pRiSm: The mission of pRiSm is to Strengthen Jewish LGBTQA life and identity at RS and in the world. It works to create an inclusive congregation through education, advocacy, and celebration.
World AIDS Day Commemoration
Tonight’s service begins AIDS Shabbat. We commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of World AIDS Day on December 1, 2018, a day designated to raise awareness and support for those currently living with HIV and to remember those who lost their lives to AIDS-related illnesses. AIDS Shabbat has special meaning for our synagogue because RS merged in 2015 with Congregation Beth Ahavah, Philadelphia’s only LGBTQ synagogue. Tonight Rabbi Maderer will read in memoriam the names of BA members lost to AIDS.
The history of BA dates back to six years before the AIDS epidemic began, when synagogues were not welcoming to the LGBTQ community. In June 1975 five people, including Jerry Silverman, began discussing the formation of an LGBTQ synagogue for Philadelphia, and by October services began in Henry Seigel’s living room. Congregation Beth Ahavah was incorporated in February 1977. In October 1989 BA voted to affiliate with the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. The Holocaust Torah used in today’s service was acquired by BA in October 1991. The Torah cover was created by Howard Davidson, a BA congregant.
Through the combined efforts of Susan Klehr, RS President, and Jocelyn Block, BA President, BA moved from its home on Letitia Street to RS on October 15, 2006, and its members began worshipping in what is now the Groom’s Room. The full merger of BA and RS as of September 30, 2015, was coordinated by Joan Levin, BA President and Lloyd Brotman, RS President. The merger reflects the RS commitment to inclusion, diversity and non-discrimination regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. The connection group pRiSm, which is sponsoring the oneg following tonight’s service, was created pursuant to this commitment to carry out at RS the BA mission of outreach and welcome to the LGBTQ community.
pRiSm invites you to the special oneg following tonight’s service. Please take this opportunity to view the panel of the AIDS Memorial Quilt on display in the Community Room which honors BA members lost to AIDS. Please join us also on December 2 at noon for a pRiSm-sponsored light brunch and a program on “World AIDS Day & AIDS Memorial Quilt: History & Future Directions”, featuring Robb Reichard, Executive Director of AIDS Fund Philly.