Erev Shabbat Message from Rabbi Feldman

Dear Friends,   
We had a wonderful program at TJC this week that I have been thinking about since Wednesday evening. Actually it was a two-part program on the theme of LGBTQ people - one was for our Hebrew High School students and one was for the greater community.  I had the great opportunity to sit in both programs and I was impressed with people's openness and honesty addressing these important issues. I was struck with how comfortable our young people are talking about issues related to gender and sexuality and I was pleased to listen to some of the stories they shared about gay and lesbian students in their school and people who are transitioning from one gender to another.
Our guest who facilitated these two conversations was an educator who is trained by Keshet. . Keshet is a multi-service program that gathers, trains, provides resources for, and supports Jewish institutions to become more inclusive of LGBTQ individuals and families. This was not the first time that we had someone from Keshet with us and I am pleased that we continue to have these educators come to TJC to help us learn key terminology, to answer our questions and to push us a bit beyond our comfort zone so that we can be as welcoming and as accepting as we possible.
As I listened to these two presentations and how people reacted to the comments, I began to think about my own feelings and acceptance of homosexuality and gender issues. I grew up fairly sheltered from these issues just like many other people in my generation in the 1970's. My first connection to homosexuality was my gay roommate during my freshman year in college. When I lived in New York City I was exposed to many new issues related to sexuality and gender transitioning and I began to think more about what it means for us as a Jewish community.
I feel very strongly that I want everyone to feel comfortable at The Jewish Center regardless of their background, sexual orientation or gender identity. I want people to find our congregation as a place of warmth and comfort and a place to ask questions about any important issue. I want our young people to know that any topic is open for discussion and that everyone should feel comfortable bringing their partner to synagogue, including a same-sex partner. It is an honor for me to be asked to officiate at a Jewish wedding and I have enjoyed those moments with both heterosexual couples and same-sex couples. I have had many conversations with parents about raising Jewish children and life cycle events including members of our congregation who are same-sex couples.
A few of our young people have talked with me privately about issues related to their own sexuality and while no one has yet told me that they are transitioning their gender, I will be supportive and accepting of them if and when they do come to talk with me.
I have also thought a great deal about young people who may be transitioning their gender before they become a Bar or Bat Mitzvah and what terms we will use for that ceremony. I decided that I will ask the student and the parents what term they would like to use and I will be open to any ideas that make them the most comfortable.
There is always more we can do as a congregation to help people feel welcome including not making any assumptions about a persons gender or sexual identity and helping people feel comfortable in places like the restrooms. It is important for people to know that not only do we have four new gender assigned bathrooms on either side of the building but we also have a private bathroom in the main office that is open to anyone who is more comfortable using this gender-neutral bathroom.
To me, all of these issues take us back to the important Jewish value that we talked about on Wednesday evening - accepting that all people are created in B'tzelem Elohim - God's image. It is our obligation to respect people and love people for who they are and to remember that each of us has a piece of the Divine inside of us.  I am proud to be the Rabbi of a congregation who continues to work on these issues and helps people feel safe discussing and questioning our personal views.
Let's continue this important work together - Everyone is welcome. 
Shabbat Shalom, 
Rabbi Adam Feldman
Posted: 12/5/2017 9:42:11 AM by | with 0 comments


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