HRC Blog

Embracing Kavod Habriyot

The following post comes from Rabbi Camille Shira Angel, who leads the Sha’ar Zahav congregation in San Francisco:

I consider myself lucky to work and to be paid well, benefits and all, as an out lesbian in a Jewish organization. In the case of my job, it is in fact a compelling attribute that I am both Jewish and gay, as the rabbi of the predominantly LGBT-identified progressive congregation Sha’ar Zahav in San Francisco. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many people I know.  For far too many Jews, being open as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person causes tremendous stress and hardship in the workplace. This stress is so great that many in our communal institutions, both employees and members, choose to keep this part of their identity hidden.  Feeling visible and valued for our contributions, regardless of our sexual orientation or gender identity, ought to be something that everyone working in a Jewish organization can take for granted.

It is surprising, if not disturbing to learn that many of those who are staying in the closet are our twenty and thirty some-thing community members.  With “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” now an artifact, it’s hard to accept that we haven’t achieved full equality in employment practices nor a welcoming sense of inclusion in our Jewish organizations.  Sadly, we still have a distance to go in realizing our Jewish ideals, especially the ideas of b’tzelem elohim, the notion that each person is created in G-d’s image, and kavod habriyot, the value of human dignity.  

We know we can do better. The JOEI project can help us do better and asks us to reach our highest standard of accountability when it comes to implementing best practices for LGBT inclusion. This is not merely a survey – it is a call to action. The goal of this project is to empower every Jewish organization, every executive director, human resources director, office manager, president and CEO to work for social justice, and enable every Jewish employee to feel proud of the institutions we serve.

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