HRC Blog

Practicing What We Preach

This guest post comes from Dr. Joel L. Kushner, Director of the Institute for Judaism and Sexual Orientation at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion.

As the director of the Institute for Judaism & Sexual Orientation (IJSO) at Hebrew Union College-JIR – the first and only institute of its kind in the Jewish world – I am privileged to teach students how to become culturally competent around lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues and how to create welcoming spaces. We also work directly with organizations to offer tools, guidance and mentoring in the process of becoming more inclusive to LGBT Jews and their families. Our cutting edge trainings and curriculum foster real transformation and inclusion within Jewish communal organizations.

I was recently studying a Talmud verse (Yevamot 63b) that speaks to one of the biggest struggles this work faces – that of practicing versus preaching. From the Institute’s research, we know that many Jewish organizations see themselves as already being very welcoming to LGBT people, but when we look at the specific actions they do and policies they hold, there is a big gap. Sometimes, this gap between preaching but not practicing is due to lack of knowledge or understanding.

This is why we at the IJSO are so excited that HRC’s Jewish Organization Equality Index (JOEI) is approaching organizations with another way to learn about equality and inclusion. Simply answering the JOEI questions can create a positive effect. Taking the survey will give organizations both a glimpse of best practices and provide a chance for self-reflection and change. The more organizations that participate, the more we will learn as a community about the current state of LGBT inclusion in our organizations. And, the more we know about ourselves and each other, the more we gain the ability to close the gaps by learning to actually practice what we preach. As advocates for justice and Tikkun Olam (repairing the world), it is crucial to complete the JOEI. If not now, when?

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