Meeting in Orlando yesterday representatives of the Union for Reform Judaism unanimously approved an historic resolution on transgender rights.
Some 5,000 reform Jews attended the Union for Reform Judaism biennial meeting where they approved the resolution that calls for Jewish congregations and camps to institute gender-neutral bathrooms, gender-neutral language, and arrange gender issues training for teachers and staff at religious schools. The resolution passed on a voice vote without opposition, and applause followed the the results of the vote.
The resolution not only affirms URJ's own commitment to equality but urges synagogues and other Jewish groups to advocate for transgender rights.
Your reaction in this room shows what this movement is about. It makes me very proud.
--Stephen Sacks, chairman of he board
We have a longstanding commitment to bringing in people who have heretofore been on the margins of society. For us, this is not just political correctness, but opening possibilities theologically.
--URJ president Rabbi Rick Jacobs
It was both exhilarating because it was unanimous and people feel it deeply. But also it felt right and normal because this is the way it should be.
--Rabbi Jonah Pesner, director of URJ's political arm
I don’t think we’ve seen anything as comprehensive as this from any other faith communities.
--Michael Toumayan, Religion and Faith Program manager at the Human Rights Campaign
The policy calls on Reform congregations, and organizations like camps and schools, to welcome people of all gender identities and refer to them by their chosen names, genders and pronouns, to provide gender-neutral restrooms where possible, and to work with transgender rights groups “to spread awareness and increase knowledge of issues related to gender identity,” possibly including “cultural competency training” for religious school employees.
It also calls for changing to gender-neutral language, even if it means altering the wording of traditional prayers, though in reality, Reform Judaism has been making such changes for years. And the resolution urges governments to adopt transgender rights measures.
Reform Judaism is especially prominent in the United States and Canada, where it claims 1.5 million adherents in almost 900 congregations. It is the most liberal of the religion’s major wings, and emphasizes adaptability to the modern world, rather than strict adherence to ancient rules.
A pamphlet offered to congregations suggests dividing kids by birth month rather than gender in youth programming and avoiding using gender titles such as "Mr." or "Mrs." on nametags or in emails. It also suggests to ask congregants by which pronouns they would prefer to be called.
One of the key components is it calls for resources, development and training so we get into the congregations and do training with their leaders, youth professionals, rabbis, lay leaders, and then supply them with materials on how do you deal with bathrooms? How do you deal with language? How do you deal with prayer?
More than 6 million Jews live in the United States, less than 2 percent of the nation's population, and more than a third of all Jews in the U.S. identify with the Reform movement, according to a 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center. Less than a fifth of them identify with Conservative Judaism — sort of a middle-ground ideologically between the more liberal Reform movement and traditional Orthodox Judaism. Orthodox Jews account for 10 percent of U.S. Jews, and Reconstructionist and other smaller movements make up 6 percent.