Nehirim sponsored a conference in San Francisco discussing the contributions from and issues facing the LGBTQ Jewish community.
The Torah has been interpreted for many years as forbidding any sort of relationship that does not fit the typical heterosexual format, yet there has just been a groundbreaking conference held in San Francisco that discussed the impact and the contributions that LGBTQ people have made to the Jewish faith. More than sixty chaplains, rabbis, and students spoke about what it means to be Jewish, what it means to be part of the LGBTQ community, and what it means to be both LGBTQ and Jewish in the 21st century at the LGBTQ Jewish Clergy Retreat.
The four-day conference was sponsored by Nehirim, a Jewish group that supports the LGBTQ community. The director of this organization Rabbi Debra Kolodny described the conference as a means of “looking at our unique contributions to Judaism and spirituality, and how it can apply to other human rights issues.” The conference delved deep into theology and liturgy with in depth studies of the Torah. However, the conference also brought some light and laughter into the discussion by having dinners and a fashion show.
People traveled from many different countries, from Canada to Germany to Israel, for what was likely the first time that LGBTQ clergy have come together in more than twenty five years. There was a broad range of ages and backgrounds, but all of them had something key in common: an interest in discussing how LGBTQ people have and continue to contribute to the Jewish faith, and how they can continue to grow within it. There were some people at the conference who originally did not feel confident to be out when they first entered rabbinical school, but now there is a much better understanding of how LGBTQ people fit into the Jewish family.