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Article Published April 4, 2018
Embrace All Students
Rabbi Marci N. Bellows

As we observe International Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31, which fell during this year’s celebration of Passover, the Jewish holiday commemorating the Exodus from Egypt and our people’s extraordinary steps toward liberation, I write to thank our local schools for the steps they have taken to protect, value, and embrace all students, regardless of their gender identity.

We at Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek are participants in the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism’s Urgency of Now: Transgender Rights Campaign, the purpose of which is “to stand with transgender and gender non-conforming students to demand that welcoming and inclusive policies are in place in our schools.” In the Jewish tradition, we learn that we are all created b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God. In 2015, the Reform Movement, the largest Jewish denomination in North America, resolved that “North American culture and society have, in general, become increasingly accepting of people who are gay, lesbian and bisexual, yet too often transgender and gender non-conforming individuals are forced to live as second-class citizens.”

As federal policies to protect transgender people continue to weaken, it is more important than ever for our local communities to act. Additionally, implementation of these policies is just as imperative. In the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey compiled by the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), 78 percent of those who identified as transgender or gender non-conforming reported experiencing harassment while in grades K-12. These numbers are profoundly alarming and reflect the importance of this issue.

I thank all those who have taken steps to protect transgender and gender non-conforming students. As we remember and celebrate our people’s journey toward freedom during this Passover, we thank them for their continued support of their transgender and gender non-conforming students.

Rabbi Marci N. Bellows
Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek