WHO WE ARE – OUR HISTORY
GLIC was formed nearly 20 years ago and was the first committee of its kind in Reform Judaism. It followed the formation of the UAHC’s (now the Union for Reform Judaism) the then Greater New York Council Gay and Lesbian Resource Committee by Temple Beth-El members John Hirsch and Herb Leiman who had already become leaders in the Reform Movement. From the beginning Dr. John Hirsch has been the chair of both of these committees.
By the mid 1990s the temple’s board had already voted to make Temple Beth-El of Great Neck open and welcoming to gays, lesbians, their families and friends (now the GLBT community) by approving all the Union for Reform Judaism’s long list of Biennial and Religious Action Committee’s resolutions.
Dr. Hirsch became a national spokesperson for this inclusion serving on the national Board and becoming the co-chair of the Gay and Lesbian Taskforce (later a part of the URJ’S Department of Jewish Family Concerns) of the Union. He co-edited the first Kulanu: A Handbook for UAHC Congregations. This book significantly chronicles Temple Beth-El’s journey to complete inclusion. From the very first GLIC Chanukah Supper, GLIC has sponsored its toy drive for children infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS. This GLIC-sponsored toy drive was quickly supported by the Early Childhood Education Center, the Religious School and the temple’s membership. GLIC now provides enough toys for the Pediatric AIDS division at North Shore University Hospital to have toys to distribute, not just at holiday time, but also all year long.
GLIC has participated in a variety of organizations such as the World Conference of Gay and Lesbian Jewish Organizations, AIDS Interfaith Long Island, the Long Island Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and in the annual Gay Pride Marches in New York City and Huntington, Long Island, carrying the temple’s banner.
Dr. Hirsch and Mr. Leiman were honored in 2005 as Grand Marshals of the Long Island Pride Parade for their work in the community and especially GLIC. A contingent of temple leaders drove to Huntington to participate in this honor.
From the beginning, Rabbi Jerome K. Davidson (Rabbi Emeritus) became a strong leader among rabbis throughout the country with his loud and impressive stance about gay and lesbian inclusion. Along with Rabbi Davidson, members of the temple’s clergy have officiated in many life cycle events for gays and lesbians including weddings and Brit Milah ceremonies for their children.
One of the great prides of the Gay and Lesbian Inclusion Committee has been the many gay and lesbian Jews who have joined the temple and then for geographic, family or business reasons, left to join other Reform congregations in their new communities, bringing their Temple Beth-El experiences with them to become Jewish leaders in a number of Reform Jewish synagogues.