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By Vivian DeGain
Temple Emanu-El, a liberal Reform synagogue in Oak Park, is a spiritually-affirming and welcoming community to all peoples.
Judy Lewis of Southfield, director of the Faith Alliance at Affirmations in Ferndale and former director of Jewish Gay Network of Michigan, said Temple Emanu-El is the first Jewish congregation in the area to pro-actively and openly support diversity and inclusion.
Lewis, a member for 30 years said, “Temple Emanu-El has been my congregation, my home, and continues to be a place of renewal and reconnection for me. I feel so welcome each time I am engaged in an activity or event, or in worship.”
She spoke to the congregation recently when two friends were honored with an anniversary blessing by the rabbi and congregation.
Rabbi Joseph Klein said, “We are an inclusive neighborhood congregation with a strong emphasis on education, social action, and personally meaningful worship experiences. We are a full-service synagogue with a small congregational feel. We know our members. We are large enough to provide quality professional and lay leadership that responds to the many and diverse needs of today’s Jewish families.”
Ruthanne Okun of Huntington Woods joined Temple Emanu-El in 1999 with her nontraditional Jewish family.
“As a single parent with an adopted child who was born in Guatemala, I was seeking a temple that would provide us both with unqualified acceptance. I found that at Temple Emanu-El. Rather than focusing on our differences, we have been respected for our uniqueness and welcomed without reservation into the congregational family. We have encountered many kinds of families who have brought an entirely new and unique dimension to our lives.” Her son Daniel became a Bar Mitzvah and recently graduated from Emanu-El’s high school.
Lewis shared her personal journey as part of a Shabbat worship message recently delivered to the congregation, “In the 1980’s, I had just divorced and acknowledged to myself, my family and friends that I was a lesbian. It was during this very frightening and fragile time that I began attending services at Temple Emanu-El. Each week I would meet new people who seemed open and friendly and I knew that I would need to come out.
“All the rest, as they in Jewish circles, is commentary. I was accepted fully. So was my daughter and my life partner. I taught in the religious school, served as Youth Choir Director for 15 years and as Co-Music Director for seven years. I never hid the fact that I was a lesbian and a mom. I’m happy to say that I received lovely affirmations from Rabbi Klein and temple staff.”
“Temple Emanu-El became the first Jewish congregation to exhibit at the LGBT Marriage Expo, which was sponsored by Between The Lines Newspaper and the Marriott Hotel in Livonia,” she said. “Temple also exhibited at Motor City Pride. The leadership of our temple has provided me with the opportunity to present workshops to our high school students – and to our lay leaders – on becoming an even more welcoming congregation.”
Temple Emanu-El invites prospective members to the Family of Families Congregational Picnic Sept. 9 at 11 a.m. for food, games, entertainment and activities. The highlight of the event will be the unveiling of a beautiful mosaic tile collage. Each tile was created by children and members to represent their individuality. The tiles have been designed into a beautiful and massive collage representing Jewish community.
Temple Emanu-El extends a personal invitation to all members of the LGBT community and others to visit the congregation and experience first-hand the warm, welcoming and open atmosphere. Temple Emanu-El is located at 14450 W. Ten Mile Road, Oak Park. Phone 248-967-4020, http://www.emanuel-mich.org.