Ginger Jacobs embodies the strong Jewish values of her parents. In the 1950s and 1960s, they were part of the American Jewish Committee, which addresses social justice issues with a Jewish lens. Her father taught how to do sit-ins and other protests. Her mother helped with consciousness raising groups, some interfaith and/or interracial. Ginger learned, by example, that she too had a personal responsibility to stand up and fight injustice whenever she sees it.

Ginger was raised in Coral Gables, a small town adjacent to Miami, in a thoroughly Jewish but non-religious household. She was a leader in B’nai B’rith Girls and active in social justice efforts. Ginger was very involved in the Anti-Vietnam War movement. She protested, lobbied politicians, organized workshops and educational forums and met with and supported Vietnam vets. Ginger proudly helped conceive of and build a unique park for peace in an area for kids who needed a safe place to play.

Once Vietnam fell, Ginger helped refugees find American sponsors and get settled in their new country. She hosted a family in her own home. Ginger also worked with Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society to help resettle Indo-Chinese refugees into the US.

Ginger helped to finally and effectively integrate the Los Angeles school system to better serve all students. In 1978, the mayor of LA honored Ginger for her humanitarianism.

Ginger became an honorary member of BCC in 1973, having been introduced to the congregation by founding patron, Rabbi Erwin Herman, z’l. When searching for a new congregational home in 1988, Ginger chose BCC because of its warm and welcoming kehillah (community) and spirit. Friends asked Ginger, who was then single, “How are you going to find a date? The men are all gay!” Turns out, not all the men were gay! Ginger started dating longtime acquaintance, Ed London z’l, and it was beshert (meant to be).  Like Ginger, Ed was a real mensch. Rabbi Lisa Edwards officiated their wedding in 1999. Sadly, Ed passed from cancer soon after. But Ginger carries on his spirit with each act of menchiness.

Ginger worked with the LA Olympics Committee to successfully bring the games here in 1984. She spent years as a health educator and was active in the early days of Nechama, the Jewish response to HIV/AIDS. She has participated in breast cancer walks, as a survivor and as a helper to other walkers. Ginger served on the North American Board of the Union for Reform Judaism as well as on various committees, nationally and regionally.

Being a BCC member is how Ginger is connected to Jewish people – ALL Jewish people. Her quiet demeanor disguises a fierce and passionate dedication to her beloved synagogue community.

First brought onto the BCC board in 1995 by past president and dear friend Marie-Jeanne Lambert, Ginger has served on and chaired numerous committees including Ritual, Social Action, and Education. She has taught a multitude of classes, helped start the Book Group, and guided many in the art of baking challah. She brought her baking skills to the children of BCC with hamantaschen-making lessons. Currently she is Vice-President and Co-Chair of the Rabbinic Search Committee. In that latter capacity, she helped lead a transparent, community-based process to wonderful success, our new Rabbi Jillian Cameron!

Looking to the future, Ginger sees BCC’s biggest challenge to be how we move forward in the age of the pandemic. How do we evolve to meet the moment safely? How do we keep/bring the community together? Ginger knows that, just at BCC survived the horrible early days of HIV/AIDS and came through stronger, we can do that again. And we can be a leader to others.

Ginger Jacobs does what is just and kind, not for credit, but because it’s the right thing to do and she knows how to do it. She raised her children, and is teaching her 8 grandchildren, to carry on her legacy of fighting injustice. Ginger believes, “If you want to really heal the world, raise strong children to be strong adults and changemakers.” As in her family, Ginger is a true matriarch of BCC, spreading her wisdom, kindness and determination to everyone she encounters.

Steven Schmitt and his husband, Paul Bellaff, and Kyle Young and his husband, Steven Salton, along with the Schmitt-Young Group at Morgan Stanley are being honored collectively with the Erwin and Agnes Herman Humanitarian Award for their visionary philanthropy to LGBTQ+ communities, and as special friends to BCC over the years. (In photo, left to right:  Paul Bellaff, Steven Schmitt, Kyle Young, Steven Salton)

STEVEN SCHMITT & PAUL BELLAFF

Steven Schmitt was born with congenital talipes equinovarus, where both feet are turned inwards. This had a profound effect on his life, not only in how he physically moved through the world, but also how he perceived the world. As a child, Steven had physical limitations that impacted the relationships he formed and the interests he was and wasn’t able to pursue. These were painful times, physically and emotionally. But they would lead him, ultimately, to discovering his life’s true purpose.

