The following blog post is adapted from remarks given by Rabbi Joshua Caruso (Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple, Beachwood, Ohio) at the Ohio Board of Education Hearing on December 12, 2022.
Chair McGuire, Vice Chair Manchester, and members of the State Board of Education: Thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony today in opposition to the "Resolution to Oppose Title IX…"
I am Rabbi Joshua Caruso of Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple in Beachwood. There is a rabbinic proverb that originates in the Talmud which says, "I have learned much from my teachers, more from my colleagues, and most from students."
I have served in congregational life for nearly twenty-five years, and I can tell you that this proverb has guided me through decades of synagogue life. For those of you who have children in your lives - those who you love and nurture - you surely know that their lived experience is different from the one lived by their elders. I, a parent of three, have certainly been tested by my kids' choices, and I still delight in the unfolding mystery of their existence.
The same is true for my students at synagogue. I am daily challenged by their questions, interests, and insights, and frankly, I don't always recognize the lens through which they see the world. But I don't have to understand it all. Because my job as a pastor, and their teacher, is to love them…to believe them…to trust them.
Today, many of my students have been open with me when their given gender at birth does not reflect who they are on the inside. Sometimes they identify as "he" or "she" or "them", or identify with no gender at all.
The multiplicity of pronouns and gender identities was at first inconvenient to my well-worn sensibilities, but the Book of Genesis opened me up. Chapter 1:26 reads, "And God said, 'Let US make humankind in OUR image, after OUR likeness.'" Years into my rabbinate I realized that while God is One, God's image reflects the many.
Seeing God's children, Ohio's children, as not limited to one understanding allows us to be trusted travelers with them along the road to identity formation.
A few years back, one of my students disclosed to me that they are non-binary. I listened, and I felt honored that they were comfortable to talk about something as personal as their identity. I asked if they had talked to their parents. They did not feel safe to do so.
I respected that choice - and so should you. It is not my job to legislate how another should live, how they should feel, or what they should believe. That's not your job, either. Nor is it the job of their teachers.
The extension of Title IX protections to LGBTQ+ kids allows our children to walk along their own path of identity. That is not for us to inhibit. The foundation for learning in any environment begins with mutual respect and trust. By passing this resolution you will betray that trust, and effectively harm and damage children. Do you really wish to carry that burden with you? I urge you to vote no on the "Resolution to Oppose Title IX…"