b'tzelem Elohim

In case you don't speak Hebrew (I sure don't), the title phrase translates to "In God's Divine Image."

Now, I'm not religious, identifying as Taoist if asked, but I'm always interested in contextualizing the attacks made by the religious right against trans people. One of the more recent attacks has been that God has a limited view of gender.

Gender identity confusion should not be exploited by social activists — like those in the Obama administration — who want to deny the God-given distinction between the sexes.This is a rebellion against God's plan.

The Bible says 'God made them from the beginning male and female.' Not male, female and question mark. God has determined how many sexes there are—there are two, not three.

--Robert Jeffress

Fortunately, people like Jeffress do not have ownership of religion. Southern Baptists are not the only game in town.

In May the Rabbinical Assembly, which is an international association of Conservative rabbis (to allay confusion: in Judaism, "conservatives" are the center-left moderates, with reform jews on the left and orthodox on the right.) approved a resolution stating

Our Torah asserts that all humanity is created b’tzelem Elohim, in God’s Divine Image.

Including transgender people. All is all.

For Max Guttman, an educator and self-identified trans Jew, the news offered relief after a life long struggle with gender identity. For Guttman, religious holidays often carried the burden of dressing up in traditionally feminine outfits.

I never felt more like I was lying than [on Yom Kippur], the day of atonement, when I needed to be unmistakably feminine to be respectful.


The resolution acknowledged the struggle of transgender Jews and the broader discrimination that exists toward transgender people in society — particularly in the realms of health care, employment and retirement benefits. It called upon synagogues to adopt certain accommodations that will protect the rights of all people regardless of gender or sexuality.

The Rabbinical Assembly encourage all Conservative Movement synagogues, camps, schools, and affiliated organizations to work toward becoming explicitly welcoming, safe spaces for transgender and gender non-conforming people and evaluate their physical site needs, workplace needs, and language that impact gender and gender expression.

--the resolution

Due to recent events in the United States, and the emerging issue of transgender persons’ rights, members of the Rabbinical Assembly felt it was time to deal with the issue of transgender persons or gender non-conforming persons exclusively.

--Rabbis David Baum and Edward Bernstein, resolution committee

The Reform movement passed a similar resolution last year.

Since Talmudic times, our people have recognized that the human condition is not just binary.

I hope this resolution will go far in promoting this deep truth of our religion in our society and in the world.

--Rabbi Gil Steinlauf, Adas Israel Congregation

Guttman calls the action by the Conservatives to be tikkun olam (world repair) in each paragraph

I don’t believe there was opposition to it at all. I think it really comes out of a basic set of values, to see the infinite and equal worth in every human being. I think it speaks very directly to Jewish values. This is one of the examples of how the Torah’s fundamental values keep reasserting themselves as society grows and matures.

--Rabbi Julie Schonfield




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