Tag Archives: Congregation Sha’ar Zahav

trans remembrance shabbat

Since 1999, November 20th has been set aside in cities across the country as Transgender Day of Remembrance. This day memorializes those who have been killed due to anti-transgender hatred. High rates of murder and other violence continues to be one of the most critical issues facing our transgender communities; and more and more people, trans and non-trans, are raising their voices in commemoration and protest.

Since 1999, November 20th has been set aside in cities across the country as Transgender Day of Remembrance. This day memorializes those who have been killed due to anti-transgender hatred. High rates of murder and other violence continues to be one of the most critical issues facing our transgender communities; and more and more people, trans and non-trans, are raising their voices in commemoration and protest.

This Friday evening marks the sixth year that San Francisco’s progressive reform Congregation Sha’ar Zahav has stepped into the role of Jewish community caretaker for the annual sacred event of transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR).

More and more people, trans and non-trans, are raising their voices in commemoration each year.

This particular evening, open to the greater community – both Jews and our Jewish allies, will be focused on remembering all who have suffered from anti-transgender violence.

The service beginning at 7:30pm led by Rabbi Camille Angel and Martin Rawlings-Fein will be focused in part on the holy act of remembering.

Together as a community we will read the names of those that have been murdered this year due to anti-transgender violence. As well as all of the unknown whom no one really knew the following names will be included:

♥ Idania Roberta Sevilla Raudales z”l, ♥ Luisa Alvarado Hernández z”l, ♥ Lady Óscar Martínez Salgado z”l, ♥ Reana ‘Cheo’ Bustamente z”l, ♥ Génesis Briget Makaligton z”l, ♥ Krissy Bates z”l, ♥ Fergie Alice Ferg z”l, ♥ Jessica Rollon z”l, ♥ Tyra Trent z”l, ♥ Priscila Brandão z”l, ♥ Marcal Camero Tye z”l, ♥ Shakira Harahap z”l, ♥ Miss Nate Nate (or Née) Eugene Davis z”l, ♥ Lashai Mclean z”l, ♥ Didem z”l, ♥ Camila Guzman z”l, ♥ Gaby z”l, ♥ Gaurav Gopalan z”l, ♥ Shelley Hilliard z”l

May each of these names be for a blessing. 

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Posted by on November 16, 2011 in Jewish Bay Area


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Have you started to celebrate LGBT Pride month yet? Here is my top ten moments that I look forward to each year in San Francisco.

Since I was a teenager I have made San Francisco Pride month an annual rite of passage that I won’t skip for anything. Here are my top 10 annual favorite Pride moments that I can hardly wait to enjoy again this year:
  1. Not being the only person in the audience falling in love with each amazing performance at Fresh Meat Festival of transgender and queer performance…  (don’t miss this!)Fresh Meat Productions creates, presents and tours transgender and queer performance, dance and media arts.
  2. Seeing as many films made by my Jewish queer friends as possible at Frameline… ( we have a few more comp tickets let me know if you want one)One of my favorite colleagues at Pride with her Rabbi
  3. Submerging my entire body in sunscreen and still getting a suntan at Civic Center at our Jewish Pride booth… (keep me company at our booth!)Our annual Jewish community booth
  4. Giving my aunts, uncles and parents huge hugs when I run into them randomly having their own fun at Pride without me even asking them to be there to support me…my amazing family enjoying Pride together
  5. Standing on stage to introduce an Israeli LGBT Film or Gay Jewish Director and feeling awe-struck by the beautiful people in the crowd there to see another incredible LGBT film…me doing what i love to do - organizing loudly at pride
  6. Waving hello to the thousands of participants of the annual Trans March from the windows above where they are marching at Congregation Sha’ar Zahav during our Annual Kabbalat Shabbat Pride ServiceTrans Marchers
  7. Enjoying what always seems to be the very best day of San Francisco weather with clear blue sunny skies amongst the thousands of rowdy hot hipsters at the Dyke Rally and Marchdyke march and rally is always an incredible people watching experience at the very least!
  8. Letting everything hang-out and dancing in the streets at the best street party of the year with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence on Pink Saturday…Pink Saturday in the Castro
  9. Being overwhelmed and overbooked by the sheer amount of options to celebrate Pride Jewishly!Rabbi's Marching in the 2009 Pride Parade
  10. Taking the morning off work to just catch-up on sleep the day after the Frameline closing night film and party…  Seeing everyone at the Castro Theatre, Victoria or Roxie during Frameline each year is the best!

