December 2020: “I was not Born a Mistake” film screening, followed by a conversation with filmmakers Rachel Rusinek and Eyal Ben Moshe
January 2021: “Aimée & Jaguar” film screening, followed by group discussion
February 2021: “Kissing Jessica Stein” film screening, followed by group discussion
November 2021: Beth Am is using the remaining $600 to support the community screening of “The Sign for Love” at Latkes, Love, and Language – A Chanukah Celebration of LGBTQIA+ Identity.
“The Sign for Love” was instead shown by the Gordon Center as part of the Queer Jewish Arts Festival.
BACKGROUND: Beth Am Synagogue is an egalitarian, inclusive, Conservative synagogue in Baltimore’s Reservoir Hill neighborhood, formed in 1974. The synagogue is rooted in tradition to form a spiritual home for learning, prayer and advancing social justice. The congregation serves close to 500 households and aspires to reinvigorate urban Jewish life in Baltimore and continue to transform its congregants and the wider Baltimore community. In addition to its regular religious services, the congregation offers a variety of adult and youth programs that are intimate, eclectic, and welcoming. For instance, the adult education offerings include Hebrew language classes, Torah study, “Lunch and Learn” lunch hours in the community, evening lectures, Trope classes, and Talmud classes. Meanwhile, the congregation has a robust social calendar organized by committees of congregants and staff. For instance, the Social Action (tikkun olam) committee partners with neighboring groups to offer entrepreneurship training, community organization, and local beautification. Whereas the 20s-30s group (BAYITT) organizes communal networking over intimate meals and drinks, davening, and Torah study, in collaboration with other groups across the City. Thirdly, in addition to its regular Kiddush luncheon, Beth Am has a longstanding member potluck Kiddush luncheon where congregants will prepare and share favorite recipes.
These are just a handful of regular ways some congregants interact; there are many others. With such a wealth of offerings throughout the calendar year, the congregation regularly programs educational programs and social dialogues to encourage and engage diversity. This includes its support and welcoming of LGBT households. This summer, Beth Am sparks a renewed opportunity to conduct community events, in that its grand Moorish-inspired building, originally built in 1922, has undergone a major renovation campaign. Specifically, the social hall and Beit Midrash can now offer comfortable and intimate weeknight and weekend programs, providing a central place for residents and visitors to meet one other. PROJECT
SUMMARY: Beth Am will host a monthly Jewish LGBT film screening series, where a film would be shown every other month for a 2 year period, beginning in June 2020. An estimated 30 participants would enjoy an intimate, Jewish-LGBT 90-minute film on a projector/television screen in the synagogue downstairs social hall. This project would highlight films that focus on LGBT and Jewish themes, in order to highlight the international variety of films that exist on these combined topics, and to foster discussion within the community at-large. As a congregation with inter-faith, interreligious, and LGBT congregants, Beth Am has a history of offering dialogue series and events that offer a calm, understanding, and reinvigorated route to spark Jewish engagement to those who may feel unwelcome in other congregations. This film series would allow JPride an opportunity to promote Jewish LGBT advocacy and participation across the City, with an unobtrusive, congregational setting. The films’ audience would be chiefly to individuals over the age of 16, with any films inappropriate for certain ages to be promoted as such. Jewish film and LGBT film can vary from art-house to popular titles, with films stretching as far back as the 1980s up to the present-day. Potential titles are included below.
SETTING: Films will be shown on a weeknight or following a potluck weekend dinner where participants would share refreshments prior to each film. Beth Am’s social hall features a drop-down screen, adjustable lighting, a projector, speakers, and padded walls, that offers an intimate and comfortable setting for rows of seats to be staggered to allow optimal line of sight. Lastly, to speak of wider logistic concerns that seek to prevent potential discomfort, Beth Am’s renovation includes a new set of all-gender individual restrooms, a children’s play area, and a new street-level lobby with enhanced security.