Jewish Community Provides Strong Faith-Based Response to LGBTQ Bullying

Back in October I featured an Op-Ed by Orthodox Rabbi Steven Burg titled “There’s no place for bullying in God’s world”.  As the international director of NCSY, the youth program of the Orthodox Union, Rabbi Burg’s Op-Ed provides an important counter-balance to the public anti-LGBT voices of other clergy in his sect.  I have since learned that the Rabbi’s very meaningful contribution is only one of many efforts by diverse Jewish faith communities to speak as people of faith in support of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) youth and in opposition to bullying.

Last month Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, Keshet and Nehirim joined together to launch the “Strength Through Community” project, a Jewish response to LGBTQ youth in crisis. The project brings together the many ways these Jewish organizations have begun to respond to the bullying faced by many LGBTQ teens.

“The energy in the Jewish community around this issue is inspiring – rabbis giving sermons, queer Jews sharing their stories for the fist time, synagogues posting GLBT Safe Zone stickers – and a clear rebuke to the idea that the religious community does not support GLBT members,” said Bonnie Rosenbaum, Deputy Director of Communications and Planning at Keshet.

At the project’s center is an online video campaign highlighting stories by members and leaders of Jewish organizations to provide messages of support grounded in faith. The messages are guided by principles developed with the support of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and have received over 9,000 views since their launch.

The project is also promoting “Do Not Stand Idly By“, a Jewish community pledge launched by Keshet stating that bullying of our LGBTQ youth will not be tolerated.  Over 9,200 individuals and organizations have already signed the pledge.

Do Not Stand Idly By: A Jewish Community Pledge to Save Lives

As members of a tradition that sees each person as created in the divine image, we respond with anguish and outrage at the spate of suicides brought on by homophobic bullying and intolerance. We hereby commit to ending homophobic bullying or harassment of any kind in our synagogues, schools, organizations, and communities. As a signatory, I pledge to speak out when I witness anyone being demeaned for their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. I commit myself to do whatever I can to ensure that each and every person in my community is treated with dignity and respect.


* Happy Hannukah from Heschel GSA!

* Shattering the silence surrounding anti-LGBTQ violence

* Orthodox Jewish Rabbi Steven Burg says “There’s no place for bullying in God’s world”
From the websites of participating organizations:

Congregation Beit Simchat Torah is one of the oldest and largest faith based LGBTQ action and community organizations in the country. Serving as New York’s synagogue for the LGBTQ Jewish community, and with an active social justice and educational program, CBST is a renowned leader of progressive religion and LGBTQ Jewish issues.

Keshet is a national grassroots organization dedicated to creating full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Jews in Jewish life. We offer resources, training, and technical assistance for creating change in Jewish communities nationwide.

Nehirim (“Lights”) is the leading national provider of programs for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) Jews, partners, and allies.  Our retreats and other programs transform lives, and inspire GLBT Jews to be agents for change in their home communities. Nehirim is an independent, nonprofit, and nondenominational organization which celebrates the gifts of Judaism and sexual & gender diversity.
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

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Maggie’s reliably myopic glimpse at faith-based bullying

For the second time in as many weeks, Maggie Gallagher has dedicated her syndicated column to the matter of bullying and suicide, with an underlying intent of absolving the climate cultivated by anti-LGBT groups like her National Organization For Marriage outfit of any role in gay teens’ troubles. Here’s a snip from the latest:

To break with central tenets of one’s family culture or with one’s religion is no doubt deeply troubling for parent and child alike. Parents who reject or abuse their gay children do appear to increase the risk of suicide.

But Americans, with the help of the media, seem to be painting the charge against religion with a pretty broad brush.

Given what I know about religion and suicide risk, it seemed to me at least an open question. Religion could be the source of distressing family conflict. But in general, religion appears to be remarkably good for mental health, and in particular for protecting against the risk of suicide.

Keep reading: DOES RELIGION KILL? [Maggie’s Syndicated column via Yahoo!]

Maggie goes on to cite stats claiming that kids of regular churchgoers actually try suicide less often, paired with the idea that religion’s condemnations of self-inflicted death decreases its occurrences in faith-based homes. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. But in limiting her frame in this way, Maggie once again overlooks the macro problem by micro-ing in on the wrong things.

The key idea that Maggie overlooks: That religious condemnation of LGBT people affects every single person on the globe, regardless of chosen faith. Because every last anti-LGBT teaching — every last one! — stems from biblical interpretation. So it doesn’t even matter what house of worship a certain statistical percentage did or did not attend — the issue is the sweeping usage of faith to deny rights, freedom, wedding rings, and an overall peace of mind!