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Honor the memory and birthday of one of our most globally recognized San Francisco Gay Jewish leaders with your own messages of hope!

Come Out! Come Out! Wherever you are!  Come Out! Come Out! Wherever you are and celebrate the 2nd Annual Harvey Milk Day this weekend! Harvey Milk, the New York born and raised son of Jewish immigrants became the first openly gay man elected to a major public office in 1978. Sadly, within a few months of his San Francisco election he was assassinated (more). Harvey’s memory is now being remembered, celebrated and honored globally each year on his birthday as a day of action. Celebrate by telling your story and taking action. Celebrate by suggesting more LGBT Jewish hero’s to honor with the Hineini Visibility Project.  Learn more about Harvey Milk and how to honor his memory…

 Harvey Milk Facebook Profile Picture Campaign

Change your Facebook profile picture to this 1953-54 US Navy photo provided here for download from the Harvey Milk Foundation


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Ronald P. Wilmot Scholarship for Jewish kids of LGBT Parents in the San Francisco Bay Area

Ronald P.Wilmot z”l, a gay real estate magnate and active member of Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, established a scholarship fund at the San Francisco based Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund specifically for the sons and daughters of queer parents before he succumbed to AIDS in 1997 at the age of 46. Although he had no children of his own, according to an article in the J. News Weekly, his friends said he was very concerned that smart kids in alternative families have less access to higher education than their traditionally raised peers.

Ronald P. WilmotThe Ronald P. Wilmot Scholarship is intended for Jewish students from the Federation Service Area (San Francisco, Sonoma and Marin Counties as well as the areas north of Sunnyvale on the Peninsula) to supplement student and family contributions, as well as other financial aid, grants and awards. The scholarship is based on a combination of need and merit. The application deadline for this scholarship is generally listed in the late spring so please help spread the word that this unique scholarship exists in our community.

Questions? Students off to attend undergraduate or graduate programs at accredited, non-profit colleges or universities in the San Francisco Bay Area with LGBT identified parents should apply. For questions including how to receive additional information regarding the scholarship program contact Federation’s College Scholarship Program Manager at 415-512-6264.


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remembering our cancelled chanukah celebration for marriage equality

The Introduction of this blog post was written by Margee Churchon, Jewish Community Liaison for Marriage Equality USA and Program Associate for the Jewish Community Relations Council

As of this afternoon President Obama, in a major legal policy shift, has directed the US Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act against lawsuits challenging it as unconstitutional. This is the act from 1996 that bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages.

Of course before this incredible decision was made by The Obama Administration a lot of work was done in the grassroots to help create the understanding for a decision to be made in the defense of same-sex couples.  

An amazing Jewish hero and the much discussed father of Community Organizing, Saul Alinsky once said, “Change means movement. Movement means friction. Only in the frictionless vacuum of a nonexistent abstract world can movement or change occur without that abrasive friction of conflict.”

This movement and change however it is played out can be witnessed by our children. The speech below, written by 13 year-old Sydney an 8th grader at Brandeis Hillel Day School speaks to this movement. As we celebrate as a community that the Defense of Marriage Act is now considered by the Obama Administration impossible to keep defending as constitutional let us honor the multiple paths it took to create this change…. Lisa Finkelstein

Marriage: Not  just for straight Maccabees Anymore

The rain was pouring the afternoon before the Ninth Circuit Court’s Prop 8 trial on Sunday, December 5, 2010. Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) and its partners had organized a family-friendly Chanukah celebration for marriage equality, Marriage: Not just for straight Maccabees anymore, but the rain just kept coming, the hot chocolate we brought was turning quickly into cold chocolate, and my phone was ringing again and again from people who called to say they weren’t coming.

The Jewish community is overwhelmingly supportive of marriage equality – approximately 80 percent voted against Prop 8 – and this was going to an awe-inspiring family event. Suffice it to say, I was sad that I had to cancel the day. Our microphone and speakers couldn’t get wet. But out of that day there is still inspiration to share. Sydney, an eighth grader at Brandeis Hillel Day School, prepared amazing and touching remarks about growing up in a loving family with two mothers, and the effect that Prop 8 had on her own life. Since Sydney was not able to share them with you the day before the trial, Lisa has them here for you to read. I hope you find the same encouragement, insight, and hope in her words that I do.

