Rabbi Gil Steinlauf of Adas Israel (Courtesy Adas Israel)
Rabbi Gil Steinlauf of Adas Israel in Washington, D.C., says the response to his coming out as gay has been overwhelmingly positive. (Courtesy Adas Israel)
LOS ANGELES (JTA) - Gil Steinlauf, a nationally prominent Conservative rabbi, made headlines this month when he announced to his large Washington, D.C., synagogue that he is gay, and that he and his wife of 20 years would divorce.
As surprised as his congregants at Adas Israel may have been by the news, it was Steinlauf, the congregation's senior rabbi, who found himself stunned by the response to it.
"There's been so much positive energy from the congregation, and I'm getting a constant flood of emails, calls, texts and Facebook expressing every positive sentiment you could imagine," Steinlauf
In fact, Steinlauf
and some of his congregants said the response within the congregation has been exclusively positive, including a supportive letter from the synagogue's president, Arnie Podgorsky.
, in fact, bridged the two generations, coming of age when awareness of gays and gay issues was changing, but acceptance had not yet come in the Conservative movement.
"When I was at the Jewish Theological Seminary - I
graduated in 1998 - there were plenty of gay people there, but they were all closeted because it was not a safe environment to be gay," Steinlauf
recalled, noting that at the time he
did not think of himself as gay.
was inspired by the movement's decision to increase his
activism on inclusion for gays as well as other marginalized groups, such as the terrorized residents of the Darfur region in Sudan.
also began to speak about his
own experiences in the course of counseling synagogue members, telling gay and lesbian congregants about being called a "faggot" by his
peers as a child.
It was, he
said, part of his
journey toward acknowledging that he