Beliefs Institutions

US Reform Jews adopt sweeping transgender rights policy

Participants gather during the 2015 Union for Reform Judaism Biennial in Orlando. Photo courtesy of Union for Reform Judaism
Participants gather during the 2015 Union for Reform Judaism Biennial in Orlando. Photo courtesy of Union for Reform Judaism

Participants gather during the 2015 Union for Reform Judaism Biennial in Orlando. Photo courtesy of Union for Reform Judaism

ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters)  Temples and synagogues affiliated with the nation’s largest Jewish movement should take specific steps to embrace transgender people, a U.S. conference of Reform Jews urged on Thursday (Nov. 5) in approving a groundbreaking resolution.

In a resounding voice vote, Reform Judaism embraced some of the most far-reaching policies for transgender people seen among any of the nation’s mainstream religious organizations, LGBT right advocates said.

The resolution calls for congregations to offer cultural training for religious school staff, sermons on transgender issues and gender-neutral restrooms where feasible.

The measure generated little discord among the 1.5 million North America Jews affiliated with the Union for Reform Judaism, which is holding a biennial conference in Orlando, Fla.

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“We have gay, lesbian, the whole rainbow members and on our board of trustees,” said Ken Snitz from Temple Israel in Tulsa, Okla. “We’re very open and supportive. We don’t just say it. We practice it.”

The Episcopal Church and United Church of Christ also have adopted positions in support oftransgender issues. Yet the Reform Jewish movement’s policy goes further by listing specific actions to promote inclusion, said Michael Toumayan of the national Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for gay rights.

“It’s a big deal, but at the same time it’s not controversial for them at all,” he said.

It is Reform Judaism’s first anti-discrimination policy on transgender issues, said Barbara Weinstein, associate director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, a Washington-based advocacy center.

Participants gather during the 2015 Union for Reform Judaism Biennial in Orlando. Photo courtesy of Union for Reform Judaism

Participants gather during the 2015 Union for Reform Judaism Biennial in Orlando. Photo courtesy of Union for Reform Judaism

In 2003, the movement admitted its first openly transgender person to rabbinical school and in 2015 required congregations to consider all candidates for rabbinical jobs, regardless of gender identity, according to the resolution.

The measure also urges public policy changes to make it easier for transgender people to update passports, voter registrations and birth certificates, and to be identified with pronouns and have access to public restrooms according to their gender identity.

Although many of the 900 affiliated Reform congregations already are welcoming to transgenderpeople, others will now address the issue for the first time, Weinstein said.

Some smaller religious institutions, such as the Unitarian Universalist Church and the Metropolitan Community Church, which organized as a Christian center for LGBT people, also have strong anti-discrimination policies, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

(Reporting by Barbara Liston.)

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  • This is supremely irrational, this idea of recognizing transgenders as worthy members of this or that religion. One would have to believe that there is a growing population of a new and distinct species of humanity.
    Trans genders are mentally I’ll, and should be treated as such with loving care. Thinking I am what I am not belies a mental defect in me. Why does the world endorse this illogical thought as normal?
    There are people who don’t believe their limbs belong to them, and recently one woman fulfilled her life long desire to be a blind woman by putting acid in her eyes, saying she always “felt” she was a blind woman. Trannies are no different and need help, not an embracing acceptance by a religion.

  • Dominick, I don’t know what to make of the phenomenon of transgendered people. I hesitate to say anything about something that is so foreign to me. All I know is that they sincerely believe they’re a female trapped in a male body or vice versa, which ironically presents enormous problems for strict atheists who believe we are material beings alone and not souls.

    But as for why this action by the Reform movement in Judaism, the answer is that, like liberal Protestants, they are, to quote an old Kinks song from before my time, “dedicated followers of fashion.”

    If it were fashionable to wear Mickey Mouse masks and moo like cows in solidarity with PETA, they would do so.

    Most people, Jews and Christians alike, get it….in that we all remember the kids we knew in high school who would say or do just about anything to conform to whatever the trend was at that time.

    Well….here they are….decades later.

  • Good for Reform Judaism!

