Bay Area organizations rev up fight against Proposition 8

It’s the hot topic of rabbis’ sermons for the High Holy Days, the motive behind mobilization events and the reason why Brad Pitt and Steven Spielberg each recently shelled out $100,000.

The fight against Proposition 8, an initiative that would eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in California, has several Bay Area Jewish organizations stepping up their efforts to oppose the Nov. 4 ballot measure.

“No on Proposition 8” events are scheduled for Oct. 5 at Congregation Shomrei Torah in Santa Rosa and Oct. 19 at Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills. Described by the S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council as the “launch pad” for getting activists involved, these events bring together volunteers from the Jewish community for phone-banking and letter-writing campaigns and additional networking activities.

A number of mobilization events have already taken place.

“We’re encouraging people to be involved in anything they can do to educate people one by one,” said JCRC Executive Director Rabbi Doug Kahn, who’s heard that a number of rabbis will be addressing Proposition 8 during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

“We can’t take for granted the polls that indicate opposition to Prop. 8 is growing, because no one knows what will happen on Election Day.”

Sam Strauss, director of the LGBT Alliance with the Jewish Community Federation of the Greater East Bay, recently organized a mobilization event at the JCC of the East Bay that had 65 participants gift-wrapping “presents” to be delivered to East Bay synagogues, religious schools and Jewish communal organizations.

A message explaining the box’s significance — giving the gift of marriage to thousands of Jewish and non-Jewish same-sex couples in California — was inserted in each box.

“We wanted to have a visual icon to represent marriage equality,” Strauss said. “Our hope is that the rabbis will read the message every Shabbat from now until the election.”

In addition to attending designated “No on Proposition 8” events, Strauss suggested hosting a house party to help raise money for the cause, or sending mass e-mails as a quick, easy and no-cost way to spread the message.

Noting that those supporting the measure had the idea to put 1 million “Yes on Proposition 8” yard signs on their front lawns, Strauss said, “We can’t have an equal response on that scale, but one way we can communicate effectively is through e-mail. We’re working really hard to get the word out and let people know how important this issue is to us.”

Thousands of gay and lesbian couples have wed in the state since June 17, the first day same-sex marriage became legal in California. Should Proposition 8 pass, it will add a new amendment to the state constitution that will read: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

“Ultimately we view this as a civil-rights issue,” Kahn said. “The Jewish community has historically opposed discrimination against particular groups in American society, believing the discrimination threatens the rights of all.”

Added Nancy Appel, associate director of the Anti-Defamation League’s central Pacific region: “The best way to fight for your own rights is to stand up for the rights of others.”

For more information about upcoming “No on Proposition 8” events, e-mail [email protected]