Rabbi Lisa Edwards’ Remarks upon receiving an LGBT Heritage Award from the city of LA


Forty-two years ago next month, a handful of gay and lesbian Jews in Los Angeles held their first Sabbath service, and began laying the groundwork for a congregation that, in the language of the time, referred to itself as “the Homophile Jewish Community.”

42 years ago in Los Angeles and in the Jewish world, there was good reason to form such a congregation. Then, and still now in too many places in the world, “queer” is not used in the cheerful way it is here in this room today.  Los Angeles and Judaism each have had more than their share of laws and customs that permitted discrimination of all sorts, including violence, against people who look different, or love differently, or live in what some call “the shadows.”

I doubt the founders of Beth Chayim Chadashim, “House of New Life,” our congregation, ever imagined that 42 years after they started it, BCC would be a thriving congregation of families and individuals of all ages, sexual & gender identities, with a beautiful new building and a commitment to city and to community that keeps BCC woven into the fabric of Los Angeles and of the queer community and of the Jewish people.

I am here with you today becausethose founders dreamed, and invited everyone who has come along since to live their own dreams.

The result?

Barriers are erased while diversity is embraced. 

If you doubt that, think about where we all are right now — the City Council Chambers of the Los Angeles City Hall — and the reason we are all here – a City government celebration of LGBT Heritage Month.

I don’t mean to suggest the work is over, all goals and hopes and dreams achieved.

Far from it. 

But I am grateful to live ‘in this time and in this place’ and to be given the opportunity to be a teacher and an encourager — to nurture courage within the hearts of people to own our Judaism — to study it, to live Jewish lives, to be dreamers and activists, to use our tradition and our teachings for their intended purpose: to inspire us to work in partnership with God and with each other to make our shared world a place worth sharing.

I am so honored to be in this good company today — thank you so much.

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