Dawn of a New Day


This article was written by Tami J. Miller, proud parent of 10 year old Shane Abraham Miller, after last year’s first Jewish LGBT “Shabbaton”, and was published on Tribe Magazine in April 2012.

Details on our 2013 LGBT Family Retreat can be found here

The Malibu Mountains are home to periwinkle, mountain dandelion’s, thoroughwort, mugwort, thistle, bachelor’s button, horseweed, chicory, yarrow and one of my favorite’s sage. Just as our LGBT Jewish families… these flowers represent diversity, heartiness, adaptability, and intense beauty.

For most of us we CHOOSE to become parents, we had to actively find fertility clinics, sperm donors, adoption agencies and attorneys. As foster parents we were finger-printed, took classes on “how to parent”, and mandated to take a psychological exam that was insulting, all to become “certified” for us to become parents. So many details and challenges to do one of the most basic and fundamental needs for humankind … to simply create our own families.

The Malibu Mountains are also home to the Shalom Institute, our host for the first annual LGBT Family Shabbaton on April 20 – 22, 2012. Though this event was initiated by Beth Chayim Chadashim, an extensive list of other synagogues and Jewish Institutions joined in this collaboration.

We came together as strangers for Shabbat dinner on Friday evening and departed as a community on Sunday afternoon. The camp felt isolated and yet protected. As a parent I knew Shane was safe, safe enough for me to relax. As a single parent relaxation is a stranger, and something I wrestled with all weekend. Some wrestle with their Judaism, some with their LGBT identity. But, at “The Shalom Institute” it was truly a home of peace, of beauty and of harmony. It was a welcome moment away from our lives in crazy, busy, demanding LA.

Judaism was woven throughout our day. We prayed outside on Shabbat embraced by the canyon walls, our hearts reached for the sky with the tall branches of oak and walnut trees. During Torah study parents and children shared about silence and how we are when we experience quiet and what happens with our thoughts and our bodies. We were blessed with clergy and cantors from multiple congregations, and of course our very own. Leah Zimmerman Dir. Of Ohr
Chayim, Rabbi Lisa and Cantor Juval helped to create a timely and important first, and now annual Shabbaton.

At dinner we sang blessings in Hebrew, and in English. In the evening outside in the amphitheater the kids did their proverbial “talent show”. But somehow with the fire circle near us, hot chocolate and smores in our bellies this time the kids were funnier, more talented, smarter and more precious.

Activities varied, I started with an early morning hike with Joel, and others hiked to the setting of the stars in the evening. Shane’s favorite was the zipline and hanging out with his friends. He also told me “sleeping” in the bunkhouse with other snoring and farting boy’s also ranked “top” on his list of favorite things about the weekend. Other traditional camp activities included tie-dying shirts, arts and crafts, basketball and hiking. There was also a “petting zoo” and a class on “Edible Judaism”. Though I did not participate in the latter I am positive the class was “G” rated!

At Shalom Institute Joel Charnick and Bill Kaplan have “Important” titles at the Institute. But, when the doors of the office were closed for the day and all of the politics, fundraising, details of planning and organizing events for camp were behind closed doors. Joel, Bill and all of the staff became caretakers of the land, and guides for individuals to experience something out of the ordinary, and a breath-taking opportunity for us to touch our Judaic souls.

Below is another article from TRIBE magazine, about Jewish LGBT families. (click to enlarge).


Leave a Comment