Diversity and Inclusion
As our name Congregation Shalom (Congregation of Peace) suggests, we stand for a Judaism that is inclusive and open to all. We believe there are many authentic ways to be Jewish and that everyone will feel at home within our spiritual home in San Antonio.
Our congregants include interfaith families, those exploring Judaism, Jews by choice, single parent families, adoptive families, multi-racial families, single people, those with physical and intellectual disabilities, and those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Recognizing that we are all created b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God, Congregation Shalom embraces all Jews and their families as full participants in all religious practices and in the entire communal life of the congregation. The Congregation Shalom community strives to embrace the needs of today’s community and believes we are a stronger, more vibrant Jewish community because we fully welcome and incorporate all the diversity that defines modern Jewish life.
We also welcome those who seek to learn about Judaism and experience all it has to offer to fully participate in the life of the community. We hope you will share in the warmth of our community and contribute your own gifts by joining us.
Congregation Shalom offers individuals and couples the opportunity to explore their Judaism in a warm and welcoming environment. We work to empower people to make Jewish choices for themselves and their families and we strive to provide resources to inform educated decisions. Our doors are open to people of diverse religious backgrounds, ability levels, economic status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and ethnic, racial and cultural backgrounds. Don’t take our word for it. Come to a program or service, talk with Rabbi Lisa Goldstein, and you will feel our inclusive welcome.
Congregation Shalom is committed to being the center of accessible Judaism in San Antonio – where everyone can find their place, where Jewish ideals are made real, and where education is the key that unlocks the door to a lifetime of Jewish fulfillment and commitment. We hope your connection with us will be spiritually and emotionally satisfying.
Like all Reform Jewish congregations, we hold the mitzvah (sacred obligation) of ahavat ger (welcoming the stranger) among the most important tenets of our faith. We actively welcome interfaith families into our community and encourage their participation in our congregation. We work to empower people to make Jewish choices for themselves and their families and strive to provide resources to inform educated decisions. Here at Congregation Shalom, interfaith families are full members of our community. We welcome but do not pressure non-Jewish family members to participate in whatever aspect of congregational life you enjoy and find meaningful.
You may be wondering about…
If I’m the non-Jewish spouse in an interfaith marriage, will I be pressured to convert?
If you initiate a conversation with Rabbi Goldstein, she will be delighted to discuss it with you, however she will never pressure you. We are here to support you within your existing family structure.
Will both parents be able to participate in our child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah service?
Absolutely! We want the experience to be meaningful for the entire family, and invite both parents to participate fully in the service, from the ceremony of passing Torah down through the generations to standing up at the Torah during the aliyah (Torah blessing), to the opportunity to bless your child. Our creativity allows family members of other faiths to help celebrate your simcha (joyous moment) as well.
Our child just got engaged to someone who isn’t Jewish. Will you officiate at the wedding?
Mazal tov! It would be my honor to officiate at your child’s interfaith wedding. Let’s talk!
In case you are interested in more…
- Interfaith Couples: Reform Judaism Welcomes You – an article from the Union for Reform Judaism
- Every Person’s Guide to Judaism, a book by Rabbi Stephen Einstein and Lydia Kukoff
- Judaism 101: Everything You Wanted to Know about Judaism But Were Too Embarrassed to Ask
- Jews by Choice – a website about, by and for Jews by Choice
Or email Rabbi Lisa Goldstein with your questions.
“For my house shall be a house of prayer for all people.” Isaiah 56:5
We firmly believe that every Jew has the right to a rich Jewish life and education in a welcoming environment, and at Congregation Shalom, we work hard to turn that belief into a reality. Access looks different for everybody, and our approach is therefore both communal and individualized.
Services – During the COVID pandemic, our services and other activities have all been online. We use Zoom meeting to create a participatory experience, and stream simultaneously to YouTube Live for those who prefer to simply watch the service. Once we can safely meet in person again, we plan to offer multi-access services, with attendees both in the room and on Zoom. When on Zoom, our on-screen prayers are enlarged so all can see. When we are live, we have amplification devices available for anyone who is hearing impaired. We have a few large print prayerbooks available as well.
Education – Children with varying learning and physical needs are all welcome in Kesher Shalom, our children’s education program. Rabbi Goldstein, who teaches the children, has over 30 years of experience working with special needs education. Our program is structured in a way that all students are supported and can succeed. Adults, too, benefit from our thoughtful approach to adult learning, with multi-access to classes and both print and digital handouts.
B’Mitzvah – Our B’Mitzvah program is also highly individualized. Our children work with Rabbi Goldstein to determine what they will do in the service. This could range from saying or chanting the Torah blessings and reading a few verses from the Torah, to chanting an extensive passage from the Torah, giving a D’var Torah, and leading most of the service. The expectation is that each child will work to their individual potential, and Rabbi Goldstein strives to ensure that the experience is a meaningful one for both the child and his/her family and for the entire congregation.
Disability touches each of us during the course of our lives. You may have a disability yourself. You may have a friend, colleague, or associate with a disability. You may be the parent, spouse, son, daughter, grandparent or other relative of someone who has a disability. You know that all of us benefit — as individuals, within our families, and as members of a vibrant congregation — from Congregation Shalom’s commitment to accessibility and inclusion.
What can you do?
- If you or a family member has a need we are not meeting, please let us know.
- If you have ideas or expertise relevant to disability, or if you are simply interested in what we are doing to promote access and inclusion, please let us know.
- Support Jewish Disabilities Awareness Month each February
Join us. Talk to us. Educate us.
In case you are interested in more…
Union for Reform Judaism’s Special Needs Resources, including links to other websites of interest.
