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Gay rabbi: Speaking at MLK Commemorative Service was ‘an honor,’ but ‘not easy’

Rabbi Joshua Lesser, who is gay, was among the speakers at today’s televised Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Service at Ebenezer Baptist Church.

Lesser is a social justice activist and leader of Congregation Bet Haverim, a gay-founded Reconstructionist synagogue in Atlanta. He may be the first openly gay speaker at the Ebenezer service, according to friend Glen Paul Freedman, also a longtime gay activist in Atlanta.

Lesser gave a scriptural reading from the Biblical book of Isaiah.

"It’s a passage that basically says religious or political practice without embodying it is meaningless," Lesser said in an interview this afternoon. "More than ritual, what God wants is challenging oppression, not exploiting other people, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and standing for justice."