This past March, all four Eser groups came together for a Shabbat dinner at a synagogue inBrighton, followed by a very open “Ask the Rabbi” panel. There were representatives from Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and non-denominational Judaism. We were told that no question was off the table. I asked each rabbi to speak about her/his denomination’s progress on LGBT issues and what they each feel is the next step on the road to inclusion. The question to the panel sparked passionate and honest responses about each rabbi’s own denominational community, sometimes contrasted with the current realities of their congregations.
As a gay Jew, I’ve seen many communities become more open-minded and all-encompassing, although it is clear we have a long road ahead. For me, the issue has never been about tolerance. Tolerating someone’s existence is not the same as equality. Equality comes from a celebration of the vast diversity within the Jewish community.
I left the event excited to share the discussion with my fiancé, Nick. When I got home, I saw two burnt-down candlesticks on the windowsill. Nick was sitting in the living room and I asked him about them. Very nonchalantly, he said he had lit them. Nick is just starting to embark on the conversion process. I asked him if he said the bracha (blessing) to which he replied, “Of course!” I’m pretty sure that was the first time that he had done that independently, without me. That one action led to a really nice conversation about how we can try to find time in our non-traditional schedules for Shabbat and the Jewish community.
Nick and I have been together since 2008. We’ve only been engaged for about 5 months. In the time since we’ve met, our relationship has grown and evolved, along with our relationship to Judaism. For me, Judaism has grown from something that I did with my family, to something that I did alone, and now to something that the two of us share. As we work toward conversion and marriage, we’ve found that it is really the little things, the small steps and practices, that move us closer to being a family. And next year, we hope to participate in Eser together to keep our journey going
Andrew Oberstein is participating in the Cambridge group of Eser 2013. Originally from Los Angeles, he now resides in Boston, where he works as an actor in theaters around New England.
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