions) to mark significant milestones relevant to coming out, building a family, gender affirmation and transition.
Some Words on Marriage
The union of a couple is always a celebratory event. Rabbi Greenspan will be happy to meet with all couples contemplating marriage, provide the same pre-marital counseling offered all couples, if desired, and can discuss opportunities for involvement in Judaism and the synagogue. For all couples, there is flexibility to formulate a meaningful ceremony that incorporates traditional elements (chuppah, shevah brachot, broken glass) and is valid under Jewish and civil law. The ketubah signed by same-sex couples varies from the traditional text and Rabbi Greenspan can assist the couple in selecting the appropriate document and personalizing the language if desired. An Ufruff, other pre-wedding milestones, and anniversaries can be celebrated in the congregation, including the sharing of an aliyah to the Torah on Sabbath morning during services.
Please be aware that rabbis and cantors in the Conservative Movement are only permitted to officiate at a marriage between two members of the Jewish faith. Nevertheless, Rabbi Green span and Beth Shalom can provide support and resources for all those considering marriage, for interfaith newlyweds, and for interfaith families.
More on our welcoming of interfaith families can be found here.
Our clergy can provide affirming spiritual and pastoral counseling and further resources for individuals dealing with sexual orientation and gender identity/expression issues and their families and friends looking to understand and support them.
You may find this guide (“Coming Home to Judaism and to Self”) published by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation helpful as it offers insights drawing on a wide variety of Jewish voices including Stuart S. Kurlander, openly gay past President of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.