Welcoming Shuls: The project

What is the Welcoming Shuls Project?Mezuza

Resources for Shuls

Principles of Inclusion

What about schools?

Which synagogues are part of the Welcoming Shuls Project?

Welcoming Shuls List Highlights


What is the Welcoming Shuls Project?

With the generous support from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation Eshel has embarked on a multi-year project to explore which North American synagogues and leaders would welcome LGBT people and to what degree.

We began this project when we started to receive calls and emails from LGBT members who wanted to know which Orthodox communities would openly welcome them and their families and fully embrace them.

We have conducted interviews with nearly 50 congregational rabbis of Orthodox synagogues so far.  Our questions are those that Orthodox LGBT people, couples and their families want to know the answers to when looking for a synagogue in which to belong.


Resources for Shuls

Every community has its own history, unique culture, traditions, leaders and religious ethos. For this reason, we do not provide a cookie cutter approach to the questions raised by LGBT inclusion.

Instead, we invite shuls to explore with us what they see as their goals or their needs and help them shape an ethos of inclusion that feels appropriate for them.

The process of becoming a more welcoming synagogue community begins with a conversation.

These conversations are hard to begin and can be difficult to pursue.  If you are ready to begin exploring the questions of LGBT inclusion as a rabbi, board member or congregant, we invite you to be in touch with us.  We can help your synagogue get the discussion off the ground or facilitate a process of exploration; we can just get you started or we can shape a dialogue or bring a program for your community that will help surface the issues and the possible solutions.  Our goal is to help you articulate how you can welcome LGBT people within halakhic parameters in a way that suits your community.


Principles of Inclusion

We know there is not a single way to approach LGBT inclusion in an Orthodox setting, but to start the conversation, here some general guidelines.

These principles are based in part on language in “The Statement of Principles” that was published in 2011 and signed by over 200 Orthodox rabbis and educators.


Which synagogues are part of the Welcoming Shuls Project?

As of November 2016 we have interviewed 50 synagogues across the US.  Each week we add to our list of the synagogues that have engaged in this dialogue and consider themselves welcoming to LGBT people.

If you are an LGBTQ person, do you want to know if there is an Orthodox synagogue near you that will open their doors to you, embrace you and include you fully in rituals and the life of the community like they do with all of their members?  Do you have children and wonder where you can have a lifecycle event such as a simchat bat or a bris, or a bat or bar mitzvah?

Are you a parent of an LGBTQ child who want to know where your child will be welcome so they don’t feel compelled to leave orthodoxy when they come out?

Are you a parent of a trans child wondering which rabbi can help you with your halakhik questions of your child; or a synagogue where they can sit on the side of the mechitza that feels appropriate to their gender expression?

The Welcoming Shuls Project is designed to help you find those places.


To find out if a synagogue is a part of the WSP, contact the WSP  coordinator, Sunnie Epstein.


What about schools?

We are also gathering information about schools where an LGBT person will feel welcome. If you are wondering where you can place your child, contact us.


Welcoming Shuls List Highlights

Every few months we will highlight some of the synagogues we have interviewed who are among a growing number of halakhically committed congregations that consider themselves welcoming to LGBT Jews.  If you would like your synagogue to be highlighted, be in touch!



Magen David in Washington, DC; Rabbi Hayim Ovadia

Beth Shalom in Providence, RI; Rabbi Barry Dolinger

Bais Abraham in St. Louis, MO;  Rabbi Hyim Shafner

Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, Riverdale, NY; Rabbi Steven Exler

Makom in Toronto, ON; Rabbi Aaron Levy