Steven was initially treated at the non-profit Shriners Hospital for Children in Philadelphia. Their mission is to provide specialty care for children, regardless of the family’s ability to pay. The Shriner’s Hospital was Steven’s first realization that organizations with a higher purpose exist. The simple offer of compassion and care, without any expectation in return, was an awakening for him. Here was a whole community of people who just wanted to help. Steven felt more accepted, more connected and was inspired to carry this generosity forward.

While studying meteorology at Penn State, Steven started day-trading. His passion for analysis and a new-found interest in the markets, led him to transition to a degree in finance. He even found a first job that combined finance and weather by working as an energy analyst with Virginia Power. Shortly after, he joined Merrill Lynch, and began working with retail clients.  One day he happened to read an article about the lack of financial planning for the LGBTQ community.  He knew this was his chance to support a population that really needed it. This would serve as the seed for the Schmitt-Young Group (SYG) which would go on to be a world leader in financial management specifically catered to the LGBTQ community as well as become social justice leaders and philanthropists.

Throughout his career, Steven has amassed an impressive list of educational credentials. He holds the CFP® and CRPS® designations and was instrumental in the creation of the ADPA® program. After earning his B.S. degree in Finance at Penn State, Steven obtained his M.B.A. from William Paterson University. Steven’s enduring interest and passion for meteorology provides a distinct perspective on environmental conditions that he often incorporates into his investment strategies.

Steven’s husband, Paul Bellaff, shares his partner’s passion for social justice. The maternal side of Paul’s family lived in Poland where they owned a successful cloth factory in Lodz. They had a comfortable home and went to private school. During World War II, the family was rounded up and shipped to various concentration camps, including Auschwitz and Buchenwald. A great majority were murdered. For the ones who survived, returning to Lodz wasn’t an option. They had lost everything, and nearly everyone, and needed fresh starts. The survivors scattered across the globe.

His forbearers’ story of incredible suffering left an indelible mark on Paul. It made him sensitive to the importance of community and deeply appreciative of those communities that welcome refugees with open arms, like the United States had welcomed his family after World War 2.

Being both gay and Jewish meant Paul straddled two often-marginalized groups. He found comfort in providing support to others, particularly the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, a non-profit volunteer-based AIDS service organization in New York City. One of his fondest memories is sponsoring a successful dance-a-thon. Paul raised over $10,000, which was a significant feat at the time, and danced for over six hours. He continues to support various charities and organizations to promote equality and justice across America.

It is with Beth Chayim Chadashim that Paul has found a community that openly and joyously celebrates all sides of himself. It is a community that brings together people from disparate backgrounds and welcomes a multitude of life experiences. And it is a community who understands his and Steven’s personal truths, that one’s physical and emotional scars can translate into a deeper, spiritual understanding of the world.

KYLE YOUNG & STEVEN SALTON

Kyle Young grew up in a single-parent family with little (and at times, no) means. He saw his mother struggle financially her entire life, often times being forced into decisions that otherwise might have been made differently. Kyle’s mother fostered nearly 60 children, almost all medically fragile, over the course of his childhood. He had a front row seat to her selflessness and sacrifice. That perspective engrained in him an understanding of people and a strong sense of empathy for others. It also gave him a drive and discipline to better his own life, in large part, so he could better the lives of those around him and, like his mother, those who might need it most.

Kyle’s career path has led to a very different place from where it began, as a chemistry and education major at a small private school in his home state of New Jersey. Despite loving both areas of focus, neither truly fulfilled him. Like so many Americans, he was working to pay his way through schooling. He realized that the school he was attending was going to financially ruin him before his adult life had even begun. He also realized that the insular community he was living in was preventing him from coming out of the closet and becoming his full self.

Kyle made the difficult decision to wipe the slate clean. He began to study economics at Rutgers University, a school of 40,000+ students, in an urban setting with more culture and openness to people with differing backgrounds and importantly, a much more manageable price tag. The transition also allowed him to live openly and freely as a gay man. It was one of the best decisions of his life.

During his senior year at Rutgers, Kyle was invited to interview for an internship position with Steven Schmitt, who was building his wealth management practice. He was surprised and excited to hear Steven talk about the work he was doing with the LGBTQ community. Kyle describes it as “intoxicating.” The idea never occurred to him that he could work in a field that he was passionate about and also directly change the lives of those in his own community. When that interview ended, Kyle stayed and began what would become Day One of his new career. He spent the first 18 months in an administrative role, learning about the engine that keeps any successful wealth management practice moving. In 2006, Kyle shifted into an advisory role and officially started his partnership with Steven. And thus, The Schmitt Young Group was born.

In 2015, Kyle met Steven Salton while vacationing on Fire Island. They would marry in 2020. Steven was born and raised in upstate New York. His brother Bryan was born with Down syndrome and his sister Melissa with congenital talipes equinovarus. And his mother, of blessed memory, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when he was in high school. Watching those he loved most battle lifelong challenges taught him gratitude and patience and inspired him to seek a life of service to others.

Steven graduated with a Bachelor of Science from Ithaca College. Throughout school, he volunteered at local assisted living and nursing facilities, including those for special needs children. Following graduation, he joined AmeriCorps and spent a year working with the American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, the Housing Authorities in D.C. & Philadelphia, Reading & Youth Programs and Urban & Environmental revitalization throughout the Eastern US coastline.

Upon completion of his AmeriCorps service, Steven moved to New York City, leading to a 16-year career at Saks Fifth Avenue & Hudson’s Bay Company. Steven has volunteered for and supported a number of local organizations including God’s Love We Deliver, NY Cares, and Ali Forney. As Vice President of Event Marketing at Saks Fifth Avenue, he led charitable initiative programs from 2014-2018 raising an average of $1.5M in annual donations for hundreds of charities across the United States. His efforts supported causes ranging from the arts, children, education, environment, health, LGBTQ and women.

In addition to the philanthropic work through The Schmitt Young Group, Kyle and Steven are longtime fundraisers for the Human Rights Campaign and more recently for Feeding America in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. They also support research for Multiple Sclerosis, a disease that Steven’s mother passed away from at the age of 62 after a heroic 20-year battle.

Performers & Award Show Participants

Shoshana Bean is a veteran of the Broadway stage, having made her debut in the original cast of Hairspray, starring as Elphaba in Wicked and most recently as Jenna in Waitress. Her three independent solo albums have all topped the iTunes R&B and Blues charts in the US and UK, with her fourth and most recent project, SPECTRUM, debuting at #1 on the Billboard Jazz charts. She has sold out solo concerts around the globe, lent her voice to countless films and television shows, amassed millions of views on YouTube, and performed alongside Ariana Grande, David Foster, Postmodern Jukebox, Brian McKnight, and Michael Jackson.

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, founded in 1979, performs with the harmonic mission of creating a future free from homophobia and all other discrimination.  For over 40 years, the Chorus has built an international reputation for musical excellence while remaining deeply rooted in service to the Los Angeles community. They currently have more than 300 members, have toured nationally and internationally, released fifteen CDs, commissioned more than 300 new works and arrangements and appeared frequently on national television, including the Academy Awards. The Chorus since its inception has accomplished many firsts including the first gay men’s chorus ever to perform for a sitting President of the United States, Bill Clinton (and subsequently Barack Obama) and the first gay chorus to tour Central Europe and South America.

Judy Gold is a standup comedian, actress, television writer, producer and LGBTQ+ activist.  She has had award-winning stand-up specials on HBO, Comedy Central and LOGO as well as written and starred in two critically acclaimed, Off-Broadway hit shows: The Judy Show – My Life as a Sitcom and the GLAAD Media Award winning 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother. Judy has hosted the GLAAD Media Awards on VH1 and currently hosts a free, weekly podcast, Kill Me Now, that focuses on everything that annoys her and her guests. She is a frequent guest on nightly and morning talk shows, episodic television and had articles published in The New York Times. Judy is the proud winner of two Emmys for her work as a writer and producer on The Rosie O’Donnell Show.

Adam Kulbersh is a working character actor with appearances on dozens of TV shows across the dial for decades. From Grey’s Anatomy to Modern Family to NCIS, if it’s on television, Adam’s probably popped by to play “second Jew from left” on it. Currently, he can be seen on FX’s award-winning series Better Things. Adam is also a writer who has sold TV series and feature films ranging from raucous adult comedies to heart-centered romances to large-scale dramas. He’s currently working on a new take on the classic Hallmark rom-com as well as a heart-driven comedy about his life as single, gay dad.

