INTO THE NIGHT: Spotlight on Congregation Beth Simchat Torah

Downtown Jewish Life

May 9, 2018

We are just ten days away from INTO THE NIGHT, a night long celebration of Shavuot.

On May 19th, the downtown Jewish community will come together to celebrate Tikkun Leil Shavuot at INTO THE NIGHT, a contemporary “white night” festival. Leading up to this celebration of Jewish culture and traditions, we have highlighted the organization behind Tikkun, the 14th Street Y, and shared more about a few of the night’s most popular events, such as interactive theater and Jewish chanting.


Today, we are highlighting one of more than 30 community partners participating in this year’s Tikkun, Congregation Beth Simchat Torah (CBST), an inclusive congregation that attracts and welcomes gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender, queer and straight individuals and families who share common values.  Passionate, provocative, and deeply Jewish, CBST champions a Judaism that rejoices in diversity, denounces social injustice wherever it exists, and strives for human rights for all people.

The partners of Downtown Jewish Life pride ourselves on creating open, welcoming spaces for all, and seek to find common bonds across communities and identities that unite us. With this in mind, one of this year’s Tikkun themes is “From Stranger to Sanctuary,” a group of sessions led by CBST, meant to spark a dialogue about the Jewish community’s role in welcoming members of other communities, including LGBTQ+ people, immigrants, and followers of Islam.

“Both ‘stranger’ and ‘sanctuary’ are two beautiful concepts reflected in Jewish scared text and Jewish lived experience through time and across the world. They can be read as a transitional journey from a point of newness to familiarity and holiness, from distance to intimacy, from outside to inside. But each of these ideas is connected to the Shavuot celebration in its own right: as a holiday where we lift up the incredible contributions of those who were once ‘strangers’ to the Jewish community.”

– Rabbi Yael Rapport, Assistant Rabbi at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah

According to Rabbi Rapport, “Synagogues have become essential players in interrupting narratives of hate directed towards the ‘strangers in our midst’ — especially immigrant and Muslim communities.” In the session “From Sanctuary to House of Peace,” CBST clergy members Rabbi Marisa James and Ayalon Eliach will tell the story of how they and their congregation stepped forward to stand up for their neighbors, and they invite you to share your stories of community action as we learn from each other different ways welcome the “strangers” in our houses of worship.

Other sessions from CBST in this track include a sing-along featuring musical selections from Jewish immigrants, and a talk about joining the Jewish community as a convert — both providing different views on Judaism’s relationship to the concept of being a “stranger” or outsider.

“Through our track there are lots of different opportunities to increase your expertise or discover something totally new! You can try some text, try some action, try a sing-a-long, or try some pickles and veggie dumplings! We hope that in each session there is something universal and recognizable and something completely new for each participant.”

– Rabbi Yael Rapport, Assistant Rabbi at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah

Our downtown Jewish community is richer for having you in it. So whether you belong to a synagogue already, are exploring Judaism for the first time, or are looking to make connections with people outside your faith, we hope you will join the 14th Street Y, CBST, and our other partner organizations for INTO THE NIGHT. Don’t be a “stranger”!

From Stranger to Sanctuary: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This central teaching of Jewish tradition has never been so essential, nor so challenged. Join CBST in a night-long track of learning with clergy and teachers, exploring this lesson through study, song, and social justice. Come for one session or follow us all night through!