MULTICULTURAL, MULTI-ETHNIC JEWS
The population of San Antonio is racially and ethnically diverse, and the membership of our congregation reflects that diversity. We believe this is something to celebrate, as Judaism has always been a mosaic, a beautiful collection of different colored and shaped pieces. We are also “Mosaic” in that we connect back to Moses, a Hebrew child, raised by Egyptians, who married a non-Jewish woman of color and became the leader of his people.
Today at least 25% of the world Jewish population is racially and ethnically diverse, including African, African American, Latino (Hispanic), Asian, Native American, Sephardic, Mizrahi and mixed-race Jews by heritage, by marriage, and through adoption.
Naming Ourselves: Challenges and Celebrations
How do we talk about ourselves when the language we have is too narrow and confining, like outdated racial categories on a census form? How do we describe a group for which there is no group label?
We must use what is admittedly inadequate language: “Jews of color,” “diverse Jews,” “racially and ethnically diverse Jews.” All of these terms refer to those who are in currently distinct subcultures from the majority Jewish community in the United States. Many people who fit this description don’t necessarily fall neatly into one of these categories, yet many in the mainstream view them as being “other.” At Congregation Shalom, we celebrate you as a Jew, no matter what name you call yourself, whatever your origins and culture, whatever your skin tone or eye-shape, whatever your path to Judaism. You (and sometimes your family) are Jews, and we welcome and celebrate you!
In case you are interested in more…
LGBTQIA+ ADULTS, COUPLES, AND FAMILIES
We support marriage equality and welcome LGBTQ+ families, youth and allies. Our rabbi is an outspoken advocate on behalf of legislation that benefits trans youth, in particular, and all LGBTQ+ people, in general. As a community, we are always striving to learn more about the issues that will help us become better allies and a more embracing congregation.
You may be wondering about…
Weddings: We support our LGBTQ+ members who choose to sanctify their unions with a wedding ceremony. All members and their children are entitled to the services of Congregation Shalom’s rabbi on an equal basis for the purpose of sanctifying the holiness of their relationship with a religious ceremony, and Rabbi Goldstein looks forward to helping you celebrate this joyous occasion!
Celebrating Other Milestones: LGBTQ+ members are encouraged to celebrate milestones in their lives, including anniversaries and birthdays, during our monthly anniversary/birthday blessings services. Congregation Shalom also supports its members during times of sickness and death. We celebrate and support all members, whether lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or cisgender and heterosexual, as their life cycle events and transitions are shared with the congregation. All LGBTQ+ members who adopt or give birth to children are encouraged to bring their children into the Jewish covenant through public rites of B’rit Milah for boys and B’rit Bat for girls. Rabbi Goldstein officiates at such ceremonies for both boys and girls.
In case you are interested in more…
Going back to 1965, the Reform Movement has a history of supporting LGBTQIA+ issues including religious inclusion, admission of gay and lesbian students to seminary, and equal marriage.
- In 2007, the Union for Reform Judaism Press published Kulanu: All of Us? A Program and Resource Guide for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Inclusion.
- A complete listing of all of the Reform Movement’s resolutions and responsa on the topic
- An excellent summary of the Reform Movement’s history of lesbian and gay inclusion, see Rabbi Denise L. Eger’s chapter “Embracing Lesbians and Gay Men: A Reform Jewish Innovation” (a chapter in Contemporary Debates in American Reform Judaism: Conflicting Visions).
- Institute for Judaism and Sexual Orientation at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) has mission to achieve complete inclusion, integration and welcoming of LGBT Jews into congregations and communities. They develop curriculum and programs in the community as well as train HUC-JIR students on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, on how to challenge and eliminate homophobia and heterosexism and to learn tools to be able to transform the communities they encounter into ones that are inclusive and welcoming of LGBT Jews.
- The World Congress of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Jews: Keshet Ga’avah – A coalition of over 65 member organizations from 12 countries representing the interests of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Jews. Sign up for their free e-newsletter with LGBT news from all over the world.
- Torah Queeries, a joint project of Jewish Mosaic and the World Congress of GLBT Jews is a weekly creative and incisive LGBT take on the Torah portion or Jewish holiday, brought to you by some of the Jewish world’s most dynamic scholars, rabbis, activists and lay leaders.
A few interesting books:
We thought that these were a few interesting books, films and articles on being Jewish and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender. If you have one that you would like to recommend, let Rabbi Goldstein know.
- The Wedding: A Family’s Coming Out Story by Douglas Wythe/Andrew Merling & Roslyn Merling/Sheldon Merling (AvonBooks 2000). This true story of a wedding is told from four different viewpoints: the two halves of the gay couple, Douglas Wythe and Andrew Merling, and Andrew’s parents, Roslyn and Sheldon Merling. While the family is Conservative Jewish, it is completely applicable to Reform Judaism as the family experiences the upcoming wedding of their Jewish son, living in New York, with an initial degree of shock, then settles in to go through the steps necessary to come to terms with all involved in accepting a gay marriage. In a close-knit community, each phase of the wedding presents a unique set of compromises and lessons learned.
- Queer Jews, edited by David Shneer and Caryn Aviv, explores “the conflict between the desire to integrate into established Jewish communities…and creating and maintaining ‘separate’ spaces for queer Jews.”
- Mentsh: On Being Jewish & Queer, by Angela Brown/Editor (Alyson Publications 2004). “Tossed between sometimes contradictory cultural imperatives, queer Jews often find themselves in a soul-searching struggle to integrate their religious beliefs with their gayness. Over 30 contributors from around the world (including Israel, Serbia, and Australia) reveal their surprising, poignant, sometimes hilarious experiences in ways that offer a staggering perspective on issues of identity, institutions and culture from the viewpoint of the queer outsider struggling to belong.”