I know I promised a different post–Joey Dowling–but I’m still transcribing and working on that one. Life has been a bit crazy. Sorry.
This issue is way more important, and I’m sure homophobic bullying and teasing affects more than a fair share of our young dancin’ boys. I know it has affected Julian over the years. So, I’m posting this now.
Today I’m writing about something that will read a bit like a news story. Yet, as I said, this subject hits close to home for many of us.
We continue to read about youth suicides driven by horrific homophobic bullying. As a parent whose two children have both been scarred by the death of friends by suicide and of a son who has had to suffer the teasing of his peers for many years simply because he chooses to dance, I know the pain and devastation that goes with both suicide and bullying. Amazingly, one of the few places Julian has felt safe and accepted outside of the dance studio has been within the Jewish community—Jewish camp and BBYO; there no one has ever called him gay or ridiculed him for his life choices.
Yet, he has been teased and bullied. Gratefully, at the age of 16 he seems to have overcome this to a great extent. The teasing has become minimal at this point, and, for the most part, he considers those who continue to say, “Gay!” as he walks by total jerks. He doesn’t care what they think because he considers them not worth thinking about. That attitude has been a long time coming. That said, I know it still hurts him to think others kids at school don’t respect him or see him for who he is–a strong, capable, talented athlete. Yes, he is a dancer. He is different.
We all tend to be frightened of that which is different. But we need to learn to accept it. We need to learn to embrace it. And we need to learn to reach out and help those who are different feel part of the community–the world community.
So, today I am asking you, my blog readers, to become change agents and find ways to help the youths in your community who suffer from bullying. In particular, I’m offering you one way to help. Even if there have been no suicides in your community, it behooves you to take action to prevent them from happening.
In addition to asking your school, church, mosque or synagogue to offer teachings that condemn shaming and humiliation and call us to love those who are different, I encourage you to join ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal and dozens of other organizations in supporting Keshet’s Do Not Sand Idly By Campaign and commit to ending homophobic bullying and harassment.
You do not need to be Jewish to sign. Don’t be put off by the fact that this is a Jewish agency. You do not need to be the representative of an organization to sign either. You can encourage your religious or spiritual organization (or some other organization) to sign, though.
Below is the pledge, along with the organization signers. You can sign on at: https://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?formkey=dHU3YXBuanZLOHB3Rk9WeGVmc1RYYUE6MQ
If the above link doesn’t work, just navigate to the pledge by going to: www.keshetonline.org and clicking on the Do Not Stand Idly By banner. Please forward this information to students, congregants and organizations so they can show their support, too.
As Debra Kolodny, executive director of ALEPH, said, “Kolodney Hazak hazak, v’nithazek. May we go from strength to strength and strengthen one another. Let us make sure that our children feel and are safe. May they know that they are valued, loved, beautiful in their diversity and all born in the image of the Holy One of Blessing. And in turn may our congregations, our families and our communities be sanctuaries of welcome, compassion, unending love and a beacon to all.”
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.
