May 18, 2023- As leaders representing the Reform Jewish Movement, we join together to affirm our unequivocal support for transgender rights.
In recent weeks, local, state, and federal governments have passed a record number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills. Many of these directly attack transgender, non-binary, intersex, and gender expansive people (especially youth). Guided by our Jewish values and the Reform Movement’s long history of supporting LGBTQ+ equality, we remain committed to protecting the civil rights of all people.
So far this year, state legislatures have passed more than 50 anti-LGBTQ+ bills (among the over 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills that have been introduced) - making 2023 the worst year on record for anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. Many of these bills specifically target young people by prohibiting gender-affirming medical care, restricting transgender participation in school athletics, censoring curricula that affirm LGBTQ+ people and more. Just last month, the House of Representatives passed the first-ever federal anti-transgender sports ban, which we fear is just the beginning of a series of anti-transgender legislation expected to pass the chamber. Many of our organizations joined 90 Jewish groups in opposing this bill, and the Reform Movement has also urged the Biden administration to strengthen protections for transgender student athletes.
Our support for transgender inclusion is deeply rooted in our Jewish texts and tradition. The Torah teaches that all people are created b’tzelem Elohim (in the Divine image) and are worthy of dignity and respect (Genesis 1:27). The Mishnah builds on this core teaching: “when humans stamp coins with one seal they are all identical but the Holy One stamps every human being uniquely so that none is like another.” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5). From this, we learn that all of us are created uniquely in the divine image.
The Jewish tradition describes God as having many gendered attributes but no body. If the Holy One has many gendered attributes, so too can humans have a multiplicity of gender identities. Indeed, Judaism has recognized a diverse spectrum of sex and gender identities for centuries. There are hundreds of references to at least six different sex and gender identities across Jewish legal codes and Rabbinic commentary.
Many of our texts proudly affirm the existence of transgender, non-binary, intersex, and gender expansive individuals. In 2015, the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) passed historic resolutions affirming the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming people — the farthest-reaching transgender rights resolutions of any major religious denomination at the time. This year, the CCAR passed a new resolution on advocating for transgender people.
We also recognize that our Reform Jewish Movement includes many transgender, non-binary, intersex, and gender expansive people: they are our clergy, congregants, children and young people, staff members and neighbors. Yet far too many of in our community are terrified and heartbroken by the overwhelming onslaught of bigotry, discrimination and hatred aimed at our members who identify as LGBTQ+.
At this critical moment, we reaffirm our support for all those who seek to live without fear of harassment, violence, or discrimination and our clergy and institutions are committed to caring for and supporting everyone who is affected by this dangerous and widespread assault on trans people. We celebrate the countless parents, educators, health care providers and others who help our youth navigate the world as their authentic selves and commend all who are fighting for justice and equity.
We acknowledge that significant work remains as many of our own institutions still operate within a false gender binary. The Reform Movement is working collectively to bring awareness to this issue and ensure we create spaces of belonging for everyone. As we recommit to fighting for the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals across North America, we encourage all in our movement to advocate for LGBTQ+ equality and promote inclusion within our own institutions and communities:
Tell your state legislators to stop attacks on LGBTQ+ people
Urge Congress to pass the Equality Act to provide federal civil rights protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity
Attend one of our upcoming Pride workshops
Download the Transgender Inclusion Resource Guide from the RAC and Keshet
Share the 2003 resolution on Transgender and Bisexual Rights from the WRJ
Order and read Mishkan Ga'avah: Where Pride Dwells: A Celebration of LGBTQ Jewish Life and Ritual from CCAR Press
Read the URJ’s Quick Guide to Pronouns
Union for Reform Judaism Jennifer Brodkey Kaufman (she/her) Chair
Rabbi Rick Jacobs (he/him) President
Commission on Social Action and Religious Action Center Susan Friedberg Kalson (she/her) Chair
Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner (he/him) Director
Central Conference of American Rabbis Rabbi Erica Asch (she/her) President
Rabbi Hara E. Person (she/her) Chief Executive
American Conference of Cantors Cantor Seth Warner (he/him) President
Rachel Roth (she/her) Chief Operating Officer
Association of Reform Jewish Educators Marisa Kaiser, RJE (she/her) President
Rabbi Stacy Rigler, RJE (she/her) Executive Director
NFTY, the Reform Jewish Youth Movement Daniella Abbott (any pronouns) Social Action Vice President
Women of Reform Judaism Sara Charney (she/her) President
Rabbi Marla J. Feldman (she/her) Executive Director
Men of Reform Judaism Rob Himmelstein (he/him) President
Steven Portnoy (he/him) Executive Director
National Association for Temple Administration Amy Schwach (she/her) President
Paula Markovitz (she/her) Executive Director