Two steadfast advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights – each of whom traveled different paths to become vocal and effective activists for dignity and inclusion – have been named the recipients of Keshet’s Landres Courage for Dignity Award. Rabbi Tsipora Gabai, Director of Judaic Studies at Tehiyah Day School in El Cerrito, CA and Ruth Messinger, President of American Jewish World Service (AJWS), will be honored with the Landres Courage for Dignity Award at Keshet’s December gala, Glimmer, in San Francisco.
Keshet is the nation’s largest organization working for LGBT equality and inclusion in Jewish life. Former Keshet Board member Shawn Landres created the award to recognize individuals who display public courage as allies to support the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people or others whose dignity is at stake.
Ordained at the Academy for Jewish Religion, Rabbi Gabai is the first ordained female rabbi from Morocco and the 21st generation rabbi in her family. Rabbi Gabai made history this past year by creating and leading a service and community-wide celebration for an 8th grade boy who came out as transgender. As no ritual exists in Jewish tradition for taking a new name as part of a gender transition, Gabai created a unique ritual. “I reached back into traditional Judaism,” Gabai said, as she incorporated both a story from the Ba’al Shem Tov and a Hebrew phrase that celebrates a baby boy at his brit milah.
As President of American Jewish World Service, Ruth Messinger has worked tirelessly for social justice, with decades of extraordinary contributions to LGBT equality and justice both here in the United States and globally. A social change visionary, Messinger is known for her leadership of the movement to end the genocide in Darfur and long history of activism for LGBT rights. During her tenure as an elected official, she advocated for New York City’s first anti- discrimination bill in the 1970s and ‘80s to protect the rights of LGBT people in housing, employment, and public accommodations. More recently, she successfully urged the Obama Administration to appoint the first ever U.S. Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT Persons.