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2013-04-19 digital edition
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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved. 


April 19, 2013  RSS feed
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Panel discussion planned on Jewish acceptance of LGBTs

Jay Michaelson, who grew up in Tampa, and is now considered one of the top LGBT religious leaders in the country, will be one of the panelists. Jay Michaelson, who grew up in Tampa, and is now considered one of the top LGBT religious leaders in the country, will be one of the panelists. Acceptance within the Jewish community of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals and families will be the focus of a free panel discussion.

The program, “My House Shall Be A House for All People: The Blessings and Challenges of Being an Inclusive Jewish Community,” will be on Thursday, May 2 from 6-7:30 p.m. at Metro Wellness & Community Centers, 1315 E. 7th Ave., Tampa.

The panel discussion is being organized by Tampa Jewish Family Services (TJFS) and will feature local rabbis. experts and a nationally known author with Tampa ties.

The idea for the panel discussion came from Rabbi Jason Rosenberg of Congregation Beth Am, who said he hoped the public discussion “will lead to even more progress” on acceptance of the LGBT community in Judaism.

“As far as I know all the [Tampa Bay area] synagogues are very welcoming to the LGBT community, but it is not something we talk about much. And if you don’t talk about it much in the community, then how would they know we are a safe place to go. … This is a chance to put a really important issue on the community agenda,” Rabbi Rosenberg said.

Panel members include Rabbi Rosenberg, Rabbi Robert Judd of Congregation Kol Ami, Rabbi Betsy Torop of Congregation Beth Shalom in Brandon, Dr. Rachel Silverman and author Dr. Jay Michaelson. Moderator will be Lydia Abrams, clinical director at TJFS and a certified advanced social work case manager.

Silverman’s research focuses primarily on the intersection of Jewish and LGBT identities in popular culture. Her 2010 doctoral dissertation at the University of South Florida was titled “Coming Out, Becoming, Being and Doing: A Spectrum of Jewish Female Identity in Contemporary Culture and A Call to Action for the Jewish Community.

Michaelson, who lives in New York, is author of God vs Gay? – The Religious Case for Equality. He grew up in Tampa, was a member of Kol Ami, and returns when he can to visit his mom. He was a featured author in the Tampa Jewish Book Festival in 2011. He was recently included on the Huffington Post’s list of the top LGBT religious leaders in America.

The panel will explore the rapid changes in how religious and secular institutions relate

to LGBTs and what those changes mean to
the Jewish faith.
The program will address questions such
• How can our religious institutions practice what we preach in terms of inclusion
and diversity?
• What are the gifts that LGBT people
bring Jewish communities?
• How have Jewish communities related to
civil rights movements in the past and how
might we do so today?
The panel and discussion will feature multiple perspectives and there will be personal
stories of local Jewish LGBT individuals,

as well as folks who have evolved from adversaries to allies, according to a prepared statement from TJFS.

“We’ll learn best practices for having difficult conversations with those who disagree with our point of view and for building welcoming synagogues through our language and deeds. Most importantly, we’ll have a robust and open conversation in which differing views are respected and no question is off the table,” the TJFS press release states.

In his book, Michaelson makes the case that religion and homosexuality should not be opposing forces. “I called it God vs. Gay because there was a time when I thought it had to be one or the other,” he said.

Now, Michaelson argues that God would never ask people to repress their true identities, and that when religions are inclusive of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals, it enriches the religious community by helping people become more compassionate and better able to see beyond stereotypes.

Michaelson is vice president of the Arcus Foundation, a leading global foundation advancing LGBT equality, and the author of five books and two hundred articles on religion, sexuality, ethics, and contemplative practice. For more information on the program, call TJFS at (813) 960-1848.

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