Nicole Parker has appeared on Broadway in Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me, The People in the Picture with Donna Murphy, and as Elphaba in Wicked. Nicole played Fanny Brice in Funny Girl and won a Los Angeles Ovation award for Best Actress in a musical. Nicole was a regular on Fox’s Madtv for six years. She performs as a featured vocalist with symphonies across the country including The National Symphony in DC, Houston Symphony, and many more. She hosts an improvised comedy podcast with Paul F. Tompkins called The Neighborhood Listen, available on Stitcher.

Cantor Juval Porat, is classically trained (in Germany and Israel) at the Abraham Geiger College and has been serving congregation Beth Chayim Chadashim since his arrival in 2008. In addition to leading services, Cantor Porat works with BCC’s family education program, directs the BCC choir, teaches adult education classes, and works closely with Rabbi Jillian Cameron to meet the spiritual and musical needs of BCC. From sacred song to pop culture to his own creations, in drag for Purim or as an elegant interpreter of prayer, solo or in collaboration with congregants, co-clergy, and other musicians, as teacher, prayer leader, choir director, concert producer, songwriter, CD soloist, Juval aspires to be a spiritual and musical guide along life’s journeys. His blog can be found at juval-online.com.

Keala Settle is an actress and singer with powerful performances on stage and screen. She mesmerized audiences with her rousing performance of This is Me in the film, The Greatest Showman opposite Hugh Jackman. Her rendition of it at the 2018 Academy Awards brought the audience to their feet and helped propel the films soundtrack to become the bestselling album of 2018. She’s starred on Broadway as Madame Thenardier in Les Misérables, and originated the role of Becky in the musical Waitress. For her performance in Hands on a Hardbody, Keala was nominated for the Outer Critics Circle Award, Drama Desk Award, and the Tony Award.

6W Entertainment (Vision Awards virtual producer), is a production company created by Erich Bergen, based out of New York City and Los Angeles. Born in early 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, 6W Entertainment has produced over 50 television specials and virtual events including Saturday Night Seder, UNICEF Won’t Stop, The Rosie O’Donnell Show Livestream and other projects featuring such names as Cher, George Clooney, Oprah Winfrey, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, John Legend, Amanda Gorman, H.E.R., Bruce Springsteen, Clive Davis, Alicia Keys, Secretary Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama.

Rabbi Jillian Cameron

Rabbi – Beth Chayim Chadashim

Rabbi Jillian Cameron arrived at BCC in July 2020 in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, after driving across the U.S. with her dog Yasha. This was a challenging time to start a new rabbinate, with few opportunities to meet congregants in person, but she has risen to the occasion with aplomb. Collaborating with Cantor Juval Porat, the religious school staff, and lay leadership, Rabbi Cameron has adapted expertly to the necessarily virtual format of Shabbat and holiday services, Torah study, and religious school. Her spiritual leadership, inspiring drashot, and deep Jewish learning are matched by her personal warmth, beautiful singing voice, and talented storytelling.

After receiving her B.A. in Jewish Studies in 2004, Rabbi Cameron worked as a religious school teacher, camp counselor, and Israel trip coordinator. She earned masters degrees in religious education and Hebrew literature at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in New York on the way to her rabbinic ordination in 2012.

As Director of Interfaith Family/Boston, she built relationships with synagogues and Jewish organizations and created innovative programs to assist interfaith families, couples, and individuals in navigating their connection to the Jewish community. As a co-founder of Jewish Tribe for Pride in Salem, Mass., she created opportunities for Jews in the North Shore area to become integrated into the LGBTQ+ Jewish community.

Rabbi Cameron envisions her rabbinate “as a link in the chain of Jewish history and tradition, steeped in continued education from our texts and the stories of our people, past and present. … I am passionate about celebrating the wide diversity within Judaism and those connected to Judaism and I hope to continue to illuminate every story and tend every spark.”

If you have any questions or would like additional information, please contact event chair, Brett Trueman, at secretary@bcc-la.org.

Beth Chayim Chadashim

Founded in 1972 as the world’s first lesbian and gay synagogue, today Beth Chayim Chadashim (BCC) is an inclusive Jewish community for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people, our families, friends, and allies