    A religious group which has always had a strong notion of social justice and appreciation of civil liberties. Not just for their own, but others. A rarity among many faiths. It is not following “fashion” it is following traditions and ways of thinking of morality inherent in the religious group.

    “”Reform Jews are committed to social justice. Even as Reform Jews embrace ritual, prayer, and ceremony more than ever, we continue to see social justice as the jewel in the Reform Jewish crown. Like the prophets, we never forget that God is concerned about the everyday and that the blights of society take precedence over the mysteries of heaven.”
    Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president emeritus of the Union for Reform Judaism

  • It’s becoming quite the thing to do this, and Reform Jews are now hip and right with the world. They will when the madness of transgender thinking moves onto the logical path towards ‘transable’ persons. And that will come. I am not a rightist, but I left religion when it became clear that membership means going for the hip – like transgender thought.

    If faith and faith membership means – needing to toe the line on even mad thought like transgenderism then you can call me out. But I already have left the building.

  • The problem with your view, Larry, is that the history of the Reform movement bears out the view that its leaders are indeed dedicated followers of fashion — northeastern elite fashion, that is. Like the US Supreme Court, Reform has a knack of unerringly reflecting this opinion at any point.

    This is certainly true politically, where a century or more ago, Reform was the considered RJAP — “Republican Jews at prayer.” Now that it’s fashionable for northeastern elites to be Democratic, you won’t find a single Reform leader touching anything remotely Republican with a ten-foot pole.

    Ditto for the US Supreme Court, with its history of judicial activism that mirrors the politics of the same elite. A century ago, when northeastern elites were GOP, it was knocking down liberal min wage/max hour laws that were perfectly constitutional. Now, when these elites are Dems, the opposite is the case. Conservative laws are nixed.

  • Jack the problem with your view is your arrogant assumption that all faiths have to share the same bigotry as yourself. That if anyone is not a reactionary in their religious belief, they are somehow just following fleeting trends.

    That is just your biased perspective talking. As a fundamentalist Christian, you are see a duty of resisting social justice. Using religion as an excuse to attack and demean others. Reform Judaism has always made social justice an article of faith, integral to them.

    Back in the day, the GOP wasn’t overrun by theocratic minded fundamentalist Christians. Reform Jews know that without the protection of secular government the fundies despise so much, they are likely to be attacked by sectarian discrimination as much as any other religious minority.

    People always moan about SCOTUS judicial activism when it doesn’t go their way and they can’t cough up a decent legal argument for their position. Your take on it is worthless and trite.

  • Larry, I’m sincerely wondering again, as I often do, whether you have a reading comprehension problem, because your post is one sprawling, clueless non-sequitur. It responds to nothing that went before it.

    My point is that Reform Judaism, like mainline Protestantism, simply mirrors where northeastern elites are at any moment in time. While these religious movements love to call themselves “prophetic,” in fact they are the opposite — they march in perfect lockstep with the Zeitgeist.

    Your post has failed to refute this because it can’t. It is what it is. And as I’ve said, ditto for SCOTUS.

    And as for SCOTUS, it appears you need a reading comprehension course. My point was that SCOTUS, whether acting on behalf of conservative elites a century ago or liberal elites today, succumbs regularly to judicial activism.

  • Jack, as usual you make assertions having nothing to do with actual facts. Your point was ridiculous.

    Until the Regan years, Reform Jews were notorious for supporting liberal causes, from the early 20th Century onward. Your characterization of them as conservatives was silly. They haven’t been “marching lock-step” with liberal zeitgeist, they have been leading it!

    Your claim concerning “northeastern elites” is garbage people bring up when they want to claim anything besides reactionary politics is some kind of top/down directive. A well worn assertion bereft of factual support.

    As for SCOTUS, people like yourself never cough up legitimate legal arguments against the decisions you despise. Roe v. Wade, Obergfell…you claim bias, but never bother to understand the actual decisions. It is much better not to. It allows you and others to repeat the same dishonest nonsense ad nauseum. Never once bothering to address the issues referenced in the decisions

  • One little post script:

    SCOTUS has engaged in “judicial activism” since 1801 when the concept of judicial review was first promulgated. Complaining about such things now is a bit untimely. 🙂

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