Rabbi Benjamin David
As we approach Pride Month, we are collectively witnessing a widespread public assault on LGBTQ rights. As a rabbi, this terrifies me, as it should you.
Recent legislation enacted in Florida forbids teachers from using the word “gay,” denies the public appearance of drag shows, limits pronoun usage to those associated with one’s biological sex and instructs teachers not to educate children on matters relating to sex or sexuality that are outside of heterosexual practice.
These laws, in addition to similar measures set to take effect in Texas, fly in the face of my understanding of Judaism, human rights and basic decency. This Pride Month, against this heinous backdrop of intolerance, we are obligated to recommit ourselves to the aggrieved LGBTQ community.
June has been recognized as Pride Month ever since the Stonewall Riots in the summer of 1969. These riots followed a police raid of the popular gay bar, the Stonewall Inn in New York City; it was the birth of a movement and a loud cry for acceptance. This came, of course, at a time of great unrest and transition in the United States, a time when marginalized communities gained their voice and spoke unequivocal truths to power. From Rosa Parks to Harvey Milk, change was in the air.
We are the heirs of these change-makers. More than 50 years since Stonewall, Pride Month becomes an opportunity for us to re-up our commitment to and support of the LGBTQ community.
We do this precisely as Jews. Indeed, as we were strangers in the land of Egypt, we know well what it means to be diminished, othered and cast out as threatening and altogether dangerous. The Jewish story is no doubt replete with instances in which we were made to feel less than, belittled and worse than that because of how we looked, how we prayed, the holidays we observed, the food we ate and the language(s) we spoke. We know what it means to experience hate.
Amid the darkest chapter of our people, we were dehumanized outright, turned into numbers and caricatures: a yellow star, a kippah, glasses and the stereotypical large nose. Our sense of self was denied as was every Jewish soul’s distinctive identity, personality and story. The Shoah so nearly erased Jews and Judaism as a hate machine, with zero tolerance for difference, sought to eradicate us once and for all. Thank God we are still here and here to ensure that all peoples are protected from ignorance and those set on persecution.
I come to Pride Month not only as a rabbi and a Jew, not only as the grandson of Holocaust survivors but as an engaged American citizen seeking a society predicated on greater compassion and understanding. This is the America in which I want my children to live. This is the America in which I want our religious school and nursery school children to live.
Pride Month has us recognize not only the extraordinary contributions of the LGBTQ community to our broader world but how our LGBTQ friends enrich our synagogue life by their mere presence, life experience and wisdom. We are commanded once and again to “love our neighbor” and to “welcome the stranger,” and I am glad that synagogues around the world have moved gradually away from homophobic policy-making and egregious exclusion. These profoundly Jewish obligations are to transcend politics, our limited silos, even our comfort level.
I write this at a moment in time that is wrought with prejudicial thinking and the rights of the LGBTQ community are very much in peril. When, in Florida alone, books that educate children about LGBTQ relationships are banned, gender-affirming therapies are outlawed and personal pronouns are determined by the state rather than the individual, we must say “‘enough!”
As people in power seek to shutter and/or boycott businesses that are inclusive of the LGBTQ communities and politicians seek to undermine and devalue people due to their sexuality, we must not look away. Nor can we justify such behavior by selectively reading our sacred texts while ignoring the massive tome of laws repeatedly directing us to love, embrace and support each other.
I take my cues from the great rabbinic sages who preceded me — those who stood tall amid the civil rights movement and as Russian Jewry was under siege; they had the courage once and again to align themselves with the maligned and stand up tall for the mistreated. We all should. Now is the time.
Rabbi Benjamin David is the senior rabbi at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel.
Rabbi I would have thought that anyone using that title of Rabbi would have his facts straight and present an unbiased article on such an important subject. You just proved me wrong. The don’t say gay law you’re referring to is not a public assault on anyone but rather the protection of young kids from confused and aggressive adults.
It forbids the teaching of materials with sexual content, any sexual content, up to the third grade. The reason for this is, it’s not the public school’s business to inject it’s views on gender and force them down the throats of young gullible, immature students. Its the parents responsibility to decide what sexual content to teach their kids and at what age its appropriate to do so.
The Florida law doesn’t limit the teaching of pronouns, it prevents that teaching since its the parents job to decide if these pronouns are consistent with their views, both religious and moral.
If you want your kids, presuming you have any, to observe drag queens, that’s your decision because they’re your kids. Don’t demand that other people’s children be exposed to that kind of bizarre sexual demonstration since many parents disagree with this type of behavior. The school’s job is to teach reading, writing, math and history not sex nor sexuality outside of the heterosexual practices. American schools are rated very poorly on all of these subjects worldwide, partially because they’re teaching material that distracts from their expected responsibility.
Books about LGBTQ relationships aren’t banned, this is not Nazi Germany, you can find them at any book store and library, and so-called gender-affirming therapies is a nice name for the mutilation of kids in the advancement of the latest leftist fad.
I resent your use of Judaism to advance this very destructive fad. Show me where Judaism supports this violation of children’s bodies pushed on them by adults, even worse teachers, who have no right to make these irreversible lifelong decisions for other people’s kids.
The state, through the use of it’s public schools has no right to insert itself into people’s families, and has no right in a free society to impose it’s will on children. That happens in communist countries in which the all-knowing State has unlimited power. We reject that concept here because it inevitably leads to total power in the hands of a few elitists who quickly become arrogant and corrupt. This is not about love it’s about control. Its not about Judaism, its about ignoring the heartbeat of Jewish teaching in the clear text of the Torah.