Chef Rotem Greniman prepares Tel Aviv favorites photo courtesy of Malinda Hartong

Courtesy of Mitch Cohen.
Chef Rotem Greniman prepares Tel Aviv favorites photo courtesy of Malinda Hartong

Submitted by Adath Israel Congregation 

On Friday evening June 23, Adath Israel held their first Pride Shabbat. More than 200 congregants attended a special service, dinner, and celebration that focused on diversity and inclusion. The theme of the evening was Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv is known as one of the most welcoming cities for the LGBTQIA+ community. Tel Aviv also holds one of the largest Pride parades in the world.  Natalie Wolf, Adath Israel’s President, said, “It makes me feel so good that Adath Israel is showing its pride and support for our LGBTQIA+ congregants. We are finding new ways to be welcoming to everyone in our community.”

The evening began with a Pride service in the main sanctuary. Originally the service was to be held in the chapel, but when RSVPs grew to over 100 and kept growing to 200, it was moved to the larger main sanctuary. Congregants saw a Jewish rainbow Pride flag with a Jewish star in the center. Rabbi Smolkin invited several congregants up to read poems and excerpts that were specific to the LGBTQIA+ community. Some of the readings included, “Twilight People” by Rabbi Reuben Zellman, “Our LGBTQ Siblings: A Prayer of Remembrance,” “She’asanu Betzelem Elohim,” adapted from a speech by Rabbi Adam Rosenwasser, and “For LGBTQIQ People” by Andrew Ramer. Mitch Cohen played guitar and led several prayers including a Debbie Friedman arrangement of Mi Chamocha. Rabbi Smolkin gave a d’rash that closed with the theme of building a better world through peace and love. The congregation joined in the singing of Olam Chesed Yibaneh with the lyrics, “And if we build this world from love, then God will build this world from love.”  

After the service, the crowd entered the Lerner Fisher Hall where they saw balloons of many colors floating above more than 20 tables. Some showed off their new face paint.

Chef Rotem Greniman set up several food stations with a wide variety of Tel Aviv favorites, including shawarma, falafel, sabich, shakshuka, hummus, and baba ghanoush. A line of little rainbow pride flags stuck out of the top of the sabich eggplant sandwiches. An 8-foot table was completely covered with different colored candies. Another table displayed 6 clear drink dispensers filled with blue, yellow, orange, and red punch. Rainbow popcorn was on many of the tables. Rainbow mini challahs were donated by Rebecca Garfinkle Plymesser.

Children were immersed in activities including a huge gaga ball pit, hula hoops, balloon making, balloon limbo, and face painting. Marc Brafman was the DJ, and he created a special Pride music mix with Israeli and American songs.

Adath congregant Sarah Manning attended with her daughter Maya. Sarah said, “Pride Shabbat at Adath! I absolutely love this inclusive community I belong to.” Several congregants expressed their wish that Pride Shabbat would become a regular tradition for years to come.