June - LGBTQIA+ Equality


June – LGBTQIA+ Equality


LGBTQIA+ and Judaism

Traditional Jewish texts (Leviticus 18:23, 20:13) aren’t supportive of homosexuality. However, Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC), once said “As it says in Genesis, all humans were created in the image of God. And that means that every person, every soul, is a creature of God that looks like God, whether they are transgender or lesbian or gay, and so we welcome all of them.". The passage to which he was referring to is Genesis 1:27, and is the basic belief that all human beings are created b’tselem Elohim -- in the Divine image (RAC). Therefore, it is our duty to embrace and accept Jews of all backgrounds, sexual orientations, and gender identities.

Reform Judaism has always been an advocate and ally to the LGBTQIA+ community from the late seventies until today. In 1977, the Central Conference of American Rabbi’s (CCAR) adopted a resolution calling for legislation that would decriminalize homosexual relations between two consenting adults and calling for the end of discrimination for the gay and lesbian community. Following this, Hebrew Union College began accepting openly gay and lesbian students in the late 1980s. In the 1990’s, the Union for Reform Judaism announced a national policy declaring lesbian and gay Jews to be full and equal members of the religious community, published the first argument to the Jewish community on behalf of civil marriage for gay couples, and passed a resolution approving same-sex civil marriage. Continuing into the new millennia, organizations representing Reform Judaism continued to take a stand for equality among their LGBTQIA+ members. This includes the Hebrew Union College opening the first Jewish “Institute for Judaism, Sexual Orientation, & Gender Identity”, the Union for Reform Judaism extending it’s pro-right policy to transgender and bisexual communities, and the support and advocacy for same sex marriage within the United States (Wikipedia - Homosexuality and Judaism).  

Social Justice Issues and the LGBTQIA+ Community

Despite the significant accomplishments that were made over the past several decades, including the legalization of marriage equality in 2015, the LGBTQIA+ community still faces discrimination and a wide array of social justice issues today. Many of these issues are brought about on the local and state level, and include equal treatment in regards to parenting and adoption, nondiscrimination protections, violence and hate crimes (particularly trans women of color), employment opportunities and more (American Civil Liberties Union). Although roughly 2 out of 3 Americans (67% according to a Gallup poll in 2018) approve of same sex marriage, a whopping 28 states have no laws prohibiting discrimination regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. There is also much legislation designed to negatively target transgender populations by barring them from public facilities (i.e. restrooms), healthcare protection, and making it more difficult to achieve statues (ID’s, etc.).  Our constitution states that all people, including those who identify as LGBTQIA+, have the right to be treated equally and have fair opportunity for employment, access to healthcare, and security. As Reform Jews, we must advocate and ensure members of this community are treated equally in both our community and society.


Many Jews around the world identify as being a part of the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. It is important that we, as a Jewish community, welcome and respect all Jewish people no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity. One way we try to do this is by ensuring Temple Beth-El is a “safe space” for all. A “safe space” refers to places created for individuals who feel marginalized to come together to communicate regarding their experiences with marginalization (Wikipedia). For more information about LGBTQIA+ read this Audacious Hospitality Toolkit from the Union for Reform Judaism. You can also look at Jewish advocacy groups for LGBTQIA+ communities such as Keshet and A Wider Bridge.



