Union of Reform Judaism Approves Resolution for Transgender Rights

Reform movement makes Jewish history in Florida by approving a resolution calling for congregations and camps to have gender-neutral bathrooms and encouraging gender-neutral language at Reform Jewish institutions.

Mike Schneider
Rabbi Rick Jacobs
Rabbi Rick JacobsCredit: David Braun Photography Inc./ Union for Reform Judaism
Mike Schneider

AP - The largest movement of Judaism in the U.S. passed the most far-reaching resolution in support of transgender rights of any major religious organization, saying Thursday that it's a continuation of a tradition of inclusion in the Reform Jewish movement.

Members of the Union for Reform Judaism attending its biennial meeting in Orlando approved on a voice vote the resolution, which calls for congregations and camps to have gender-neutral bathrooms and encourages gender-neutral language at Reform Jewish institutions. It also suggests training on gender issues for religious school staff and encourages advocating on behalf of the transgender community. There was no opposition.

Other religious bodies, such as the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, the Unitarian Universalist Association and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, previously approved resolutions affirming equality for transgender and non-gender-conforming people. None, however, go as far as the one offered by the Reform Jewish movement, which counts 1.5 million members.

The Union for Reform Judaism is offering a one-page pamphlet to help congregations adopt the goals of the resolution. It suggests dividing kids by birth month rather than gender in youth programming and avoiding using gender titles such as "Mr." or "Mrs." on nametags or in emails. It also to ask congregants by which pronouns they would prefer to be called.

The resolution doesn't mandate congregations to do anything, so it will be up to individual synagogues to implement policies to meet the goals of the resolution.

The resolution was approved in a year when transgender issues have never been more visible, thanks to Caitlyn Jenner and others, but Union for Reform Judaism officials said it has been in the works for some time and is part of a tradition of inclusion that dates back decades. The Union of Reform Judaism in 1977 passed a resolution affirming the rights of gays and lesbians.

More than 6 million Jews live in the United States, less than 2 percent of the nation's population, and more than a third of all Jews in the U.S. identify with the Reform movement, according to a 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center. Less than a fifth of them identify with Conservative Judaism — sort of a middle-ground ideologically between the more liberal Reform movement and traditional Orthodox Judaism. Orthodox Jews account for 10 percent of U.S. Jews, and Reconstructionist and other smaller movements make up 6 percent.

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