LGBTQ Inclusion / Keshet

Most synagogue websites start off by saying that they’re a “warm and welcoming community” and it’s a wonderful sentiment. For LGBTQ individuals and families, it quickly becomes clear whether they are truly welcome, or if that welcome is conditional.

At Temple Isaiah, “warm and welcoming” isn’t just lip service. WE MEAN IT. We firmly believe in b’Tzelem Elohim, that we are ALL created in God’s image. Seeing the divine in others allows us to treat everyone with dignity and humanity. 

We are registered as an affiliate synagogue with Keshet, a national organization that works toward full LGBTQ equality and inclusion in Jewish life. At Temple Isaiah, we:

  • Established the Randi Leshin Fund for LGBTQIA+ Equity & Equality in Jewish Life, seeded by a generous donor. (You may make donations here.)
  • Participate in Howard County Pride every year. 
  • As part of our building expansion, we added a gender-neutral bathroom.
  • Amended the language in our B’nai Mitzvah program guide to be gender-inclusive.
  • Added a “B’rit Mitzvah” certificate for our non-binary students.
  • Added a rainbow “Buddy Bench” to our TI Preschool playground (seen in the video on our home page).
  • And, we are always trying to grow and be better. If there is something we are currently doing (or not doing) that could be changed to make sure that Temple Isaiah is the most welcoming and affirming place for all, please let us know. We mean it.

We advocate for Keshet’s Seven Jewish Values — Guidelines for inclusive Jewish Community:

Judaism teaches us to treat ourselves and others with respect; even the stranger is to be treated with
respect. Kavod is a feeling of regard for the rights, dignity, feelings, wishes, and abilities of others.
Teasing and name-calling disrespect and hurt everyone, so learn to respect people’s differences.

Our community centers, synagogues, youth groups, and camps are often our second homes. Everyone
needs to feel comfortable, safe, and respected at home. Don’t ostracize those who seem different. Strive to settle disagreements in peaceful and respectful ways that allow all community members to maintain their dignity.

The Torah tells us that we are all created “b’Tzelem Elohim” (Bereshit 1 :26), in the image of God. This
is a simple and profound idea that should guide our interactions with all people. If we see each
person as created in the image of God, we can see humanity and dignity in all people. True inclusion is
built upon this foundation.

The Jewish principle that “All Israel is responsible for one another” (Shavuot 39a) means each of us must take action and inspire others to create a community in which we can all take pride.

The Talmud warns us that we must take care in how we use language. Talking about others behind their backs, even if what we are saying is true, is prohibited. The guidelines for “sh’mirat halashon” remind us that what we say about others affects them in ways we can neverpredict. Words can hurt or heal depending on how we use them.

Commenting on Leviticus 19: 18, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” Rabbi Hillel once stated that this is
the foundational value of the Torah. It begins with loving ourselves. We must love and accept our whole selves, and in doing so create the capacity for extending that love and acceptance to others.

“Don’t separate yourself from the community” (Pirkei Avot 2:4). When you feel different from others in
your community, don’t isolate yourself. Find allies and supporters who you can talk to. If you
know someone who is feeling isolated, reach out; be an ally and a friend.