  • Film:
    • Stonewall Uprising (2010)
      • “In June 1969, a police raid on New York's Stonewall Inn sparks a three-day riot that leads to the gay-rights movement.”
    • Gaycation (2016-Present)
      • “This docuseries stars actress Ellen Page heads out, with best friend Ian Daniel, on a journey to explore various LGBTQ cultures in locations around the world. Each episode finds Page and Daniel in a different country to see how different cultures treat the LGBTQ community.”
    • We Were Here (2010)
      • “In the 1970s, San Francisco became a safe haven for the gay and lesbian community. But, after almost a decade, the city was hit by a wave of shock when it became ground zero of the AIDS epidemic. This documentary explores the incredible story of love and loss through the eyes of five men and women who experienced it firsthand.”
    • Closet Monster (2015)
      • Haunted by traumatic childhood memories, an artistic teenager is driven to escape from his hometown in a bid to confront his inner monster.
    • Trembling Before G-d (2001)
      • Built around intimately-told personal stories of Hasidic and Orthodox Jews who are gay or lesbian, the film portrays a group of people who face a profound dilemma -- how to reconcile their passionate love of Judaism and the homosexuality.”
    • Brokeback Mountain (2005)
      • “In 1963, rodeo cowboy Jack Twist and ranch hand Ennis Del Mar are hired by rancher Joe Aguirre as sheep herders in Wyoming.”
    • Boys Don’t Cry (1999)
      • “Young female-to-male transgender Brandon Teena leaves his hometown under threat when his ex-girlfriend's brother discovers that he's biologically female.”
    • Before Stonewall (1984)
      • This documentary investigates national cultural perceptions of homosexuality before the event, looking back on previous decades, particularly in regard to conflicts with police and censorship.”
    • Moonlight (2016)
      • “A look at three defining chapters in the life of Chiron, a young black man growing up in Miami. His epic journey to manhood is guided by the kindness, support and love of the community that helps raise him.”
    • Transparent (2014-2017)
      • “The story revolves around a Los Angeles family and their lives following the discovery that the person they knew as their father, Mort, is a transwoman.”
    • Outrage (2009)
      • “Oscar-nominated documentarian Kirby Dick directs this shocking and passionate indictment of the clandestine hypocrisy of many closeted homosexuals in Washington, D.C.”
  • ELITalks: (Allows individuals and organizations to cultivate, transmit, and curate Jewish ideas and thoughts through digital conversations.)  
  • TED Talks:
  • Books:
    • “Queer (In)Justice: The Criminilization of LGBT People in the United States” by Joey L. Mogul, Andrea J. Ritchie, and Kay Whitlock
      • “Drawing on years of research, activism, and legal advocacy, this novel is a searing examination of queer experiences – as "suspects," defendants, prisoners, and survivors of crime – while challenging the many ways in which queer lives are criminalized, policed, and punished.”
    • “Boy Erased: A Memoir” by Gerrard Conley
      • “This memoir recounts the author’s childhood in a fundamentalist Arkansas family that enrolled him in conversion therapy.” See the film.
    • “Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal?” by Jeanette Winterson
      • “The story of a life's work to find happiness. It is the story of how the past Jeanette thought she had written over and repainted returned to haunt her later life, and sent her on a journey into madness and out again, in search of her real mother.”
    • “Transgender 101: A Simple Guide to a Complex Issue” by Nicholas M. Teich
      • “This well-rounded resource combines an accessible portrait of transgenderism with a rich history of transgender life and its unique experiences of discrimination.”
    • “Simon vs The Homosapien’s Agenda” by Becky Albertelli
      • “The coming-of-age story focuses on its titular protagonist Simon Spier, a closeted gay high-school aged boy who is forced to come out after a blackmailer discovers Simon's e-mails written to another closeted classmate with whom he has fallen in love.” See the film.
    • “A Queer History of the United States” by Michael Bronski
      • “Drawing upon primary-source documents, literature, and cultural histories, scholar and activist Michael Bronski charts the breadth of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender history, from 1492 to the 1990s."
    • “Sister Outsider” by Audre Lorde
      • “A collection of essential essays and speeches written by Audre Lorde, a woman who wrote from the particulars of her identity: Black woman, lesbian, poet, activist, cancer survivor, mother, and feminist writer.”
    • “The Price of Salt” by Patricia Highsmith
      • “A pioneering book about lesbian romance, set in 1952.” See the film.  
    • “No House to Call My Own: Love, Family, and Other Transgressions” by Ryan Berg
      • “The book immerses readers in the gritty, dangerous, and shockingly underreported world of homeless LGBTQ teens in New York.”


Stay Informed: