Newly installed as the spiritual leader of Congregation Sha'ar Zahav, the LGBTQ synagogue in the Mission, Rabbi Mychal Copeland told Hoodline she's ready to meet the congregation's challenges head-on.
Copeland described her new position at Sha'ar Zahav as "coming home." For forty years, Sha'ar Zahav has served the spiritual needs of LGBTQ Jews, their loved ones and friends. "This is a community I had long hoped to serve," she said.
"I was drawn to become a rabbi when I was studying at divinity school," Copeland said, also where she met her wife.
"Judaism happens to be the lens through which I make meaning for myself, and now as a rabbi, I hope to bring depth and transformation to the people and communities with whom I work."
Copeland acknowledged that housing is a significant challenge; many members of the congregation have left the city in search of more affordable options. Others have expressed concerns that the area has become far less diverse.
"Our demography and geography have certainly changed," she said. "But because Sha’ar Zahav serves such a unique role in the Bay Area, people come to us from all over the city and all over the Bay."
Copeland has ideas in the works for those who might not be able to make it to the synagogue, such as holding programs at the homes of congregants in the East Bay. She's also leading community events in the city, such as Pride Shabbat in June, "and the High Holy Days, coming up next month."
Copeland will also be introducing more personal programs to her congregants.
"I am especially excited to bring my love of yoga to Sha’ar Zahav, teaching Jewish philosophy and spiritual practice through movement," she said. "I also have a passion for Jewish mysticism [Kabbalah], Hasidic teachings, the intersection of American religion and LGBTQI issues, and even Jewish magic."
She also works with members of the Bay Area Latino community on immigration issues, "so I am pleased that the synagogue’s current particular social action focus is addressing refugee and immigration issues," said Copeland.
Author of a book on faith and LGBTQ inclusion, Copeland said one of her primary goals is expanding the congregation's long history of diversity.
"We are fortunate to live in a time and place in which queer people are included in many if not most Bay Area synagogues," she said. "The difference at Sha’ar Zahav is that people are not just included, but are celebrated for being exactly who they are."
Sha'ar Zahav holds Erev Shabbat services on Friday evenings, Shabbat morning services on Saturday, and B’nei Mitzvah ceremonies. For more information, visit its website.
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