AIDStories: A Panel Discussion on the AIDS Crisis and Memory

Panel Conversation
Beth Chayim Chadashim

6090 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90035

Beth Chayim Chadashim joins community members to discuss the lasting impact of the AIDS crisis on individuals, communities, our city, and the world, and to consider how we honor and remember those we lost and the lessons we learned. 

Attendees at this event will hear from Ray Eelsing, a long-term survivor of HIV/AIDS, and BCC’s Rabbi Emerita Lisa Edwards who fought at the front lines. The panel will be moderated by Beth Chayim Chadashim’s Rabbi Jillian Cameron. 

Participant Bios

BCC’s Rabbi, Jillian Cameron (Moderator) is a native of New Jersey and an alumna of Trinity College in Hartford, CT, where she majored in Jewish Studies and was a proud member of Trinity’s oldest and only co-ed a cappella group. Rabbi Cameron received ordination from Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in 2012 after receiving a Master’s in Religious Education in 2008, also from HUC-JIR. During her time at HUC-JIR, Rabbi Cameron worked as an intern, teacher and student rabbi at a variety of synagogues and organizations, including the press department of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR). Rabbi Cameron served as the Assistant Rabbi and Educator at Temple B’nai Shalom, a synagogue in Virginia and served as Director of Interfaith Families in Boston. She also co-created Jew(ish) Tribe for Pride, an organization that provided a Jewish space for people who wanted to march in the local Pride Parade.  

BCC’s Rabbi Emerita, Lisa Edwards, Ph.D. (Panelist), has been a Jewish lesbian activist from the pulpit, on the page and on the Web, in the classroom, and in the streets of Los Angeles for over two decades. From 1994 until 2019, she served as rabbi of Beth Chayim Chadashim (BCC), “House of New Life,” the first synagogue in the world founded by gays and lesbians in 1972. Rabbi Edwards is also a sought-after speaker, teacher, writer, and clergyperson, advocating for the rights of LGBTQ people as well as serving their spiritual needs. She has received numerous awards including a 2022 LACE Award from the LA LGBT Center, a “Rainbow Key Award” from the City of West Hollywood, and a “Woman of the Year” Award from the State of California’s 54th District. In addition to ordination as a rabbi and a Master’s in Hebrew Letters from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), Lisa Edwards holds a BA from Brown University, an MA from the University of Chicago, and a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Iowa.

Long-time survivor Ray Eelsing (Panelist) tested positive for HIV in the 1980s early on in the AIDS crisis.  Assuming he had not long to live, he resolved to do what he could for others.  This included being a primary caretaker to several friends who died from AIDS complications, including his longtime partner. Ray has also been an outspoken HIV+/AIDS activist, and continues to serve in leadership positions at BCC, as well as following through on his commitment to help preserve the history of this agonizing time in his own life, the lives of loved ones, and community members.

This program is organized by Beth Chayim Chadashim (BCC) as part of the 2023 Circa: Queer Histories Festival, presented by One Institute.

  • BCC is an affirming, nurturing, and brave Jewish space for LGBTQIA+ people, our friends, and our families.