Prop 8 Speech for Sunday, December 5,2010 steps of 9th District Court

Hi, my name is Sydney. I am 13 years old, and an 8th grader at Brandeis Hillel Day School. When I was asked to speak about my family, I didn’t know what I would say. Having two moms has become matter of fact for me. But, then I thought about Prop 8, and how it has influenced my life. And that is what I’m here to tell you today.

It was a few days before the election when voters would decide whether lesbian and gay couples could be married. We were all very excited, and hopeful that Prop 8 wouldn’t succeed. One night, my family decided to go out to dinner. We had to drive separately. Benji and my mom, Dawn, drove in one car. My other mom, Tracy, and I drove in another car. As we drove out of our community, we noticed, yet again, a bunch of signs supporting Prop 8 in one area. Every time we drove out of our home, we were reminded that our family was not accepted. It was so hurtful that we felt compelled to do something about it. We hopped out of the car and started taking the plastic signs off of the poles in the ground. As I started down the hill for more signs, three big white trucks zoomed towards me.

I was already running to the car as my mom yelled, “Get into the car.

Men in the trucks were yelling and racing towards us. My mom raced around them, towards the restaurant. The truck followed us, racing alongside our seemingly small car, and flashing lights at us. I couldn’t help but let tears fall down my cheeks; I was scared.

After what seemed like hours of the truck chasing us, my mom stopped the car, slid down the window, and yelled, “Stop! Would you please stop? You’re scaring my daughter!”

You should have thought of that before,” the man yelled back.

My mom tried again, ”’You’re scaring my daughter!” Hesitation. The window of their truck was pulled up and I watched his truck disappear down the road.

I was raised around diversity and the idea that everyone is equal. There were always people who would question the ability to have two moms, and those who weren’t willing to understand. However, the many communities that I feel a part of have protected me from bullying and feeling alone.

These communities, Temple Emanuel, Brandeis, and Camp Tawonga all have goals to make everyone feel at home, so I never experienced a deep and hurtful level of discrimination, before the night we were chased.

That night, my eyes were fully opened. I realized that beyond my life, there was a high level of intolerance and hatred. It had never occurred to me that those intolerant people could be in my backyard. As I continued to think past my
life and what causes people to be hateful, I realized it was most likely because they did not grow up around differences. They came to believe that diversity and difference threatens them and their families, and that difference is immoral, (whether it’s somebody crossing a border, an African-American man running for president, or a girl facing deportation because her parents came here illegally).

In one night, I realized the degree of discrimination still going on in the world today and how it can influence someone’s life. Additionally, I realized my responsibility in reaching out to others to make them feel the acceptance and belonging I have felt. When I help a homeless person, work with autistic kids, or even help a friend who is getting teased, I know that I am helping people to feel good about themselves, just as my family has done for me.

Let me tell you something about my family. My family might be considered different, but they’re just as good as any other family. My two moms are extremely supportive of all my interests, whether it be volleyball, art, guitar, or even looking at different high schools. Benji is more than just a brother to me, but also a friend. I am extremely close to all of my friends, love hanging out with them, and know I can trust them with anything.

My school, Brandeis Hillel Day School, celebrates everyone’s differences and the teachers get to know each students very well. I enjoy going to an assortment of camps every summer, and next year I am looking forward to high school. If you asked any kid in my class, I think they would tell you about the same thing.

However, there is one thing that is different about my parents than many of the other parents in my class: While they were one of the lucky 18,000 who were married, the federal government still doesn’t recognize them as a married couple. In addition, they live under the fear that Prop 8 could be reinstated and their marriage taken away. No couple deserves to live under that fear. And, no child deserves to have to worry about their family in this way. My worries have become more mature as I’ve matured, but the irrational worries of a younger child could even include that their parents will be split up or taken away. When a child knows that their parents aren’t treated equally, then how can that child feel secure and safe? And, to think that these worries are caused by an unreasonable fear of difference, otherwise known as Prop 8.

My parents, who have been together almost 22 years, still aren’t fully recognized for their commitment to each other. And there are still many couples who aren’t recognized at all, because they can’t get married due to Prop 8. Prop 8 has negatively affected many lives, and at some point that has to stop. In the end, we are all people who just want to be loved and treated equally. Thank you.

I am Queer. I am Jewish. I want Equality.

