While I appreciate you calling attention to the alarming epidemic of GLBT teens driven to suicide, I am dismayed that you would so quickly reject Do Not Stand Idly By: A Jewish Community Pledge to Save Lives that Keshet launched in partnership with over 100 Jewish organizations.
Referring to our campaign and the It Gets Better project you write, “These initiatives are admirable. The only trouble with them is that they won’t do any good.” I could not disagree more. Here’s why:
1. Symbols DO matter. Especially if you are a member of a group of people who are consistently given the message: you are not worthy, you are not equal, you are a source of shame, you should feel shame. For a closeted gay teenage boy, hearing that his rabbi took a public stand against homophobia is beyond affirming; it’s potentially lifesaving.
2. The pledge is only one step in the process. For over nine years, Keshet has been actively working to make the Jewish community inclusive by training Jewish educators, producing GLBT inclusive resources from a Jewish perspective, working with hundreds of rabbis and parents and youth who want to make their synagogues, camps, day schools, and youth groups safer and need support to do so. We will make sure the pledge is just one step of many on the path to full inclusion and equality for GLBT Jews.
3. The pledge has already inspired action. We have already heard from rabbis who are giving divrei Torah at shuls around the country about the dangers of homophobia and our responsibility as Jews to work for equality and respect for all. We have heard from Jewish youth group members who are making videos for the Make It Better project. We have heard from teachers at day schools and Hebrew schools who want copies of our Jewish GLBT Safe Zone sticker to post on their classroom doors. We have heard from queer Jews who have been moved to publically share their personal stories of suffering and perseverance for the first time and to send the message to young people in our community that yes, it does get better.
4. There is power in numbers. In the less than two weeks since we launched this campaign, over 4,300 individual Jews and more than 550 congregations and Jewish organizations have signed on. While many of the organizational signatories may themselves identify as part of the “choir,” I can assure you that their congregants and constituents are hearing this song for the first time.
Imagine being a young person in one of the many shuls that endorsed Keshet’s pledge – and whose rabbis shared this news from the bima last Shabbat. The message that young person heard was loud and clear: my Jewish community opposes homophobic bullying. I look forward to a day when we no longer need pledges to ensure that this message is heard everywhere.
Executive Director, Keshet
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