The rabbi at one of the largest gay synagogues in the United States asks Pope Francis to announce an expansion of the roles that lesbian, gay and transgender Catholics can play in their church.
Pointing out that the visit of Pope Francis to New York City will roughly coincide with two major Jewish holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in the West Village says that the gathering on Friday of clergy at the September 11 Memorial is a timely reminder of the need for “repentance for our conditions that led to misery for the world around us” and for the initiation of “efforts to create a world where God’s compassion and love guides leaders.”
Francis too has prayed in a like matter. “Lord, give us the gift of tears,” he said, “to cry for our sins and for the sufferings of others.”
Most faith leaders in New York City, whom we have interviewed, mention their appreciation of the openness of Pope Francis’ invitation to a a variety of religious groups to be part of the 911 memorial service.
In particular Francis has reached out to religions that usually decline interfaith meetings as invitations to a theological watering down of the uniqueness of various faith traditions. That is one reason that pope has called the gathering “interreligious,” to mean that the platform allows people of different faiths to stand together while keeping their unique identities in prayer and reading of scriptures.
Some Jewish gay leaders like Kleinbaum hope that the openness means that the pope will “expand his view” to allow gay Catholics to have more space in their church.
Kleinbaum is one of those optimists. She has worked much of her career to improve LGBT rights and has been rabbi of New York City’s largest LGBT synagogue since 1992. She notes that the Jewish holidays also are a challenge for Jewish leaders to turn out for the pope. ”It’s not great timing for the Jewish community,” she observes.
Yet, despite the busyness, the rabbi also sees the potential of the interreligious conclave as an opportunity to support, as she does, Francis’ criticisms of economic inequality. Up to this point, religious leaders have faltered in their attempts to stop economic injustice. Such a large, interreligious event at Ground Zero presents the emotional charge to embolden the religious leaders to go out do something about the economic fault-lines that affects every faith community.