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Newsletter | Our Torah Scrolls | Our Own Prayerbook | Our History | Our Rabbi

Who We Are

Bet Mishpachah is a congregation for gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, trans and queer Jews and all who wish to participate in an inclusive, egalitarian, and mutually supportive community. Since its founding in 1975, our congregation has grown to hundreds of members.

Our membership is comprised of singles, couples, and families, and is open to everyone, regardless of Jewish background, sexual orientation, or gender identity. We are proud to have a celebratory community of women and men who share equally in the leadership of the congregation.

We join together for weekly Shabbat services, educational events, social action/social justice community service, and holidays-- affirming our religious and cultural heritage, and celebrating our LGBTQ+ and Jewish identities.

Our rabbi guides our spiritual path, and leads or co-leads half of our Shabbat and holiday services. Other services are conducted by our experienced cadre of lay leaders. Consequently, our Shabbat services provide a variety of spiritual experiences and approaches.

And, speaking of music, you do not want to miss our incredible professionally-led choir, Tach'shitim, who sing for our beautiful High Holy Day (HHD) services and at select Shabbat services throughout the year, or our Mizmor Shabbat musical services with a song-leader/guitarist on the second Friday of each month. 

Want to learn more? Read Mishpachah Matters, our newsletter, and join us for Shabbat or an upcoming event! 

Our History

1975, founded in Washington, D.C. as the Metropolitan Community Temple (MCT) -- Mishpocheh with the support of the Metropolitan Community Church. 

1976, hosted the first International Conference of Gay & Lesbian Jews, convened in response to the UN resolution equating Zionism with racism. The LGBTQ+ synagogues that were emerging around the country and the world started this organization as a regular forum for communications and mutual support.  It continues to be active today. 

1978, elected our first Board of Directors, began holding weekly Shabbat services, and moved to Christ United Methodist Church at 4th and I Streets, SW. 

1979, obtained our first Torah scroll – a Holocaust Memorial Scroll, on permanent loan from the Westminster Synagogue in London (now the Memorial Scrolls Trust). This scroll belonged to the small, 500-year old Jewish community of Dolni Kounice (in Yiddish: Kaunitz), in the former Czechoslovakia. This community was destroyed by the Nazis in 1940.

1980, Hebraicized our name to Bet Mishpachah:  Family House. 

1980, co-founded the World Congress of Gay & Lesbian Jews at the Third International Conference of Gay & Lesbian Jews, in San Francisco.

1985, hosted the Ninth International Conference of the World Congress of Gay & Lesbian Jews at the Omni-Shoreham Hotel in Washington.  Our keynote speaker was Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA).  Then-mayor Marion Barry personally delivered a proclamation of "Gay and Lesbian Jewish Conference Days in DC."

1991, engaged our first clergy: Rabbi Bob Saks, who was with us for 18 years and is now our beloved Rabbi Emeritus. 

1991, celebrated the purchase of our second Torah scroll. Written in 1917 in Tzarist Russia, it was never mounted on Eitzim Chayim or used by a congregation until we acquired it. Built a new Ark to house our Torah scrolls. The doors of the ark were hand-carved by one of our members and featured a magen david with a lambda (an early gay liberation symbol) in the center.

1991, published our own Shabbat and festival prayer book, Shavat va-Yinafash ("Rest and Be Renewed").  The text was gender-neutral in reference to God and gender-inclusive with respect to people in both Hebrew and English.  Several other LGBTQ+ congregations around the country chose to use our siddur for their services, including Miami/Fort Lauderdale, Cleveland, Dallas and Tampa. 

1992, published T’filot Nachumim (Prayers of Consolation for a House of Mourning) for use during shiva minyans and memorial services.

1993, a member of the congregation designed and crafted the “Burning Bush” which sits on top of the Ark and serves as our Ner Tamid (Perpetual Light). 

1997, moved to the newly-renovated historic District of Columbia Jewish Community Center in the heart of Dupont / Logan Circle as our new home.

1998, dedicated new “everyday” mantles for our two Torah scrolls. The mantles, designed by a local Judaica artist, feature a rainbow motif and are inscribed with the quotation from Genesis 9:14b-15a, "When the rainbow appears in the cloud, I will remember My covenant."

1998, completed our own five volume High Holy Day machzor, Chadeish Yameinu ("Renew Our Days"), with liturgy for each of the High Holy Day services.

1998, hosted the Eighth Eastern Regional Conference of the World Congress of GLBT Jews.

2000, engaged a second rabbi, Leila Berner. Rabbi Berner is with the congregation through 2004.

