Portland, Ore. – The Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, at its annual meeting, overwhelmingly approved an expansive resolution affirming the full inclusion, equality, and welcoming of all transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming individuals.
The resolution commits the RRA to work for “full inclusion, acceptance, appreciation, celebration and welcome of people of all gender identities in Jewish life and in society at large.” The document also “strongly advocates for the full equality of transgender, non-binary, and gender non-confirming people and for equal protections for people of all gender identities under the law, at all levels of government, in North America and Israel.”
In keeping with the ethos of Reconstructionist Judaism, the resolution’s passage followed a democratic and deliberative process. Over the past year, representatives from Reconstructionist congregations, as well as the Board of Governors of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, approved similar resolutions. All of the central organizational bodies representing Reconstructionists have now raised their collective moral voice.
The RRA vote comes about a year and a half after the Union for Reform Judaism passed its Resolution on the Rights of Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming People. Our association congratulates the URJ on their leadership on these issues, and we also thank the various Jewish advocacy organizations that have worked for years now developing resources and providing skillful advocacy on these issues. We are pleased to join the ranks of a growing number of Jewish religious and cultural institutions formally affirming transgender inclusion and establishing new policy guidelines. At a time when the newly achieved civil rights of transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people are under attack in the U.S., a large portion of North American Jewry is speaking loudly and clearly on this issue.
Our resolution aims to be much more than words on a page or a screen. It’s a blueprint for action. Already, our movement has taken great strides. The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College has graduated rabbis who identify as transgender, non-binary or gender non-conforming. The culture of RRC has benefited enormously from a student body that approaches the full diversity of the progressive Jewish experience.
Individually, congregations have been taking steps toward the full inclusion of people of all gender identities. Congregation Bet Haverim in Atlanta is in the process of creating a fully-inclusive hevra kadisha (burial society) that will ensure that Jews of all genders will have access to respectful and traditional rites throughout their entire life-cycle. Other congregations have been experimenting with methods of calling people up to Torah using non-binary and gender-neutral language.
Under this resolution, efforts will be made to aggregate and share these innovations among the approximately 100 congregations and 350 rabbis of the Reconstructionist movement. In addition, the movement’s searchable website for ritual resources, Ritualwell.org, will be expanding its existing resources giving expression to all-gender-inclusive values.
“We are also committed to being in the forefront of efforts to keep the hard-won rights the trans community has recently gained and working to expand them through our advocacy and political work,” said Rabbi Elyse Wechterman, RRA Executive Director. “Trans rights, like LGBQ rights, women’s rights, rights for the disabled and people of color, are human rights. We are committed to bringing our understanding of Betzelem Elohim (the creation of all humanity in God’s image) into the public square, especially at a time when all those rights are increasingly being threatened.”
The RRA is the professional association and rabbinic voice of over 350 Reconstructionist Rabbis. It provides professional development, resources, collegial connections and a leading voice for Reconstructionist Judaism in North America.