From the late 1970s to a few years ago, CEC was a proud and active member of the national Reform Jewish movement. We were one of the first Gay and Lesbian synagogues officially recognized and invited to be members of the Reform movement ( now known as the URJ).
At the time we first joined the Union, membership to any other branch of Judaism was closed to us because of our LGBT status. It was a different time and a different place. We are honored to have been trailblazers in the movement and we are appreciative that the leadership of the Reform movement let us join. I am sure some of their members at the time were not happy with openly gay and lesbian Jews being part of their movement.
But at CEC, many members were not really connected to Reform Judaism. Many grew up in Conservative or even Orthodox
households and went to a very traditional type of Hebrew and religious schools. For them joining a Reform synagogue was foreign and not their first choice. But because CEC was (and is) primarily an LGBT “family” it felt right for them regardless of which denomination the synagogue as a whole belonged.
Over the years CEC outgrew the attachment and need to belong to any one national Jewish movement. Also the annual cost of dues to the Union were quite high, about $10,000 per year. As our finances dipped over the last 3 to 4 years it became clear that
regardless of our past history with the Union, we could not afford to continue. Additionally many people on our Board of
Directors felt that we were short changing ourselves by belonging to any one movement, as the Jewish LGBTQ members came from so many “stripes” of the Jewish rainbow. In 2007, your elected Board told the URJ that we could not pay our bills anymore and they could take us off their list of members if they wanted. They kept us on their membership list, and they continued to charge us the membership fee; as of today they claim we owe them over $33,000.
As our restructuring phase at CEC continues, your Board will continue to discuss this issue
internally, and bring up for a vote with our entire membership what the final outcome should be going forward. Of course the outcome involves a
financial as well as a spiritual discussion. As a congregation, we are an amalgam of religious
backgrounds and as such we need to welcome everyone into our tent, not just those whoidentify as members of one denomination over another.
In closing, we are proud of our long relationship with Reform
Judaism, and our past affiliation with the BART Shabbat program (Broward Area Reform Temples). While in the past several of our members attended this special service, we always held our own regular Shabbat service on that night for those who did not care to attend BART. As a sign of our members’ interest, less than a handful of us attended the BART service this past year. I invite feedback on this issue. Please email your thoughts to: firstname.lastname@example.org and use the subject line: Reform Judaism. Thank you!
- David Yalen, President of Congregation Etz Chaim