Congregation Beth Simchat Torah
Span Dates: 1973-2000
Volume: 12.8 cubic ft.
This collection contains the records of Congregation Beth Simchat Torah (CBST), including minutes, by-laws, newsletters, liturgy for services, correspondence, World Congress materials, International Conference of Gay Jewish Organizations materials, and newsletters of other Congregations. CBST continues to contribute non-current records to this collection.
Congregation Beth Simchat Torah (CBST) was organized in 1973 out of informal Sabbath evening minyan begun by a group of gay and lesbian Jews in Chelsea. This was the second synagogue in North America dedicated to a gay and lesbian congregation. First meeting in a local church, CBST quickly grew in size, and in 1975 the congregation organized a permanent synagogue in the Westbeth housing complex in West Greenwich Village. In 1992, consistent growth led to hiring of CBST's first full-time rabbi; until then services were led by volunteer laymen/women. In the late 1970s CBST developed gay-affirming, degenderized liturgy, lay members researching and writing the congregation's own sidurs (prayerbooks). In 1998, CBST moved to use the latest Reconstructionist prayerbooks, considered appropriately inclusive. In spite of several expansions, important holidays attract many more worshipers than the Westbeth synagogue can accommodate. High Holiday services, held at the Javits Convention Center, involve more than 2,500 participants. In 2000, CBST was the largest gay and lesbian congregation in the world.
A detailed online description of the collection is available at the following web address.
Congregation Beth Simchat Torah (CBST) records are housed at the National History Archive of the LGBT Community Center of New York.
Jewish (ethnic, Reformed, Reconstructionist, Orthodox) | New York | New York City | Jewish (Reconstructionist)