Magazine article Tikkun

Small Steps to LGBT Inclusion

Magazine article Tikkun

Small Steps to LGBT Inclusion

Article excerpt

THE 1980'S WAS THE AGE of "identity politics." Almost a generation later, especially for readers of a progressive magazine like Tikkun, focusing on diversity can seem so passé. Don't we all- that is, those of us in the liberal political and religious world- already get it? Do we really need more discussion about diversity?

When it comes to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) identities, we do. Jewish responses to LGBT people run the gamut from the celebration and affirmation of sexual and gender diversity found in LGBT-outreach synagogues to the utter condemnation of any form of gay visibility by the chief rabbis of Israel and Russia, among others. Over the last ten to twenty years, social justice activists committed to LGBT inclusion have seen incredible strides in the Jewish community, but much of the Jewish world still falls short in their progress toward this goal, and there is work to be done.

Most Jewish communal leaders, for example, favor the inclusion of LGBT Jews, but those same leaders often don't know where to start. A recent community study conducted in Colorado by Jewish Mosaic, the organization I work for, found that even when Jews in leadership roles considered themselves open and welcoming, many LGBT community members looked at the same institutions with hesitation and uncertainty. Projecting inclusion visibly and proactively is not just about having a receptive attitude. It's about making inclusiveness a reality through concrete policies and procedures, words and actions. And ultimately, it means having LGBT Jews in visible roles in the Jewish community.

The complexity of making "grand gestures" around LGBT issues often intimidates Jewish community leaders into inaction. With so many competing communal priorities, why should they spend precious institutional resources on comprehensive LGBT inclusion projects? At Jewish Mosaic, the most important piece of advice we give to community leaders and activists is: grand gestures are great, but don't ignore the small stuff. That's the same lesson the sages conveyed in Pirke Avot (Ethics of our Fathers) when they taught us that "It is not our responsibility to finish the task [of repairing the world], but neither are we free to leave the status quo alone."

For example, while hiring an openly gay rabbi or executive director would boldly demonstrate your institution's commitment to diversity, a first step you can take now would be implementing an institutional nondiscrimination policy that makes it clear that your organization is open to staff and clergy regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. …

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