Congregation Bet Haverim’s Rabbi Josh Lesser has been appointed to the City of Atlanta’s Human Relations Commission.

A leading figure in the Atlanta LGBT community, Lesser has served as rabbi at Congregation Bet Haverim since 1999. He was appointed by District 2 City Councilmember Kwanza Hall.

“When Councilman Hall was looking for new members, I was approached by Fulton County Commissioner Joan Garner,” says Lesser. “I have a long-standing connection with the city’s LGBT community and she thought I would be a good fit.”

Atlanta gay rabbi appointed to city Human Relations Commission

In addition to Lesser’s role as rabbi at Bet Haverim, he also has the distinction of being the first openly gay individual to deliver an invocation at a mayor’s State of the City speech. He’s also been named one of America’s “most inspiring” rabbis.

“I’m interested in hearing what the needs of the city are,” Lesser explains.

“I look forward to participating in the proactive calls of [the] commission and to assist in developing human relation plans for our city and …educational opportunities for leaders in government, housing and business to better understand and implement the values and practices in the Human Relations code.”

Founded in 2000, the Atlanta Human Relations Commission is charged with enforcing the city’s non-discrimination ordinance, which prohibits bias in a variety of categories, including sexual orientation, and covers employment, housing and public accommodations.

Since sexual orientation discrimination is not banned under state or federal law, the commission is particularly important to gay Atlanta residents as one of the few available venues to seek justice.

It met regularly until 2010, but was largely dormant until this past year.

“That is my understanding,” says Lesser. “The commission was only recently reactivated. I’m excited to be a part of it. A city with our rich history needs to move beyond being too busy to hate into the city that’s thoughtful enough to understand. This commission can give us that very opportunity.”