Throughout the 20th century, barriers created in the Jewish community due to gender have been lowered or eliminated. Many congregations and institutions across the Jewish spectrum have created dynamic egalitarian environments that allow both men and women to operate on equal footing both spiritually and civically. Normative gender roles have been redefined and re-imagined.
However, the Jewish Community—and American society at large—is currently confronting the important issue of those who fall outside our gender norms of ‘man’ and ‘woman’ as determined by anatomy and external organs. A recent article by Rebecca Spence of The Forward highlighted this new focus on creating an environment welcoming to transgender individuals—and all.
Rabbi Elliot Kukla, a transgender Reform Rabbi based in San Francisco, spoke about the issue at a recent West Coast regional conference of Reform rabbis. He said that he is proud of the recent shift he has seen in the acceptance of transgendered Jews:
“I’m so amazed at the old ladies who will turn to their friends and say, ‘Did you meet the nice, young transgender rabbi?’” Kukla said. “Some of that is San Francisco, but that conversation would never have happened a few years ago.”
The number of innovative projects actively advocating for this new awareness and appreciation of the inclusion of transgender individuals has “increased to a level never seen before,” according to the article (Details on these programs are below the jump). It’s another step towards creating a Jewish community that is open to all who approach, and we are glad to see a growing number of people who are beginning to address this issue.
TransTexts: Rabbi Kukla and rabbinic student Reuben Zellman formulated this “guide for exploring gender issues, and specifically transgender and intersex issues. The guide takes passages from Jewish texts that in some way address gender. It includes rabbinic commentary to show the myriad ways that the text can be interpreted.”
Jewish Mosaic: The first national organization dedicated to advocating specifically for the inclusion of GLBTQ individuals in the Jewish community.
TransTorah: Launched just a month ago, TransTorah aims to provide resources for the Jewish community on transgender issues. Ritual, liturgical and Educational resources can be found here. Want to make your organization trans-friendly? Click here for a practical guide!
Most importantly, the website points out that, “TransTorah is not just about transgender people.” They write:
“We aim to break down the rigid categories that have cut people off from Jewish life and spirituality. We believe that Judaism can speak to and enrich our trans and genderqueer lives, and that raising trans Jewish voices will build a more diverse, loving, expansive Judaism for everyone.
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