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Posted by on February 23, 2011 in Hyperlocal


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The pain of concealing one’s identity is something that we understand as out LGBT identified Jews. We are grateful for the privilege of being out and open in our communities, but in so many places the struggle to be our full complete selves continues.

This past weekend at the San Francisco Queer Shabbaton, Lisa Finkelstein had the opportunity to attend as well as faciliate a discussion on the how the intersection of intimacy and boundries can build a diverse Jewish community. The previous weekend Arthur had the opportunity to attend an East Coast Orthodox-based Shabbaton with 140 other LGBT Jews. Many of the participants said to Arthur with great emotion that they had dreamed all their lives of a community where they could be their authentic LGBT Jewish selves. As each community event, party, concert, discussion or fundraiser presents opportunities to connect all of our LGBT Jewish lives together we hope that you will too choose to join us out in the community.  


From the expansion of visitation rights at hospitals, the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and now the unbarred travel to the U.S. for people living with HIV/AIDS, our community has cause for celebration, yet there is much more work ahead. See our upcoming events and read an elaboration on these topics written by our newest Federation team member, Max Kopeikin.


Arthur Slepian, Chair & Lisa Finkelstein, Director of the LGBT Alliance of the Jewish Community Federation co-wrote this piece in hopes to seeing all of our readers OUT in the community


Congregation Sha’ar Zahav and Stanford Hillel
Feb 25, 26 & 27   

The Taube Center for Jewish Studies at Stanford hosts a weekend of Shabbat connections, Discussion & Learning
Power of One
Feb 07 5:00pm – Feb 07 8:30pm
 A celebration of Jewish women & men who inspire each & every one of us to make a difference.
Israeli Photographer Adi Nes
JCCSF – Feb 01 7:00pm – 8:00pm
Hillel at Stanford – Feb 02 12:30pm – 2:00pm 

Palo Alto JCC – Feb 02 7:30pm – 9:30pm

Internationally acclaimed Israeli artist about his Israeli homo-erotic soldiers’ Last Supper, homeless Bible Stories and much more 

Celebration of The Robert Giard Exhibibition
Feb 09 7:30pm – 9:00pm

Particular Voices: Portraits of Jewish Gay and Lesbian Writers featuring poets Teya Schafferm & Elana Dykewomon
Just Because It’s Not Wrong Doesn’t Make It Right
Feb 09 7:00pm – 9:00pm

From toddlers to teens, teaching children to think and act ethically with author expert Barbara Coloroso


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Posted by on January 31, 2011 in LGBT Alliance


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being our whole selves.

Arthur is the writer of this post.

It has been an amazing weekend with 150 LGBT Jews at the Eshel Shabbaton. So much joy, warmth, hopefulness and inspiration.

The energy and joy of people who have waited a long time for the chance to be together. And I’ve met so many wonderful people. Just some highlights: I’ve participated in two workshops with Rabbi Steve Greenberg, prayed Shabbat morning with about dozen folks in a beautiful egalitarian minyan, and attended a workshop today on what halacha has to say about sex-change surgery.

Yesterday I acted in a play about Parshat Yitro (I was Elder #2, the boy who played Moses was 7, and the girl who played Yitro was only a bit older), and read a poem from Siddur Sha’ar Zahav at a talent show emceed by “Sylvia Sparklestein”.

The diversity here, in terms of gender, geography, age, Jewish observance, etc. is remarkable. There are people here from all over the country and the world (London, Brazil, Canada). I did not travel the farthest to get here, but I am glad I came.

It was -2 degrees F last night, but not too windy and the icicles hanging from the buildings are beautiful.

This note was written by Arthur Slepian on Sunday 1.23.11 and reposted with his permission today 1.28.11. You can learn more about Eshel’s mission and activities as well as find Orthodox Jewish LGBT resources here.

Winter at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Connecticut. It's beautiful!

We are in continuous gratitude to the many teachers and leaders that helped make this first-ever Shomer Shabbaton of its kind welcoming gay and transgender frum (or formerly frum) traditional Jews happen. A particular heart-felt thank you needs to be extended to Elaine Chapnik, Yitz Pries, Chani Getter, Mordechai Levovitz, Rabbi Steven Greenberg, Chasiah Haberman, Erez Harari, Miryam Kabakov, Professor Joy Ladin, Jessica Smith, Justin Spiro and Michael Hopkins.


Posted by on January 28, 2011 in Jewish Bay Area


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