We had a great turnout for the SOP Clergy Breakfast on November 8, 2011.
Watch the video and then read a review by RJ Mendoza
On Tuesday November 8th 2011, religious leaders assembled at CBST for the Shelter of Peace Breakfast Briefing to learn about LGBTQ youth homelessness and rally the faith community into action.
The turnout was amazing, with a number of synagogues represented such as Rodeph Shalom, Town and Village Synagogue, and The Society for the Advancement of Judaism. Clergy from Riverside Church, Restoration Temple Ministries, the Judson Memorial Church, were present and we were very grateful to have them. We are also very grateful to Cooperberg-Rittmaster Rabbinical Intern Guy Austrian for writing a beautiful, empowering prayer that certainly reached heaven, without regard to specific doctrine or theology.
Honestly, I don’t think any of us can understand the magnitude of any social ill on all levels until we hear candid personal accounts of what it is like to be on the inside. Giving us a peak at the founding and mission of the Ali Forney, Carl Siciliano, founder and Executive Director, spoke to the clergy about the day to day struggles and pain of service provision. Siciliano brought to life one reality of the situation: While the staggering numbers of LGBTQ homeless youth continues to grow, there is only a finite amount of beds, space and resources.
To address the question of governmental resources, New York City Councilman Lew Fidler (D- District 46, Brooklyn) spoke to the audience, reinforcing his commitment to the youth of New York City as the Chairman of the Youth Services Committee. Councilman Fidler detailed how every year he has to fight to maintain a budget that isn’t large enough to start with. In these times of economic uncertainty, shrinking resources and growing need force departments and organizations to do more with less. Councilman Fidler reiterated the necessity of for people of all faiths and walks of life to come together to put pressure on our political leaders.
Personally, I was moved by two young speakers, Adrian St. Vincent and Jeremiah Wallace, who bravely shared their personal stories of being LGBTQ and homeless. I think it was when these young speakers began to share their stories that chords were struck with the guests. As members of the LGBT community we all have our stories of coming out and finding a place for ourselves in this world. While many of us have found places—be it with families of origin or choice, with friends or even here at CBST—these young speakers remind us that there is a generation of our youth who are without homes and yet to find their way.
Now it is the time for us to be the mezuzot (or guideposts) for the new generation of LGBTQ community. We, who have dealt with similar issues, in one way or another, can stand as markers of gateways to a better life. We must accept the responsibility for the generations to come, to show them that there is a place for them in the world. To honor that the journey may be a challenge, that there may be transitions, some uncertain and uncomfortable, but that they are not alone.
I jumped on board Koleinu right after the High Holy Days, and although I am still new to CBST, I am not new to the challenges and hurdles of being LGBT. I invite everyone to jump in- in any way that is meaningful to you- join us for a committee meeting (next one is Thursday 11/17 at 6:30, at 57 Bethune Street), spread awareness of the issue to your friends and family, write/email/telephone Governor Cuomo and your legislative representative, or even contribute financially or your time to organizations like the Ali Forney center.
The festival of lights and miracles are just down the block. Let’s create light and miracles for the next generation in honor of those who made light and miracles for us.