Out in the Open, a New Home for New York’s LGBT Shul

Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, the 43-year-old synagogue for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Jews in New York, now has its first permanent home, open in April, with some extraordinary features.

Far from hiding its identity, Beit Simchat Torah will greet its new neighbors with a facade almost entirely of glass.

“We gay Jews, who were rejected by traditional Judaism, open our doors to everyone,” said William J. Hibsher, a law- yer who has headed the congregation’s $23 million capital development project for more than 15 years, according to a report in the New York Times.

Beit Simchat Torah is no different than traditional synagogues in providing classrooms for its members’ children. But, the Times notes, “it does differ in having been built with a large, gender- neutral restroom. There are common sinks but seven private toilet stalls, each with a solid wooden door and its own mirror (for those who would rather do their primping out of public view).”

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, the senior rabbi of the congregation, told city officials, “This is a deeply Jewish act, to build ‘shalom bayit,’ a peaceful, safe and inclusive home for all who come through our doors, and reflect the value of ‘b’tzelem elohim,’ that we, as Jews of all genders, are made in the image of G-d.”