Queer synagogue celebrates 30 years of acceptance

eBar.com – by Kris Larson

A queer couple, a drag queen, and a rabbi walk into a room … it might sound like the opening line of a joke, but actually, it could be a typical day at Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, a queer-friendly synagogue at the edge of the Castro that celebrates its 30th anniversary this month.

What makes Sha’ar Zahav so special? For one thing, their rabbi is something of a pioneer. Rabbi Camille Angel has been an out lesbian for much of her life. Unwilling to lie about her orientation, Angel elected to be honest with her peers and teachers during her time at Hebrew Union College, which did not permit openly LGBT students. When she took her first job at Congregation Rodeph Sholom in New York’s Upper West Side, she also chose to be open about her sexuality with her congregation.

Like its rabbi, Sha’ar Zahav is proud of its queer-friendly take on Judaism. But like any leader of a movement, the synagogue has clashed with its mainstream counterparts more than once in its 30-year history.