HRC Blog

The Growing Edge of Inclusion in the Jewish Community

Jewish community; HRC; Sexual orientationPost submitted by Sharon Groves, former HRC Director, Religion and Faith Program

HRC is proud to launch a brand new, first-of-its-kind project:  The Jewish Organization Equality Index (JOEI).  Modeled after our Corporate Equality Index (CEI) and Healthcare Equality Index (HEI), JOEI is designed to measure employment policies and practices for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals in Jewish non-profit organizations.  This is the first time an HRC index will be used to survey non-profit organizations and we are proud of the work our colleagues have done.  This is a phenomenal tool that will help an extensive array of Jewish organizations assess how inclusive they are of LGBT Jews in their institutions, whether they are a JCC, Jewish camp, Jewish Federation, synagogue or other Jewish organization.

As with any organizational first, there are sure to be many questions.  One, in particular, that resonates deeply for us in HRC's Religion and Faith program is how JOEI will walk that fine line between pluralistic LGBT inclusion practices and deeply held religious beliefs, particularly in congregational settings. We understand that issues of justice brought into congregation life are often deeply complex because they require the participation of the whole community as it discerns its theology and its sense of shared identity.  This survey does not take the place of the hard work a religious community must engage in as they find their collective voice on LGBT acceptance and inclusion. This work is delicate and time consuming, often taking years.  Other projects such as the Welcoming Synagogue Project run out of the Institute for Judaism and Sexual Orientation at Hebrew Union College have been engaged in this work and we encourage you to explore their materials as well as those of Keshet which runs transformational workshops for clergy, Jewish professionals and educators to equip them with the tools necessary to fully affirm LGBT families, youth and staff in Jewish communal life. 

What does JOEI evaluate?  JOEI evaluates non-profit workplace inclusion policies (does your organization have a non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation and gender identity), programming (does your JCC, for example, host LGBT-specific events) and inclusive language (do family membership forms use terminology that would allow same-sex couples to join) in a wide array of Jewish communal non-profit organizations, both national and regional.  We recognize that simply participating in the survey demonstrates a strong commitment to and interest in equality and all organizations will be evaluated by categories reflecting their growing edge of inclusion.  These criteria are critical to identifying organizational strengths and assessing what education is needed to help move communities toward more inclusive workplace policies.

The Jewish Organization Equality Index project has tremendous potential to change the conversation around LGBT workplace inclusion throughout the Jewish community and to be more closely aligned with the value of kavod habryiot, the notion of human dignity for all.   I am excited about the implication of this project for our future work with non-profit organizations and I congratulate my workplace colleagues on this endeavor.

The JOEI project is made possible by a generous grant from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and by supporting grants from The Morningstar Foundation, Stuart Kurlander –a leader in several non-profit Jewish and Jewish LGBT community organizations – and an anonymous donor.

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