Jake Singer-Beilin was first drawn to the rabbinate as a teenager in California, developing a love for Judaism through his youth group.
“I found this community that was created by teens, with teens in mind, where people could find what was most meaningful to them in Jewish life,” he said.
After being ordained in 2011, Singer-Beilin quickly began working with youth himself. He ran the education program at a Phoenix synagogue before a stint in Philadelphia and his arrival in Washington two years ago, where he most recently served as Jewish life coordinator at Milton Gottesman Jewish Day School of the Nation’s Capital.
Singer-Beilin said one of his fondest memories as a rabbi was walking down the hall of a preschool playing guitar as excited students ran up calling his name.
“There’s no better way to feel like a rock star than that,” he said.
Yet this summer, Singer-Beilin took a step back from youth work to become the rabbi of Bet Mishpachah, a congregation serving Washington’s LGBTQ community.
While he still loves working with youth, Singer-Beilin said he wanted to interact with a broader age range.
“I was missing the other parts of the Jewish life cycle,” Singer-Beilin said. “To be there as a presence and teach Jewish tradition and be someone people can scream and cry and hopefully, eventually laugh with — that reminds me of why I do the work I do.”
While mainstream congregations are far more welcoming to LGBTQ Jews than they were even a decade ago, they still aren’t at “100 percent,” Singer-Beilin said, making communities like Bet Mispachah essential.
“It’s a wonderful thing that there’s a place where people can be open and totally free to be who they are, to love who they love, and to identify in the way that they identify,” he said.
Singer-Beilin was also attracted to what he described as the creativity of the congregation, which has produced its own siddur and liturgy, and the engagement of members in lay leadership roles directing worship, education and operations of the synagogue.
“Perhaps it’s by necessity because there are very few staff members, but I think it also speaks to the ownership that members feel,” he said.
Singer-Beilin married Temple Shalom Senior Rabbi Rachel Ackerman in July and does not identify as LGBTQ, but said he is an “an ally and an advocate.”
“I know how to be a rabbi, but I’ve never been a rabbi of Bet Mish or in a specifically LGBTQI setting,” Singer-Beilin said. “I’ll probably make mistakes and will just need to be open and honest about that and check-in regularly.”
Singer-Beilin’s priorities include ensuring the egalitarian congregation is fully embracing its role as an open and inclusive community, and expanding tot Shabbats and programming for young families and children.
“Who is here and whose needs are we currently serving … and whose needs are not being served?” he said. “What are [people] looking for in a holy Jewish community?”