The first time Cantor Mark Goldman attended an American Conference of Cantors convention about 20 years ago, he went to a secret meeting of gay colleagues.
It was in somebodys hotel room. There were maybe a dozen people, said Goldman, longtime cantor at Temple Kol Ami Emanu-El in Plantation.
At the next years convention, a few more gay cantors showed up at another word-of-mouth meeting, he said.
Now, secret meetings are out and so is Goldman, who in July was elected national president of the 505-member Reform Jewish cantors conference.
I see being gay as being a part of me, part of my personality. Its not everything that defines me, said Goldman, 46, who grew up an Orthodox Jew in suburban London.
I always wanted to be a cantor from a very young age. I enjoyed going to synagogue with my father, and the music in the synagogue spoke to me, he said.
At 18, Goldman studied at an Israeli yeshiva, a very orthodox learning institution where you delve into the intricacies of Jewish tradition.
The following year, he pursued cantorial studies and an honors bachelor of arts degree in Judaic studies at the London School of Jewish Studies. He became the youngest recipient of certification by the United Kingdoms chief rabbi.
Goldman recalls that when the subject of homosexuality came up at an Orthodox high school, we were told this is something terrible and abhorrent.
It was very much an inner conflict, he said. We prayed daily and I remember asking God to take this affliction away from me. That was something I battled with personally for many, many years, up until the time I emigrated into the United States to Rochester, N.Y., where I was a cantor in a Conservative congregation.
Goldman thinks that, subconsciously, being gay led him to America.
It probably did, but at the time I was looking at coming to the United States as a wonderful opportunity, he said. I was 24 years old and I looked at Rochester on the map. I saw New York City and I thought, Wow, they look really close together. Maybe I could go to New York City for the weekend.
At 27, he came out to his parents. They were extremely surprised, shocked. There were lots of tears, but they were very supportive.
In 1995, Goldman was offered a cantorial position at reform Temple Kol Ami, which merged in 2004 with Temple Emanu-El of Fort Lauderdale.
I never really had a formal coming out as such. When I came to Temple Kol Ami 18 years ago, it was never a question that was asked. It wasnt something that I put on my resume, Goldman said. After a short period of time, people knew I was gay.
Goldmans partner of 17 years, Aaron Taber, is a Fort Lauderdale interior designer.
I actually met my partner within the first year of me being at Kol Ami, Goldman said. He started coming to services and I started to slowly introduce him as my boyfriend at the time, as my partner. He is regarded certainly as my spouse in every way. Hes given honors in front of the congregation. Its never, ever been an issue.
Said Taber: At Temple Kol Ami, Im treated equally to any other spouse of clergy staff. Theyve always welcomed me as part of the family.
As a cantor, Goldman dedicates himself to progressive, contemporary Judaism.