On a wall of the Autry National Center — among Los Angeles Jewish immigrant artifacts, biographies of Hollywood Jewry, above a case of kippot from Uganda — a white banner proclaims in crimson letters: “Beth Chayim Chadashim, Jewish, Gay & Lesbian & Proud.”
Don Israel speaks no English, and I speak almost no Spanish. But I understood him well enough to realize that, as I began to plant one of the mango trees that would be placed in his field that day, he obviously thought I was doing it wrong.
Before there was "Ellen," Chastity Bono, Rock Hudson's death from AIDS, or AIDS itself, there was Beth Chayim Chadashim. The year was 1972, and most lesbians and gay men were deep in the closet. For four gay Jews who showed up for a rap session at Metropolitan Community Church in LosAngeles, there was no other place to seek spiritual solace. But, as welcoming as Rev. Troy Perry was, MCC was still a Christian place of worship. Many gay and lesbian Jews felt deeply alienated from thesynagogues in which they had grown up, but there were no shuls where they felt comfortable to be who they were and love who they loved.