MELBOURNE’S largest synagogue will again hold a Pride Shabbat service for Victoria’s Jewish sexual and gender diverse community as part of the upcoming Midsumma Festival.

The Temple Beth Israel (TBI) will host the event to honour Jewish members of the LGBTI community and focus on issues around inclusion, equality, and human rights.

Rabbi Kim Ettlinger said she’s delighted to again be hosting the pride event.

“We are delighted to host Pride Shabbat for the fourth consecutive year,” she said.

“This service of inclusion represents our highest ideals of egalitarianism, respect, and the fact we’re all made in God’s image.

“We welcome all into our sanctuary, especially those who have in the past felt excluded from Jewish religious and communal life.”

Ettlinger added that the synagogue is very welcoming of sexual and gender diverse Victorians.

“At TBI we acknowledge and celebrate the LGBTI community,” she said.

The first ever pride celebration in a Victorian synagogue was held at the TBI in 2013.

For many of the 350 people in attendance it was the first time they’d been actively invited and welcomed into a congregation.

In a recent sermon at the TBI, Rabbi Gersh Lazarow highlighted the discrimination faced by members of the LGBTI community and said Jews are also attuned to the pain of discrimination.

“While some things have changed in recent years, the fact remains that among Australian teenage boys, 40 per cent wouldn’t want a same-sex attracted person as a friend, 60 per cent have witnessed first-hand someone being bullied for their sexuality, and a quarter believe calling someone a ‘homo’ or ‘dyke’ is okay,” he said.

“Up to 80 per cent of LGBTI teens have experienced homophobic language at schools with one quarter of them victims of physical abuse in the one place they feel freest to be themselves.

“As Jews we are attuned to the pain of discrimination – we know what it is to be harassed and persecuted because we are different.

“We too have been considered dangerous, deviant, a threat to society, abhorrent. As Jews, we ought to be frightened when a majority tried to deny rights to a minority they think are not equal to the rest of us.”

Lazarow added that he believes it’s important for the Jewish community to throw their support behind LGBTI human rights issues like marriage equality.

“Just as the time came when we in this country recognised that a convict could marry a freeman, an Aboriginal person could marry a European, and an Australian soldier could bring his Japanese bride home from war, so too must we recognise that the time has come for same-sex couples to be able to legally wed,” he said.

“We’re on the cresting wave of a new understanding of humanity: a new, open, and welcoming understanding of what it means to be created in God’s image, and the LGBTI members of our community need our support.”

Pride Shabbat will be held at 76 – 82 Alma Road St Kilda, 6.15pm Friday 27 January.

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