Beth Chayim Chadashim

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Beth Chayim Chadashim
AffiliationReform Judaism
LeadershipRabbi: Jillian R. Cameron
Cantor: Juval Porat
Location6090 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles, California, United States
Type1st LEED-certified synagogue in the United States

Beth Chayim Chadashim (בית חיים חדשים, "House of New Life") was founded in Mid-City Los Angeles in 1972 as a synagogue primarily for lesbians and gays. Affiliated with Reform Judaism,[1] it has been acknowledged by the Los Angeles Conservancy as being "culturally significant"[2] as both the first LGBT synagogue in the world, the first LGBT synagogue recognized by the Union for Reform Judaism and, in 1977, as the first LGBT synagogue to own its own building.[3]


On April 4, 1972, Selma Kay, Jerry Gordon, Jerry Small, and Bob Zalkin were the only people who came to a weekly Wednesday night meeting at Los Angeles's Metropolitan Community Church.[4] They were all Jewish, and Selma asked, "Why don’t we form a temple with an outreach to the gay Jews?" [5] The others agreed, and Rev. Troy Perry offered them the use of the church's facilities free of charge.[6] About a dozen women and men responded to the call to an ad hoc committee meeting to discuss the temple's founding, and the first service was held June 9, 1972 in Jerry Gordon's home.[7] In July 1972, an interfaith service was held at MCC's sanctuary, to introduce the new temple to the gay and lesbian community.[8] Weekly Friday night Jewish services were then held at MCC.[9]

In 1973, BCC received a Torah scroll from the town of Chotebor, Czechoslovakia, on permanent loan from Westminster Synagogue in London. It continues to be a cherished guest at BCC.

After several temporary locations, in 1977 the BCC congregation purchased a storefront at 6000 West Pico Boulevard in West Los Angeles (the Pico-Robertson area) that was transformed into a synagogue and Jewish life-cycle space. The membership grew and flourished for over 30 years at this location.

In 1997, the congregation celebrated its 25th anniversary. At that time, it had 250 members (not including children) with 90% of them being LGBT and its oldest member being 87 years old.[10]

Janet Marder was the congregation's first rabbi. Lisa Ann Edwards later served as a student rabbi under their first full-time rabbi, Denise Eger. From 1992 to 2007, Cantorial Soloist Fran Magid Chalin's unique use of music and energy served to unite, uplift, inspire, and prompt BCC's connection to Jewish tradition, especially for the growing number of BCC children. In 1994 Rabbi Lisa Ann Edwards was ordained and became BCC's rabbi. After a 25 year tenure, Rabbi Lisa Edwards retired in 2019. Rabbi Jillian R. Cameron became BCC's rabbi in 2020.

In 2006, Ohr Chayim (Light of Life) was initiated as BCC's Family Education Program for children and their families, under Leah Zimmerman, the first Director of Education. Cantor Juval Porat, the first cantor to be trained in post-Holocaust Germany, was installed as BCC's Cantor in 2010.[11][12]

After 5 years of planning, BCC moved a block away from its first home to 6090 West Pico Boulevard, to accommodate BCC's expanding membership, staff and Jewish glbt studies programming. This endeavor of renovating three 1931 store fronts was led by BCC's first Executive Director Felicia Park-Rogers (hired in 2005) and BCC Member, Architect Ira Dankberg, and was designed by Toni Lewis and Marc Schoeplein of Lewis|Schoeplein architects. 6090 West Pico Boulevard is the first LEED certified synagogue in the United States.

At present[edit]

BCC is an affirming, nurturing, and brave Jewish space for LGBTQIA+ people, our friends, and our families.

Guided by our core value that every person is created in God’s image, b’tzelem elohim, we treat everyone with loving-kindness, dignity, and respect. We make Jewish traditions, texts, and rituals accessible through inclusive language, and welcoming communal experiences for individuals and families of all faith traditions. Recognizing that we are co-creators with God, we have a moral obligation and unique potential to engage in tikkun olam, repairing the world.[13]

Clergy are Rabbi Jillian Cameron and Cantor Juval Porat.[14]


  1. ^ "History | Beth Chayim Chadashim". 2008-07-30. Archived from the original on 2012-08-22. Retrieved 2013-08-17.
  2. ^ "Culturally Significant | Los Angeles Conservancy".
  3. ^ "Beth Chayim Chadashim | Los Angeles Conservancy".
  4. ^ "History - Beth Chayim Chadashim". 26 January 2021.
  5. ^ "History - Beth Chayim Chadashim". 26 January 2021.
  6. ^ "History - Beth Chayim Chadashim". 26 January 2021.
  7. ^ "History - Beth Chayim Chadashim". 26 January 2021.
  8. ^ "History - Beth Chayim Chadashim". 26 January 2021.
  9. ^ "History - Beth Chayim Chadashim". 26 January 2021.
  10. ^ "Archives".
  11. ^ Axelrod, Toby (2009-06-17). "Reform rabbis to be ordained in Berlin". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved 2013-08-17.
  12. ^ Landsberg, Mitchell (2010-06-26). "L.A. synagogue hires first cantor ordained in Germany since WWII". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2013-08-17.
  13. ^ "Mission - Beth Chayim Chadashim". 31 December 2020.
  14. ^ "Clergy - Beth Chayim Chadashim". 31 December 2020.

External links[edit]