Tag Archives: Cantor

Gay Floridian to lead national Reform cantors

The first time Cantor Mark Goldman attended an American Conference of Cantors convention about 20 years ago, he went to a secret meeting of gay colleagues.

“It was in somebody’s hotel room. There were maybe a dozen people,” said Goldman, longtime cantor at Temple Kol Ami Emanu-El in Plantation.

At the next year’s convention, a few more gay cantors showed up at another word-of-mouth meeting, he said.

Now, secret meetings are out and so is Goldman, who in July was elected national president of the 505-member Reform Jewish cantors conference.

“I see being gay as being a part of me, part of my personality. It’s not everything that defines me,” said Goldman, 46, who grew up an Orthodox Jew in suburban London.

“I always wanted to be a cantor from a very young age. I enjoyed going to synagogue with my father, and the music in the synagogue spoke to me,” he said.

At 18, Goldman studied at an Israeli yeshiva, “a very orthodox learning institution where you delve into the intricacies of Jewish tradition.”

The following year, he pursued cantorial studies and an honors bachelor of arts degree in Judaic studies at the London School of Jewish Studies. He became the youngest recipient of certification by the United Kingdom’s chief rabbi.

Goldman recalls that when the subject of homosexuality came up at an Orthodox high school, “we were told this is something terrible and abhorrent.”

“It was very much an inner conflict,” he said. “We prayed daily and I remember asking God to take this affliction away from me. That was something I battled with personally for many, many years, up until the time I emigrated into the United States to Rochester, N.Y., where I was a cantor in a Conservative congregation.”

Goldman thinks that, subconsciously, being gay led him to America.

“It probably did, but at the time I was looking at coming to the United States as a wonderful opportunity,” he said. “I was 24 years old and I looked at Rochester on the map. I saw New York City and I thought, ‘Wow, they look really close together. Maybe I could go to New York City for the weekend.’”

At 27, he came out to his parents. “They were extremely surprised, shocked. There were lots of tears, but they were very supportive.”

In 1995, Goldman was offered a cantorial position at reform Temple Kol Ami, which merged in 2004 with Temple Emanu-El of Fort Lauderdale.

“I never really had a formal coming out as such. When I came to Temple Kol Ami 18 years ago, it was never a question that was asked. It wasn’t something that I put on my resume,” Goldman said. “After a short period of time, people knew I was gay.”

Goldman’s partner of 17 years, Aaron Taber, is a Fort Lauderdale interior designer.

“I actually met my partner within the first year of me being at Kol Ami,” Goldman said. “He started coming to services and I started to slowly introduce him as my boyfriend at the time, as my partner. He is regarded certainly as my spouse in every way. He’s given honors in front of the congregation. It’s never, ever been an issue.”

Said Taber: “At Temple Kol Ami, I’m treated equally to any other spouse of clergy staff. They’ve always welcomed me as part of the family.”

As a cantor, Goldman dedicates himself to progressive, contemporary Judaism.

“He was very influential on both my sons’ bar mitzvahs as teacher and mentor,” said Kol Ami Emanu-El President Calvin Helitzer.

“There is no one who I could imagine working with who is more professional, caring and innovative. My greatest wish is that Cantor Goldman will remain with our congregation until he’s ready to call an end to his career.”

Goldman said he sees Reform Judaism “as the antithesis to many traditional kinds of religions that gay people shy away from. If you said the word ‘religious’ it’s a dirty word almost in the gay community.”

Reform Judaism has welcomed gay congregants for many years, and many Conservative congregations have begun embracing LGBT people.

“Hebrew Union College, which is the training school for rabbis and cantors, has graduated transsexual rabbis,” Goldman said. “The movement is definitely cutting edge, forward thinking and it’s something I’m very, very proud to be a part of, especially in terms of religious movements and organizations. They don’t always get very good press in terms of the gay community.”

Goldman said he has had many important life discussions with congregation members, including youngsters just coming out.

“I felt very happy that I could be a good role model for the kids,” he said. “There are a number of kids who have come out, that I’ve taught or spoken to over the years.

“I suddenly think that my relationship, my openness about who I am to the congregation, to them and their families, has been a very positive influence to them. Also the way in which I’ve been completely accepted by the congregation, to the point where my partner is recognized as my spouse and sits next to the rabbi’s wife.”

Republican leaders defend ‘hate’ groups

A number of high-profile Republicans have signed an online petition denouncing the Southern Poverty Law Center for designating several anti-gay religious organizations as hate groups.

SPLC recently added the Family Research Council, the American Family Association and the National Organization for Marriage to the same list of hate groups as the Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Nations. SPLC said the Christian groups were added because they spread malicious lies about gay people that provoke hatred and violence toward them.

Among those lies are the claims that gays are more likely to sexually abuse children and to die young due to their unhealthy lifestyle. Some of the anti-gay claims made by the designated groups mirror myths that Nazis spread about Jews to incite violence against them.

Majority Leader-elect Eric Cantor, House Speaker-elect John Boehner, presidential hopefuls Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee, U.S. Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Louie Gohmert of Texas, and South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint have all signed the petition defending the designated hate groups.

“We, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with Family Research Council, American Family Association, Concerned Women of America, National Organization for Marriage, Liberty Counsel and other pro-family organizations that are working to protect and promote natural marriage and family,” the open letter, sponsored by the FRC, reads. “We support the vigorous but responsible exercise of the First Amendment rights of free speech and religious liberty that are the birthright of all Americans.”

The letter claims that SPLC “targeted FRC and other organizations that uphold Judeo-Christian moral views, including marriage as the union of a man a woman.”

But Booth Gunter, a spokesman for the SPLC, rejected that claim.

“The bottom line is it’s simply not true that we attacked them because of their Judeo-Christian beliefs or their opposition to gay marriage,” Gunter told Fox News. “It’s because of their continued propagation of falsehoods about gay men and lesbians that have the effect of demonizing them.”