Updated: May 18
Today is not only the launch of our first Inclusion Guide, but also the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia, Transphobia & Interphobia. We’re fortunate to live in a time after many positive developments and breakthroughs for LGBTI+ people in the past 20 years. There is one setting, though, where there need to be far more conversations about acceptance and inclusion: faith communities.
Religion and LGBTI+ identity have often been portrayed as opposing forces. Polar opposites representing the conflicting systems of values within modern society. But this has a deeply damaging effect on LGBTI+ people of faith, who can often feel this conflict within themselves, between two parts of their own identity.
Not only do we often encounter ignorance and bigotry in faith spaces, but we can find it in LGBTI+ spaces as well. As Jews, the general prejudice towards religion is intertwined with the antisemitism that has recently become much more common in progressive circles, which LGBTI+ spaces often are. For those of us who are also people of colour, this anti-faith prejudice is frequently a front for thinly-veiled racism – presenting the Global South as barbaric and uncivilised for the prevalence of anti-LGBTI+ laws. Ignoring the nuance that prejudice against LGBTI+ groups was often imported and legally imposed by European colonisers who wiped out many cultures’ traditional understandings of diverse genders and sexualities.
Within Jewish communities, there is often a resistance to dismantling the barriers that exclude LGBTI+ Jews. While tradition is important, it should also serve our modern lifestyles and be open and accessible to all. Judaism has frequently reinvented itself to respond to societal shifts. So there should be no reason why we can’t create more beautiful and welcoming Jewish communities today. On the other hand, where inclusion does exist, it is often purely tokenistic. A synagogue might think that a sentence saying ‘everyone is welcome‘ on their website is enough. But rarely would they think about the ways their bar and bat mitzvah programs exclude non-binary Jewish teens, for example.
At Kolot HaKeshet, we think that many spaces could change if community leaders start making room for more dialogue on LGBTI+ inclusion. All of us have different needs, whether we’re LGBTI+ or not. We believe that implementing a program where leaders actively listen, choose to educate themselves and engage in co-creating a roadmap for change would have a transformative impact on many Jewish communities.
We believe community members are the best equipped people to transform their communities. This is why our core principle is co-creation. Our inclusion guide is the product of a group of LGBTI+ Jews coming together to unpack the issues they have faced and continue to face in mainstream Jewish life. Please take the time to read our stories, learn about our lives and identities, and share it with your rabbis and community leaders.
Together, we can make sure the voices of LGBTI+ Jews are heard.