Gay Conservative rabbi to speak at Chevrei Tikva’s 25th anniversary
By Arlene Fine Senior Staff Reporter Published: Friday, April 17, 2009 1:10 AM EDT
Rabbi J.B. Sacks is a descendant of 17 illustrious Orthodox rabbis on his mother’s side and a number on his father’s side. Yet none of them bears his particular rabbinic distinction.
Sacks, 53, is the first ordained Conservative gay rabbi in America. He will be the keynote speaker for Chevrei Tikva’s 25th anniversary celebration April 24-26. Chevrei Tikva is the community’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender congregation (GLBT).
The rabbi, who lives with his life partner Steven Karash and their son in Los Angeles, grew up in a Conservative Jewish household in rural Michigan. “By the time I was a teenager, I knew two things: that I was gay and that I wanted to link my destiny with that of the Jewish people,” Sacks says in a CJN phone interview. “As a gay man, I was determined to follow my family’s rabbinic path despite the obstacles.”
Comparing his desire to be an integral part of the Jewish community to the words of the Torah, Sacks reasons, “There are a prescribed number of letters in the Torah; even if just one letter is missing, it is not a kosher Torah. If one Jew is not allowed to participate in a community, then you do not have a kosher community. With so much assimilation and intermarriage, we don’t have Jews to waste, and we cannot afford the luxury of deciding who belongs and who doesn’t belong based on sexual orientation.”