Statement of Rabbi Marc Israel, Director of Congregational Relations, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Calling for Tolerance and Respect for Gays and Lesbians Within the Jewish Community
ON BEHALF OF
THE UNION OF AMERICAN HEBREW CONGREGATIONS AND THE CENTRAL CONFERENCE OF AMERICAN RABBIS
"We stand today with other religious partners, and in solidarity with the gay, lesbian, and bisexual community, to maintain that God loves and accepts love from all people, regardless of sexual orientation."
--Rabbi Marc Israel
Rabbi Marc Israel, director of congregational relations at the Religious Action Center spoke out today on behalf of tolerance and respect for gays and lesbians within Judaism. He spoke at a press conference organized by the Human Rights Campaign in response to an earlier Family Research Council in which rabbis and ministers condemned homosexuality and called on other "religious people" to act up and "draw a line in the sand" and state that homosexuality cannot be tolerated.
The full text of the statement follows:
For Immediate Release
Rabbi Marc Israel
I stand here today on behalf of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing 1.5 million American Reform Jews, to say that we fervently believe in God and the Torah, and also to state that there is no room for discrimination against gays, lesbians, or bisexuals in our synagogues, in our communities, or in our nation.
The Family Research Council is correct when it asserts that the Bible and the Torah "present clear and definitive principles." Among the most important of these is the fundamental Jewish principle that we are all created b'tselem elohim, in the divine image. We are all welcome in God's eyes, whether heterosexual or gay or lesbian, married or single, parents or childless, female or male, Black or white. We are all equal recipients of God's love.
We agree that religious views should not be excluded from the public square. In that dialogue we will certainly have areas on which we respectfully disagree. But we condemn any and all campaigns by those who, in the name of God and under the guise of religion, preach intolerance, hatred, and bigotry.
In recent days, we have seen a resurgence of anti-gay propaganda in the form of newspaper advertisements, celebrity statements, and homophobic comments from our elected officials. Now, sadly, members of the clergy have added their voices to this intolerant, homophobic chorus. We stand today with other religious partners, and in solidarity with the gay, lesbian, and bisexual community, to maintain that God loves and accepts love from all people, regardless of sexual orientation.
We are taught: "You shall not wrong the stranger in your midst" (Leviticus 19:33), because we know the heart of the stranger, having been strangers in the land of Egypt; yet, gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, the strangers of our day, are still oppressed.
We are taught: "You must judge your neighbor justly" (Leviticus 19:15), yet, many members of our society would have gays, lesbians, and bisexuals judged solely on the basis of their sexual orientation, rather than on their individual merits.
We are taught: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18), yet gays, lesbians, and bisexuals continue to be attacked in the media, in the government, from the pulpit, and in the streets.
We must not allow the Religious Right to be the only religious voice speaking out on this issue. We have a responsibility to combat their efforts to define homosexuality in opposition to true faith and love from God. We stand up and proclaim that there is room in every heart for God, and room in God's heart for all, regardless of sexual orientation.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing 1.5 million Reform Jews and 1,800 Reform rabbis in 875 congregations throughout North America.