Oral History Interview with Bob Saks, 1943-


Bob Saks is a straight rabbi who graduated and was ordained from the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1970. In 1972, Saks joined the Rabbinic Association of the Reform Movement. He led the University of Maryland College Park’s Hillel chapter from 1973 to 1991 and, in 1991, he became the first rabbi hired by the LGBT synagogue Bet Mishpachah.


The first half of this recording addresses Bob Saks’ education and early work with the Jewish community in and around the DC area.

Bob got involved with the LGBT community and Bet Mishpachah through his work with several Hillel students. Founded in 1975, Bet Mishpachah (a congregation of about 150 individuals) was ideologically somewhere between reform and conservative. During his time as the part time rabbi at Bet Mish, Bob engaged in policy work. He defended Roland Pool and Michael Geller against the Boy Scouts before the DC Human Rights Commission and spoke before the board of rabbis as a representative of Bet Mish. Bob’s appearances before the board of rabbis gave Bet Mish a higher profile within the Jewish community.

In the early 90s, Bet Mish applied for membership in the Jewish Community Council, an umbrella organization of Jewish congregations. Bob notes (around 22.00) that, while some orthodox congregations objected, nearly every other congregation supported Bet Mish’s application to the JCC.

In the second half of this recording, Bob discusses his efforts to advocate for inclusive congregations. In the late 90s or early 2000s, together with several colleagues, Bob developed a document titled “What it means to be a welcoming congregation,” which outlined requirements for an inclusive Jewish congregation. This document sparked a years long dialogue between Bob and a number of local congregations regarding LGBT inclusivity.




University Park, MD


Not yet transcribed.

Original Format

Yes, recording available (.wav, 378 MB)




“Oral History Interview with Bob Saks, 1943-,” Rainbow History Project Digital Collections, accessed May 21, 2024, https://archives.rainbowhistory.org/items/show/1638.

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