Posted by Melanie Nathan, November 05, 2015.
The Union for Reform Judaism met in Orlando, Florida this week, for its biennial conference, where it endorsed a policy detailing specific steps to be taken by synagogues to thwart discrimination against transgender people. Included is the crucial adoption of gender-neutral language and the provision of gender-neutral restrooms, as well as training and education. An unusual standing ovation hailed the importance and popularity of the motion.
“We’re very proud of taking this step and know it has great meaning for our congregations,” said Barbara Weinstein of the Washington-based Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism. “It’s both extremely significant and a natural evolution of who we are.”
- “North American culture and society have, in general, become increasingly accepting of people who are gay, lesbian and bisexual – yet too often transgender and gender non-conforming individuals are forced to live as second-class citizens.
- Transgender people face legal and cultural bigotry, hate crimes and harassment, and discrimination in employment, healthcare and housing.
- Reform Judaism congregations should advocate for the rights of transgender people.
- But congregations should also create inclusive and welcoming communities by training staff, organizing education programs, delivering sermons on gender identity, reviewing use of language in prayers, forms and policies, and providing gender-neutral facilities.
- The use of gendered titles and honorifics, such as “Mr”, “Mrs” and “Ms” should be avoided, and congregants should be asked in private for their preferred pronouns.
- Children should be grouped not according to gender, but by birth months or seasons.
- Synagogues should invite transgender speakers to address congregations.”
Around 1.5 million Jews in North America are affiliated with the Union for Reform Judaism, the largest Jewish religious group in the U.S.A., which has for years welcomed and included lesbians and gays in its policies.
Other faiths and denominations such as the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, the Unitarian Universalist Association and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association have adopted transgender anti-discrimination policies, but none are as far-reaching as the Union of Reform Judaism. The hope is that the Conservative Jewish movement and other faiths and denominations, which have lagged behind the Reform Jewish movement, will follow this path.