Pride Shabbat at Cape Town’s Temple Israel embodies community and diversity


Pride Shabbat is a highlight on the synagogue calendar at Cape Town’s Temple Israel Wynberg (Photo: Temple Israel)

Despite it being a cold winter’s evening, Friday 23rd June saw a packed turnout for Pride Shabbat, taking place at Temple Israel Wynberg in Cape Town.

A highlight on the synagogue calendar, the service marks an affirming space for many LGBTIQA+ identifying Jews, and attracts a vast number of gentiles, who come to experience the wonderful welcoming community spirit that the evening embodies.

Led by Rabbis Emma Gotlieb and Greg Alexander, supported by the synagogue’s Neshama band, the service was curated with beautifully inclusive readings from Mishkan Ga’avah: Where Pride Dwells – a collection of LGBTQ prayers, poems, liturgy, and rituals – which were read by members of the synagogue’s Pride Task Force.

Keynote speaker this year was Shaan Knan, a UK based Phd researcher and LGBTIQA+ campaigner. His visit was made possible by the Union for Liberal Judaism. Shaan illustrated the journey we are called to travel versus the one we find ourselves on that seems fraught with barriers and hurdles, as he shared his own journey.

Growing up in Malta amidst a secular family, where being gay was frowned upon, and transitioning was unheard of, he has travelled the world, in the process discovering how his Jewish, Romany, and Queer identities can in fact all intersect. Now Knan champions the use of oral storytelling to capture the diversity and history of the LGBTIQA+ community through various lenses.

A poignant moment in the service was the reading of names of those whose lives had been cut short in South Africa and overseas in the last year, before the congregation said the Mourner’s Kaddish.

As with any Jewish function, the delicious communal meal offered afterwards allowed for socialising and connections to be made, rounding off a beautiful and meaningful evening.

Rabbi Emma Gotlieb, Shaan Knan, Shemah Koleinu, visitors and Rabbi Greg Alexander (far left). (Photo: Temple Israel)

The feedback from those who attended was very positive.

“What I love about Pride Shabbat, is that everybody is welcome to come just as they are. You don’t have to look or talk a certain way, to be warmly welcomed. Jew, Muslim, Christian and Undecided are equally welcome,” said Ulrike Kussing about the event.

“I felt so welcomed and integrated well with the community,” commented Nyasha Zakhata from Safeplaces International.

Ananda Law, who also attended for the first time, said: “One of the highlights was the inspiring talk given by Shaan Khaan, who’s doing important work documenting and preserving the history of the LGBTQIA+ community.’

Law added that, “Wynberg Temple provides a safe and welcoming space for Jewish community members and others seeking a place to worship.”

Pride Shabbat at Temple Israel Wynberg proved to be a resounding success that emphasised genuine acceptance and integration, making it a cherished event for all.


Article by Jacqui Benson-Mabombo (they/them), a personal development coach, conversational disruptor, member of Temple Israel and one of the founders of Shemah Koleinu NPC.

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