Pictured Congregation Or Chadash honorees last Saturday. Photos by Amy Wooten
In October 1975, a 'pissed-off' Harold 'Tzvi' Goodman placed ads calling for a formation of gay Jewish group. Thirty years later, Congregation Or Chadash is celebrating a milestone.
Or Chadash threw a reunion and benefit gala to celebrate its 30th anniversary on Feb. 25 at the posh East Bank Club. What started as a small gathering in the homes of individuals in the mid-'70s has become a vibrant and successful community for LGBT Jewish Chicagoans.
Goodman, fed up with feeling isolated in both the Jewish and gay communities, placed a classified ad in the Chicago Reader and an article in Chicago Gay Life in hopes of seeking out those like him. 'I got really, really pissed, and that's why I placed those two ads,' he told the crowd.
'I'm just amazed at what has happened since I've placed those two ads in 1975,' Goodman said. 'You can be gay, and you can be Jewish.'
In the beginning, Or Chadash was a tiny group of gay Jewish men who first met in Goodman's apartment on Halsted. Later, the first woman would attend Or Chadash, opening the door for others. In 1976, the group held its first religious services, and 40 people attended.
As the years progressed, so did the community. During the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, a special committee was formed to help its members deal with the epidemic. Throughout the years, Or Chadash has been very active in both the LGBT and Jewish communities, joining forces with other groups and congregations in times of need.
Today, its many members enjoy a full range of programming, including adult education courses, outreach and alternative Jewish weddings. But most importantly, LGBT Jews continue to have a safe space to come together and celebrate who they are.
For Norman Sandfield, Or Chadash has been his 'home' for nearly 28 years. At the celebration, he announced the creation of a grant in his name, donating $10,000 and challenging his brothers and sisters to give in return for all that they have received from Or Chadash.
Sandfield, who was a board member for 22 consecutive years, is amazed at where Congregation Or Chadash is at today 'It's been a wonderful and successful 30 years,' Sandfield said. 'May the next 30 years be as wonderful and fabulous.'