2000, dedicated new High Holy Day Torah mantles and Ark curtain. Both are designed by the artist who created our “everyday” mantles. The new mantles are cream colored and trimmed in antique silver and gold braiding. The curtain is sheer with a hand-embroidered design. The mantles and the curtain are inscribed with the phrase, “Hashiveinu Adonai eilecha, v’nashuva” ("Turn us to You, O God, and we shall return” ).

2004, a pair of sterling silver rimonim (Torah finials) was donated to the congregation for our “Russian” Torah scroll.

2009, Rabbi Bob Saks, our guide for 18 (chai) years, retired in July 2009 and became our rabbi emeritus.

2009, engaged our new rabbi, Toby Manewith. She served the congregation through 2012.

2010, received the Mautner Project's Healing Works Award.

2011, celebrated our 36th (Double Chai) Anniversary with a Gala Concert at the Washington DC JCC.

2013, engaged our new rabbi, Laurie Green and a program coordinator, Sharon Greenbaum

2014, acquired a dedicated section of the historic Elesavetgrad Cemetery in Congress Heights in SE Washington for Bet Mishpachah members.  

2017, joyously celebrated the second hard-cover edition of our unique prayer book, Shavat va-Yinafash (480 pages) with a gala dinner-dance in November and proudly dedicated our new siddur on December 1. 

2018, created a sacred grave at our cemetery and buried old books that had been damaged by a water leak. 

2018, during the renovation of the Edlavitch JCC building, moved temporarily across the street to Foundry United Methodist Church at 16th and P Streets, NW. 

Our Own LGBTQ+ Affirming Prayer Books

The new, second edition hardbound Shavat va-Yinafash. Published in December of 2017.

 

Bet Mishpachah’s unique prayer books reflect the spiritual values of our congregation. Our siddur for Shabbat, festivals, and special occasions, Shavat va-Yinafash ("Rest and Be Renewed"); our machzor for the High Holy Days, Chadeish Yameinu ("Renew Our Days"); and our shiva book for a house of mourning, Ha-Makom Y’nacheim ("Source of Comfort") were developed by our Liturgy Committee to meet our needs as LGBTQ+ Jews and allies.

Shavat va-Yinafash offers a wide variety of prayers, readings, and meditations by contemporary liturgists, including LGBTQ+ writers and several members of Bet Mishpachah. Several special prayers from a trans perspective are also included.

The siddur includes services for Shabbat evening and morning, including the service for reading the Torah. It also includes the Amida for festivals and weekdays, and selected prayers and readings for holidays and special occasions throughout the year. The English translations use gender-neutral terminology with respect to God, and both male and female forms with respect to people are used in Hebrew and in English. We have also added many references to women, such as all six Matriarchs and the Prophet Miriam. Some Hebrew prayers are in the feminine gender. Much of the translation of the traditional Hebrew prayers is original to Bet Mishpachah and is uplifting and inspiring in new ways. All Hebrew is transliterated.

More information on Bet Mishpachah's approach to liturgy is available in this booklet created by Liturgy Committee chair Scott Reiter, and presented at the Aleph (Jewish Renewal) Kallah 2018: Making Liturgy Gay, Making Prayer Happy

You are invited to celebrate the new siddur and to support the congregation by donating $54 for a bookplate for the inside front cover of a siddur that will be used during services at Bet Mishpachah. Click here to order a bookplate in honor or in memory of a loved one.

Click here to donate and receive a copy of the new siddur. The suggested donation amount is $40 per book including postage.

We dedicated the updated and expanded second hardcover edition of our unique prayer book, Shavat va-Yinafash, at our weekly Shabbat service on December 1, 2017. Two weeks earlier, we celebrated publication of our new siddur with a gala dinner dance. 

The first hardbound edition of Shavat va-Yinafash was published in 1991. It was the first hard cover degenderized siddur ever published. It was adopted by several other LGBTQ+ synagogues around the country, including those in Cleveland, Miami/Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, and Dallas.

Member and friends of Bet Mishpachah were exceedingly generous in supporting this project. On the Benefactors page in the new siddur, the names of 67 very generous donors are listed.

Your comments and suggestions are always welcomed. In addition, if you have an interest or background in liturgy and would like to participate in this process, please contact liturgy@betmish.org

                                              

Bet Mishpachah’s prayer books contain many original works and translations that the congregation’s members wrote themselves.

 

 

Our Torah Scrolls

Bet Mishpachah's current Ark, donated by Stuart Sotsky, containing Bet Mishpachah’s two historic Torah scrolls

 

Bet Mishpachah's historic Torah scrolls are on permanent loan from the Memorial Scroll Trust in London. 

An in-depth history of the Czech Torah Scrolls from the Leo Baeck Temple

Mon, May 20 2019 15 Iyyar 5779