The artwork on this note card was created by 5768 WRJ Art Calendar artist Césan d’Ornellas Levine.
One of the realities of transgender life today is the specter of transphobic violence. While tremendous progress is being made toward transgender rights and equity, we are, sadly, plagued by violence against trans people on a regular basis. This year, twenty-three transgender people, mostly trans women of color, were killed as a result of transphobic violence. In 2016, that number was 27. These numbers do not even begin to count all of those who were the victims of violence who were not killed.
In response to this trend, the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) was created in 1998, specifically in response to the death of Rita Hester on November 28. Since then, vigils have been held yearly to commemorate the lives lost to this violence every year. Not a year has gone by in which there was not a list to be read out on this day. This year, Transgender Day of Remembrance falls on Monday, November 20.
In Reform congregations, acknowledgements and observances of TDOR can be an important way to show transgender congregants that their community is not silent when it comes to the issues they face daily. These can also be ways to declare to surrounding communities that Reform Jews will not accept sinat chinam, baseless hatred, in our midst. Our Jewish values compel us to comfort the bereaved and oppressed, as well as to speak openly against oppression.
In that light, the Urgency of Now: Transgender Rights Campaign is encouraging Reform congregations to honor TDOR this year, be that by hosting a vigil on the day itself, encouraging members to attend a vigil locally, acknowledging TDOR during kaddish on the previous Shabbat, or by some other means. Keshet has put together a guide for Jewish communities to honor TDOR, including readings for services to commemorate TDOR.
It is all of our responsibilities to let our congregants and communities know that we stand in solidarity with oppressed populations. Recognizing TDOR is an important and meaningful way to do that.
Lea Andersen is a first year rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. She is a member of Temple Emanu-El in Sarasota, FL.