Campaign launched by Keshet [www.keshetonline.org] in partnership with (as of 10.5.10): Advancing Women Professionals and the Jewish Community Adas Israel Congregation The Adventure Rabbi Program ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado The Anshe Emet Synagogue, Chicago, IL Bay Area Masorti Be’chol Lashon Beth Chayim Chadashim, Los Angeles, CA Congregation Bet Tikvah, Pittsburgh, PA The Bronfman Youth Fellowships (BYFI) California Faith for Equality Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) Cleveland Jewish LGBTQ2A Inclusion Project Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston Congregation Am Tikva, Boston, MA Congregation Bet Haverim, Atlanta, GA Congregation Bet Tikvah, Pittsburgh, PA Congregation Beth Ahavah, Philadelphia, PA Congregation Beth Elohim, Brooklyn, NY Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, New York, NY Congregation Beth El, Berkeley, California Congregation Beth El Binah, Dallas, TX Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, New York, NY Congregation Kol Ami, West Hollywood, CA Congregation Netivot Shalom, Berkeley, CA Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, San Francisco, CA The Curriculum Initiative The Dobkin Family Foundation Gay and Lesbian Yeshiva Day School Alumni Association (GLYDSA) Gay and Lesbian Outreach and Engagement Program (GLOE)/Washington DC Jewish Community Center Hebrew College He’bro Hazon Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life Hillel at Stanford Institute for Judaism & Sexual Orientation, Hebrew Union College-JIR InterfaithFamily.com Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center JALSA – The Jewish Alliance for Law & Social Action Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance JESNA – The Jewish Education Service of North America JewishBoston.com Jewish Communal Leadership Program, University of Michigan The Jewish Community Center in Manhattan The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston Jewish Council for Public Affairs Jewish Council on Urban Affairs The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington Jewish Gay and Lesbian Group, London, UK Jewish Gay Network of Michigan Jewish Milestones The Jewish Multiracial Network Jewish Organizing Initiative Jewish Outreach Institute Jewish Reconstructionist Federation Jewish Transitions Jewish Women’s Archive Jews United for Justice Joshua Venture Group Judaism Your Way, Denver, CO Jumpstart Just Congregations of the Union for Reform Judaism JQ International JQYouth KOACH Kehilat Hadar, New York, NY Kehilla Community Synagogue, Piedmont, CA Kehilla School Kolenu, Seattle’s Young Adult GLBTQ Group LGBT Alliance of the Jewish Community Federation, San Francisco, CA Lippman Kanfer Family Foundation Ma’yan Mayyim Hayyim Living Waters Community Mikveh Mechon Hadar Moishe House Moishe House Boston: Kavod Jewish Social Justice House The Morningstar Foundation The Natan Fund Nathan Cummings Foundation Nehar Shalom Community Synagogue, Jamaica Plain, MA Nehirim: GLBT Jewish Culture and Spirituality New Jersey’s Lesbian & Gay Havurah North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY) NUJLS: The National Union of Jewish Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Students Orthodykes NY Progressive Jewish Alliance Rabbinical Assembly Rabbinical School of Hebrew College The Rainbow Center, Atlanta, GA RAVSAK: The Jewish Community Day School Network Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association Reconstructionist Rabbinical College Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism Repair the World Rockville Open House ROI Community Romemu Ruth Allen Ziegler Foundation The Samuel Bronfman Foundation Shalom Amigos, Mexico ShefaNetwork: The Conservative/Masorti Movement Dreaming from Within Storahtelling SVARA TBS Keshet, Temple Beth Shalom, Needham, MA Trembling Before G-d Outreach Project The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ) United Synagogue Youth (USY) University of Washington Hillel UpStart Bay Area The Youth and Gender Media Project World Congress of GLBT Jews A Wider Bridge Women of Reform Judaism Zeek Media, Inc. Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES (not just Jewish)
- Honoring Matthew: A Liturgy for Matthew Shepard <http://www.hrc.org/documents/Liturgy_for_Matthew_Shepard.pdf>; Rev. Lesley Brogan and Rabbi Joshua Lesser
- Brit Ha’Avdut: A Covenant of Coming Out <http://www.hrc.org/documents/jay-DV.pdf>;
- National Coming Out Day Facebook Application <http://apps.facebook.com/humanrightscampaign/index.php?rsource=religion>; HRC Youth and Campus Program
- Unfinished Lives: A blog Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims <http://unfinishedlivesblog.com/>;
Rev. Dr. Stephen Sprinkle
- Susan Russell’s Response to Homophobia in the Church <http://inchatatime.blogspot.com/2010/09/headline-was-archbishop-of-canterbury.html>; Rev. Canon Susan Russell
- Out In Scripture: Lectionary Reflections for October 10, 2010 <http://www.hrc.org/scripture/index.asp?page=10-14-07>; HRC Religion and Faith Program
Resources for supporting LGBTQ youth and suicide prevention: