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PSR December 2018 e-News

Pacific School of Religion header

Above: PSR MDiv student Catherine Cejda leads a portion of the
November 20 Transgender Day of Remembrance service.

In this Issue

PSR Response to Anti-Semitic Vandalism | Migration-Focused Study Guide Available
Rev. Jim Mitulski Joins CLGS Staff | Ignite Institute Spring Cohort Forming
World AIDS Day Tribute by PSR Alumna | CLGS Jewish Queeries presents Frederick Hertz
#GivingTuesday Success | PSR Pet Calendar Still Available


PSR Community Responds to Anti-Semitic Vandalism on Campus

Recently, two troubling incidences of vandalism occurred in our chapel. One incident included the defacement of a page in the chapel Bible—a swastika drawn over Psalm 125, a psalm that ends with the phrase, “Peace to Israel.” The day after the vandalism was discovered, PSR had hosted a vigil following the Tree of Life massacre titled, “Jerusalem: What Makes for Peace?” The second incident involved the vandalism of a bulletin board. Both incidents were reported immediately to local police.

These deplorable acts are in direct opposition to the core values and commitments of our community, and we will not stand for such cowardly expressions of hate. Such acts do not and will not define us. What defines us is our faith and callings, as one of our core institutional values states, in strength through diversity. To that end, the broader PSR community recently participated in a teach-in, community conversation, and ritual that affirmed and reclaimed our sacred space. Following chapel this past week, PSR president David Vásquez-Levy was joined by GTU president Rabbi Daniel Lehmann and Seth Brysk, Regional Director of the Central Pacific Region of the Anti-Defamation League to respond to the incident and discuss how we move forward as a community, committed to our work and to spaces we consider sacred and open to everyone. Following the teach-in, the community participated in a ritual, led by Dr. Sharon Fennema, of burying the community Bible according to Jewish custom. This act followed an earlier ritual moment during chapel where the defaced pages were covered over with words and art.

As the writer of Ephesians states, our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers in the places above (Ephesians 6:12). This powerfully poetic language captures the systemic nature of our struggle and names it unambiguously as a deeply spiritual, theological task.

Watch the live stream. | Read the Berkleyside article


Vásquez-Levy Authors Migration-Focused Study Guide Centered on the Book of Exodus

Migration is at the core of many of our sacred stories. From Abraham and Sarah who venture out with nothing but a promise to Jesus who begins his life as a refugee hiding from Herod, our sacred stories speak profoundly to our own stories of change—migrations across national or physical boundaries or beyond personal boundaries of belief and experience. How do these sacred scriptures inform the way we speak about immigration and how do the stories of immigrants shape the way we think about our sacred and national stories?

Written by PSR president Rev. Dr.  David Vásquez-Levy, Out of the Waters: Resisting the Power of Fear is a six-session study on the book of Exodus that engages participants in the biblical story as it relates to issues of migration. The leader’s guide allows for thoughtful preparation through reviewing and reflecting on background information for each session. As participants take on the roles of Moses, Miriam, Pharaoh, and others, they will have a chance to bring these characters to life and engage directly with their stories. Download the study guide at no cost.

Image: Me Voy by Pedro Chavajay To


Mitulski Joins CLGS Staff as Major Gifts Officer

Rev. Jim Mitulski (BA, Columbia University, ’86; MDiv, PSR ’91) has joined the CLGS staff as the Major Gifts Officer. In this capacity, Jim will be responsible for overseeing donor relations and major fundraising to build the Center’s endowment, which is currently valued at $1.5 million.

Jim is no stranger to PSR and has been associated with CLGS since its founding. A 2004 PSR Distinguished Alumnus of PSR, Jim served for nine years on the PSR Board of Trustees and has served as adjunct faculty, co-worship director, and campus pastor. Jim brings many years of organizing and activism in LGBTQ, HIV/AIDS, racial, and immigration justice along with UCC, MCC, DoC, and TFAM ordination connections and has pastored churches across the country.

Jim is excited about this new project. “I’ve spent decades in the LGBT community all over the country and can’t wait to raise money to secure the future of the CLGS. Now we need to preserve the history and draw on our victories as assets in this present era so we don’t lose ground and so we can forge new history in regard to spirituality and sexuality, in religious institutions, and in public policy.”

