Inviting Everyone for Chanukah
December 20, 2011 by Elizabeth Leibowitz
This guest post comes from Jonathan Branfman, Jewish Organization Equality Index intern:
Most Jews have a special place in our hearts for Chanukah. Gifts aside, Chanukah evokes warmth, coziness, and family — not to mention crisp, salty latkes. Chanukah is also a connection to our community, culture and history. Each Chanukah, the story of Judah and the Maccabees reminds us that while we may sometimes struggle to maintain our Jewish identities, that struggle is always worthwhile.
However, many Jews who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender face extra obstacles as they seek to engage with Judaism. While many Jewish organizations and congregations today consider themselves LGBT-friendly, LGBT Jews often do not view them as such. The risk of rejection and exclusion leads LGBT Jews to disengage from Judaism at much higher rates than their straight peers, according to a 2009 LGBT Alliance Study. Without explicitly welcoming communities to support them, many LGBT Jews will not be lighting the menorah or playing dreidel with their children this year.
That’s why, as a gay Jewish man, I’m so proud and excited to be working with HRC’s 2012 Jewish Organization Equality Index. By fostering dialogue in nearly 500 Jewish organizations nationwide, JOEI is helping many Jewish communities reach out to their LGBT members and develop their commitment to LGBT inclusion. Some of our participants have already implemented promising best practices, such as same-sex partner benefits, safe schools advocacy, or inclusive non-discrimination policies. On the other hand, even the most progressive organizations have clear potential for further growth, especially in the realm of transgender-friendly policies and programs. I believe JOEI can truly strengthen America’s Jewish communities by cultivating greater diversity and commitment to social justice. I hope we’re moving toward a future in which all Jews can rely on the full support of our organizations in developing and expressing our Judaism, and can celebrate Chanukah comfortably with our communities.
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