June is Pride month. These days my attention is turned much more to highlighting and celebrating the diversity of all kinds within our Jewish communities. In the past, some of our Jewish communities have specifically addressed the inclusion of interfaith families and GLBTQ Jews in their midst. In recent months I've learned a great deal from my colleague and friend, Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder, Rabbi-in-Residence for Be'chol Lashon, that recognizing and responding to diversity goes far beyond these categories, to the inclusion of Jews of every ethnic background. Our worldwide Jewish community has always been diverse, but our US-based community is becoming increasingly more diverse from immigration, adoption, conversion and the coming together of more mixed-ethnicity couples in marriage. A new video from B'chol Lashon, featuring Y-love (below) shares this message:
But one of the important aspects of being a welcoming and inclusive community is not simply to acknowledge, welcome and celebrate the diversity that makes up our Jewish communities today. If we really care about inclusivity, we need to be responsive to the hurts, the needs, and the injustices that may be faced by one part of our community. For just as we cannot claim to be an economically diverse community that welcomes everyone to belong regardless of financial means if we do not make it possible in reality and do not see it is as our duty to provide additional support to our families in times of struggle, so we cannot claim to be truly inclusive and welcoming of any group if we are not responsive to their needs.
I recently heard a story of a Rabbi who had delivered a sermon on a Pride Shabbat that highlighted some of the injustices and inequalities still faced by loving same-sex couples because they cannot get married or their marriages are not federally-recognized. Couples who are still faced with crippling financial ramifications when one dies and their partner inherits; couples who cannot gain access to each other when one is in the emergency room, and cannot make decisions on behalf of an incapacitated partner; couples who struggle to find affordable health insurance that is available to them as a family unit. And the list goes on. While the overwhelming majority of the community responded with compassion, recognizing that the Reform movement has long stood behind civil rights equality for same-sex couples, and recognizing the holiness of being a community dedicated to that work, a small minority felt it inappropriate material for a Rabbinic sermon. But the wonderful 'It Gets Better' campaign this past year has helped us all understand that silence on the pain and inequalities facing GLBTQ people is more than just an omission of words; by making the individuals and the issues invisible in our communities we are failing in our duties to literally save the lives of some of our youth who don't know who to turn to and what wonderful possibilities might lie ahead. I spoke (and subsequently published in my blog here) about this specific issue some months back, and recently a colleague, Rabbi Andrea Myers, published an article on the Huffington Post entitled 'It Gets Beautiful', which I highly commend to you.
The seminary of the Union for Reform Judaism, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, created their own 'It Gets Better' video, providing inspiring leadership. More recently, the students at Yale Divinity School created a similar video project, reaching out to Christians who are looking for their spiritual home in a place that doesn't require them to leave a piece of their soul at the door. Both videos are below.
Blessings for a Pride month filled with inspiration, affirmation, and action.
Rabbi Rachel Gurevitz