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Washington, D.C., May 13, 2016 – In response to the letter sent today from the Obama Administration to all public schools directing them to ensure transgender students access to facilities consistent with their gender identity, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
We commend the Obama administration’s instruction to all public schools to ensure transgender students access to restrooms, educational programs and activities consistent with their gender identity. The historic letter and guidance from the Departments of Education and Justice are much-needed steps toward greater inclusion and equality for transgender and gender-nonconforming people in our society.
In communities nationwide, transgender and gender non-conforming individuals are significantly more likely to experience discrimination and harassment. Students can be especially vulnerable. This is sadly even more true in the wake of the false narrative around bathroom safety that has been propagated throughout our society, especially following the passage of harmful and discriminatory legislation in certain states.
As a leader of the Reform Jewish Movement, I am proud that our community has spoken clearly in support of the civil rights and full inclusion – including within our congregations, camps and communities - of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals. Jewish tradition teaches that all human beings are created b’tzelem Elohim, in the Divine Image. The stamp of the Divine is present in each and every one of us, and discrimination against any individual because of their gender identity directly violates this value.
We urge all public schools to swiftly and fully comply with this directive so that transgender and gender non-conforming individuals are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose nearly 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 2,000 Reform rabbis. Visit www.rac.org for more.