One need not be Catholic to be wounded by the Pope’s labeling of homosexuality as an intrinsic evil. One need not be Mormon to feel the 201010271707effect that the LDS Church had in passing Prop 8. One need not be Christian to be mind-fucked by the idea that Christian conservatives nationwide run “reparative therapy” conferences telling gay people that they are spiritually and mentally wounded. That’s what’s so enraging about the far-right social conservatives’ bent sense of religious freedom on this issue: THAT NOBODY IS FREE FROM WHATEVER THEOLOGICAL BEHAVIOR THE “PRO-FAMILY” PLAYERS HAVE CHOSEN FOR THEMSELVES! We are all forced congregants of a far-too-church-infused state!

So Maggie — someone who’s on record saying that “the absence of desire for the opposite sex represents, at a minimum, a sexual dysfunction much as impotence or infertility,” calling homosexuality “a sexual disability,” instructing gays that they “can always control” their “unfortunate” behavior, and accusing gay marriage activists of “striking at the heart” of Genesis and committing “several kinds of sins” [*source for all quotes] — can try all she wants to disconnect butts in pews from depression in minds. But in trying to do so, she needs to be a little more honest about faith’s far-reaching effects. Because while she may not literally drag us in the confession booth with her, Maggie Gallagher is flat-out lying if she denies how fully she’d like our bedrooms to atone for what she sees as our sins. Or even if she personally doesn’t, her “protect marriage” cause certainly does. The same “protect marriage” cause that no credible study will ever show as helping even one gay kid’s mental peace.

Good As You

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@IowaForFreedom/@JudgeBus: A faith-based war on gays’ ring fingers with judges as the convenient vehicle

Most of the other folks associated with the judicial retention campaign are more mealy-mouthed, making it sound as if the so-called “Iowa For Freedom” effort is made up of a non-partisan, non-faith-based coalition that cares solely about civil law and its boundaries. But leave it to Bryan Fischer — an early Iowa For Freedom Bryan-Fischerbacker whose employer, the American Family Association, is a major force behind the effort — to come right out and admit what we all know: That the campaign is inordinately dependent on those who wish to cast a religious-based vote against same-sex marriage itself:

(click to play audio clip)

*AUDIO SOURCE: Bryan Fischer, 10/25 [AFA Radio]

It’s enraging, really. Three judges who chose to go to law school rather than seminary and whose duties quite literally require a separation of church and state to adequately do their jobs are now being subjected to the anti-LGBT whims of evangelical conservatives. On marriage equality, there is no way these judges could have shown any sort of sense in the eyes of Bryan and Fischer and company, unless the answer was a firm and flat NO! And because “no” is not the answer they found in the constitution, they are now being punished by a well-financed, well-connected, highly one-sided, vindictive effort to force them into retirement.

Who would Jesus spite? Judicial independents (and independence), apparently.


**EARLIER FISCHER: He’s the guy who’s said that “homosexuals in the military gave us…six million dead Jews,” who’s said “homosexuals should be disqualified from public office,” who has called on Christian conservatives to breed gays and progressives out of existence, has called gay sex a “form of domestic terrorism,” who’s said only gays were savage enough for Hitler, has compared gays to heroin abusers, has directly compared laws against gay soldiers to those that apply to bank robbers, who once invoked a Biblical story about stabbing “sexually immoral” people with spears, saying we need this kind of action in modern day, and who has spoken out against gays serving as public school teachers, and who has blamed gay activists for dead gay kids, saying that: “If we want to see fewer students commit suicide, we want fewer homosexual students.”

**EARLIER: This is also the guy who Baptist Press columnist Penna Dexter says should advise us all on politics and religion: Just ask yourself where you’d stand in a Penna Dexter/Bryan Fischer world [G-A-Y]

Good As You

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Catholic Gallagher ever more unabashed about her faith-based motivations

Maggie Gallagher’s every working day is built around denying same-sex couples of a CIVIL marriage. But that doesn’t stop her from building her entire house of cards atop a non-negotiably religious foundation:

Maggie-GallagherFor marriage, this is a unique moment. In a few short years the battle for marriage will either be won or lost. Catholics are the swing vote in the American democracy on this issue. We are called to brave the hatred and speak truth to power, to fight for marriage in the public square, by voting for candidates who will protect marriage from the courts and from political redefinition.

Maggie Gallagher, writing for

No, Maggie — you might be called to apply your Catholic views to your own marriage. Your own family. Or to your own congregation, where the majority of congregants are presumably in willful attendance. But “the public square” is actually supposed to operate in a civil state that is free from personal theology, with our laws respectful to everyone’s religious views and freedom, but guided by constitutional fairness rather than confessional booth attendance!

Good As You

—  John Wright