Stances of Faiths on LGBTQ Issues: Reconstructionist Judaism

Background

The Reconstructionist Movement is the smallest of the four leading Jewish denominations but of particular interest because of its progressive stance, the influence of its Rabbinical College and its 100 synagogues spread across the United States. Founded on the teachings of Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, the Movement sees Judaism as a constantly evolving entity, with ethical and moral decisions shaped by both past traditions and present reality.

According to the Jewish Reconstructionist Community’s web site, the sacred texts of Judaism are considered, “neither literal transcriptions from a supernatural being nor anachronisms that are mere constructs and fictions.” The site further explains that, “We value our dialogue with the voices of our sacred texts because of the passion, values, aspirations and wisdom they express and how they inform and shape our current Jewish lives.” The Reconstructionist vision of G-d is of a “power or process working through nature and human beings.”

LGBTQ Equality

On Inclusion

Of the four leading Jewish denominations, the Reconstructionist Movement is considered the most consistently welcoming and affirming. The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College was the first Jewish seminary to accept openly LGBTQ students, and the Reconstructionist Movement is committed to creating communities that welcome all people, including LGBTQ individuals and their families. The Movement celebrates same-sex marriages, allows LGBTQ ordination, and includes the representation of LGBTQ people in its religious school curricula.

The Reconstructionist Movement welcomes transgender individuals, accepts transgender students to the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and ordains transgender rabbis. Rituals and prayers specific to the life events of a transgender person have been developed, and support is provided to Reconstructionist communities working toward becoming more fully welcoming and affirming of transgender members.

On Marriage Equality

The Reconstructionist Novement recognizes and celebrates same-sex marriage. A resolution passed by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association in 2004 states that the Movement, “endorses and supports the right of same-sex couples to share fully and equally in the rights, responsibilities and commitments of civil marriage,” and that, “civil marriage for same-sex couples must include all the benefits commonly bestowed upon opposite-sex couples, including, among other rights, healthcare coverage and related decision-making, privileges under immigration and naturalization law, survivor benefits, inheritance rights, and child custody.”

On Ordination

The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College was the first Jewish seminary in the United States to endorse the ordination of LGBTQ rabbis and investiture of cantors, adopting a non-discrimination admissions policy in 1984. By 1992, the Reconstructionist Commission on Homosexuality, comprised of representatives from Reconstructionist Congregations and Havurot, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, had established a Movement-wide policy prohibiting discrimination in the placement of LGBTQ rabbis.

The Reconstructionist Movement also welcomes LGBTQ rabbis to its highest leadership positions. In 2007, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association elected Rabbi Toba Spitzer its president, making her the first openly LGBTQ person to head a rabbinical association in the United States. In 2013, Rabbi Deborah Waxman was elected President of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, becoming the first woman and first lesbian to lead a Jewish seminary and congregational union.

On Employment

The Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and joined other faith groups in signing a letter to President Obama in 2012 that asked  for legislation grounded in the belief that, “no one should face discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity,” and further noting that, “LGBT Americans face significant discrimination and harassment in the workplace, which threatens their and their families’ economic security.”

Next Steps

While there is no doubt that the Reconstructionist Movement is at the forefront of the work toward LGBTQ inclusion, there is still progress to be made. Reconstructionist Rabbi Joshua Lesser, founder of the Southern Jewish Resource Network for Gender and Sexual Diversity, hopes to see greater inclusion of single LGBTQ people who may not fit the family-centric atmosphere found at synagogues of all denominations. He stresses that the time is ripe for another push toward inclusion. “This is the moment,” he says. “People are beginning to recognize what is possible.”

For further information on the Reconstructionist Movement, and on being LGBTQ and Jewish, email religion@hrc.org to reserve a copy of HRC’s Coming Home guide on Judaism, to be released soon.

Resources for LGBTQ Jews

  • Keshet, a national organization working for the full equality and inclusion of LGBTQ Jews in Jewish life.

  • National Union of Jewish LGBTIQQ Students, a national organization working to empower Jewish LGBTIQQ students to feel proud of and affirmed in all their identities.

  • Nehirim, is a national community of l LGBTQ Jews, families, and allies, committed to a more just and inclusive world.

Contact Information

Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
1299 Church Road
Wyncote, PA 19095
Website: www.therra.org

Last Revised: 11/12/2014
Special thanks to Rebecca Alpert for contibuting