Getting Involved in the Jewish LGBTQ Community in Philly

June is Pride Month, which celebrates those who are homosexual, bisexual, transgender and queer, and recognizes their historical struggle for equal rights. Locally, many people rocked rainbow colors at the Philly Pride Parade, including members of the Philadelphia Jewish LGBTQ community. For Jews looking for LGBTQ activities and information beyond the parade, there are a number of communal resources available year-round.

pRiSm is an LGBTQ social group within Congregation Rodeph Shalom that is also involved in activism. In addition to marching in this year’s parade, the group hosted its second annual Pride Shabbat dinner. Among the speakers was Amber Hikes,  executive director of Philadelphia’s Office of LGBT Affairs. Throughout the year, pRiSm provides “people of all gender and sexual identities” in “Philadelphia and the greater Delaware Valley’s GLBT Jewish community” with a space for community, education and activism, according to the group’s website.

J.Proud and Spectrum Philly, two other groups that cater to Philadelphia’s queer Jews, cosponsored pRiSm’s Pride Shabbat.

J.Proud is a group within Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Greater Philadelphia. In addition to hosting Passover seders for the LGBTQ community, J.Proud also held an educational conference last fall in conjunction with Congregation Kol Ami on inclusiveness for transgender and non-binary (people who don’t identify with a specific gender) Jews. On its website, J.Proud offers an extensive list of Jewish LGBTQ resources, including social services, congregations, schools and other useful information.

Spectrum Philly is geared specifically to LGBTQ Jews in their 20s and 30s, offering a range of social activities, such as parties, Shabbat dinners and opportunities to attend cultural events. in fact, on June 29, Spectrum is holding a happy hour meet-up at Toasted Walnut Bar and Kitchen.

Finally, for those who are not quite ready to join a group, but who would like to learn more about Jewish-American LGBT history, the Tumblr page called LGBT Stories: A Collecting Project might be a good resource. This page was created by Philadelphia’s National Museum of American Jewish History in 2014, and was followed a year later by an exhibit called “The Pursuit of Happiness: Jewish Voices for LGBT Rights.” Although the installation, which featured artifacts from a series of gay protests in the 60s, is over, the LGBT Stories page remains. The site acts as both a resource for curious readers and an opportunity for Jewish LGBT Americans to share their stories.

pRiSm, J.Proud, Spectrum Philly and the NMAJH Tumblr page are only a sampling of the resources available in the Jewish LGBTQ community in Philadelphia — but they are good places to start for those interested in getting more involved.

PA Senator Casey: I Can No Longer Deny Same-Sex Couples Equality


Graph by Dylan Matthews, The Washington Post

— Senator Bob Casey (D-PA)

When the Respect for Marriage Act (the legislation that repeals the Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA]) was first introduced and debated in the Senate in 2011, I began to focus on the issue of same-sex marriage much more intensely than I had before. As a candidate for the Senate in 2006 and 2012, and as a Senator, I have supported civil unions. I also supported strongly the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT), was a leading co-sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), and had stated publicly that I opposed efforts to enact constitutional prohibitions on same-sex marriage. In the six years I have been in the Senate, there have not been any floor votes to repeal DOMA or to legalize same-sex marriage. Both questions have now been argued before the Supreme Court and are being debated across our country. After much deliberation and after reviewing the legal, public policy, and civil rights questions presented, I support marriage equality for same-sex couples and believe that DOMA should be repealed.

Continued after the jump.
As part of my consideration of these issues, I read letters written to me by LGBT Pennsylvanians and their families. These letters included deeply personal statements from people across our Commonwealth and the questions they posed challenged me directly. These stories had a substantial impact on my position on this issue. If two people of the same sex fall in love and want to marry, why would our government stand in their way? At a time when many Americans lament a lack of commitment in our society between married men and women, why would we want less commitment and fewer strong marriages? If two people of the same sex want to raise children, why would our government prevent them from doing so, especially when so many children have only one parent, or none at all? A letter I received from a woman in Southeastern Pennsylvania was particularly compelling:

My partner and I are both college educated. I am a stay-at-home mom and part-time kindergarten assistant teacher. I left a full-time position […] when my partner gave birth to our twins to be a stay-at-home mom. We went through the process of second parent adoption and are both legal parents to our kids. My partner and I have been in a committed relationship for 18 years. We attend church every Sunday and we own a house, cars, and are truly blessed by our [two children]. As I do a rough calculation and add up the additional money we have paid in taxes compared to a financially similar heterosexual married couple over the last ten years, that amount approaches $100,000! $100,000 dollars would go a long way towards future retirement or in the college education of my kids. More important than the financial inequality to me is the message I send to my kids. My kids have two proud and loving parents who are honest [and] work hard. I want my kids to know they are equal and our family is equal […] I just want my family to be treated equally and with respect by my state and federal government.

As a Senator and as a citizen, I can no longer in good conscience take a position that denies her and her family the full measure of equality and respect.

I understand that many Americans of good will have strong feelings on both sides of this issue. I believe elected public officials have an abiding obligation to refrain from demonizing and dividing people for partisan or political gain. Rather, Democrats and Republicans should come together and find areas of agreement to do what’s best for the country, including lesbian and gay Americans.