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Atlanta gay rabbi appointed to city Human Relations Commission

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.”

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Gay-led Atlanta synagogue wants LGBT town hall slated for Jewish holiday to be rescheduled

Congregation Bet Haverim, Atlanta's gay-founded Reconstructionist synagogue, released an open letter today expressing disappointment that an LGBT town hall forum with Mayor Kasim Reed is scheduled for Sept. 28, the start of the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah.

The letter, signed by Congregation Bet Haverim President Jeri L. Kagel and Rabbi Joshua Lesser, asks that the "problematic" meeting date be rescheduled out of "communal respect." It is addressed to the Atlanta Police LGBT Advisory Committee and copied to the mayor's office.

The public forum is a project of the mayor and the advisory board, a citizen panel founded in the wake of the botched 2009 police raid on the Atlanta Eagle gay bar.

"There are Rosh Hashanah services in synagogues of all denominations across Atlanta and it is one of the few times during the year when Jews of all degrees of observance attend services," the letter stated. "If the meeting remains on this date our congregants, other LGBT Jews and straight allies, will not have the opportunity to hear two of our city’s leaders address important issues about police interaction within the LGBT community."

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Faith & Religion: Many options for LGBT worshippers

Rev. Glenna Shepherd (left to right), Rabbi Joshua Lesser, Rev. Paul Graetz and Rev.  Antonio Jones are among LGBT faith leaders in Atlanta

Gay and lesbian people of faith are in the midst of a modern Great Awakening. Once deemed outcasts from the majority of religions, they now have more opportunities to worship in affirming environments — whether gay churches, gay-friendly congregations and even more traditional churches that have tempered their hostility to homosexuality — than ever before.

Many LGBT worshippers and religious leaders are also re-examining their position in spiritual circles, moving from the fringes into more mainstream areas in order to keep up with rapid generational changes in society’s views of God and gays. Some are choosing to be advocates for gay inclusion in traditional congregations, while others are switching denominations in an attempt to join into “one body” with heterosexual members of their faith.