Dr. Bernard Schlager, CLGS Executive Director, expressed enthusiasm about Mitulski joining the CLGS staff. “We are thrilled to welcome Jim, a strong and ongoing supporter of CLGS since its founding, to our staff, and I look forward to working with him in building the endowment that CLGS needs to continue its work of creating change for LGBTQ people and our families in faith communities and in society at large.”


Certificate of Leadership and Innovation for an Unpredictable Future: Spring Cohort Forming Now

Anticipating the graduation later this month of the second cohort of its new, four-month innovative leadership and innovation program, the Ignite Institute Leadership and Innovation Lab is forming its next cohort for a February 9 start. The certificate program is designed to deepen and inspire design thinking, innovation, organizational sustainability and aid students in finding their authentic leadership styles through the lens of ancient wisdom. Read more about this program.

We invite you to forward this exciting program to anyone in a leadership role who would benefit from the skills and inspiration this certificate is designed to provide.


PSR Alumna Publishes World AIDS Day Tribute to her Mother

PSR alumna Latishia James-Portis (MDiv ’16) recently authored this compelling piece in Rewire.News about her mother to commemorate World AIDS Day. Latishia writes, “Unfortunately, shame and stigma are still costing us the lives of too many. I was able to reflect on my and my mother’s story in this piece.” She hopes the deeply personal essay and the steps she includes toward undoing shame, “help someone to overcome the shame in their own life.”

Photo: Latishia James-Portis


CLGS Jewish Queeries presents

Not Just the Ring:
Striking for Queer Families in Israel 
with Frederick Hertz

The absence of civil marriage for everyone and the cultural focus on raising children has resulted in a uniquely Israeli way of approaching LGBTQ families. Rather than fighting for marriage recognition, the major political and social movements have pressed for greater legal recognition of all unmarried couples, and access to surrogacy for same-sex couples. The particular legal and historical Israeli context has its past in the Ottoman empire and its present in a popular campaign for surrogacy rights, culminating in July’s dramatic general strike following the Knesset’s failure to extend surrogacy access to same-sex couples.

Frederick Hertz is an attorney and author based in Oakland, whose work focuses on marriage and dissolution issues for same-sex couples He’s the author of three books on the subject, including the Nolo Press Making It Legal: A Guide to Same-Sex Marriage, Domestic Partnerships & Civil Unions. He taught a course on same-sex family law in Israel in 2012, and led a study tour of LGBTQ family law attorneys to Israel in 2015.

More information is available here.


#GivingTuesday a Blessing to PSR

The Office of Institutional Advancement is pleased to report that thanks to the generosity of many folks, we not only met but exceeded our #GivingTuesday goal of $5,000! These funds will help us continue to meet our giving priorities of Innovation in Theological Education, Community Engaged Learning, Student Housing Stipend, and Student Scholarships.

As we look toward the end of the year, we know that many of you are planning your end-of-year giving and we ask that you consider remembering PSR. The easiest way to give is to donate onlineTo ensure your gift is applied to the 2018 tax year, we must receive your gift by December 31, 2018. If you are interested in donating stocks, securities, or an IRA contribution, please contact our offices by December 20, 2018 at 510-849-8247.


Pet Calendar Benefits Scholarship Fund
(and makes a great stocking-stuffer!)

We are still taking orders for the first-ever PSR Pet Calendar. Each calendar is $25 which directly benefits our general scholarship fund. Every year, PSR awards more than $700,000 in need-based aid to our students, helping to offset the rising cost of living in the Bay Area. The general scholarship fund enables us to offer aid to 75% of our seminarians every year — and now the PSR Pet Calendar supports them, too. This is the last call for calendar orders for delivery by January 1. Order yours here!


Weekly Community Worship Streamed Live on Facebook

Each week at 11:10 a.m. PST, the PSR community joins in a time of community worship. Even though you may not be on campus, you’re welcome to join us via livestream on Facebook. Visit PSR’s Facebook page.


Campus Holiday Hours

All PSR offices will be closed from December 24, 2018 through January 1, 2019 for winter holiday. Offices will re-open on January 2, 2019. May this holiday season be a blessing to you and usher in a transformative 2019.


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