We all matter…we all count. That truth is deeply ingrained in the Jewish tradition. We don’t need a text from the Torah or Talmud to authenticate its truth, but we have many. Here’s one from this week’s Parasha, Tetzaveh:
And you shall make the breastplate of judgment with skillful work…of gold, of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, and of fine twined linen, shall you make it. And you shall set in it settings of stones, four rows of stones…and the stones shall be with the names of the people of Israel, twelve, according to their names, everyone with his name shall they be according to the twelve tribes. (Exodus 28:15-21)
Try to visualize the breastplate worn by the High Priest. It was rectangular, woven from colorful twisted linen, with precious stones set in four rows, each stone bearing the name of one of the tribes. The Kohen Gadol, the leader of the people, wore the breastplate as a symbol that every member of every tribe mattered, everyone counted. A nation, any community, is the sum of its individual parts. We must convey the message, in the strongest possible terms, that every person matters.
Unfortunately, the truth that every person matters still doesn’t resonate across the spectrum of humanity, including the Jewish world. Discrimination and intolerance often pollute human relationships. More often than not, such attitudes are the result of ignorance and fear. We still live in a world plagued by racism and by homophobia.
The inclusion of LGBTQ Jews in Jewish life is important for any synagogue and for the Jewish community at large. Despite its importance, many people do not fully understand what it means to be LGBTQ or the challenges that LGBTQ Jews face from ignorance, discrimination and intolerance. At Oheb Shalom we have always prided ourselves in being an inclusive and diverse congregation. But there is still much for us to learn and ways for us to grow, especially regarding the LGBTQ community.
Our sacred task thus becomes that of promoting understanding, tolerance and acceptance through education. We will embrace the task of nurturing a culture of acceptance of LGBTQ Jews at a workshop led by Keshet this Tuesday, February 23rd at 8:00 PM. Keshet is a national grassroots organization that advocates for the full equality and inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Jews in Jewish life. The Keshet workshop will be devoted to a discussion about LGBTQ Jews and the development of a plan that will ensure that our commitment to diversity is matched by tangible actions individually and as a community.
This is a crucial issue is crucial and your presence matters. Please make it a point to attend and to invite others to attend as well. The workshop is also appropriate for teenagers of any age.
We all matter, each one of us, regardless of sexual preference or gender. It’s time to translate that lofty principle into action. I hope you will join me on Tuesday at 8:00 PM to welcome Keshet.