Reform Movement Letter on Transgender Members of the Armed Forces

Dear President Trump,

Press Release from the Religious Action Center

On behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, which represents over 2,000 Reform rabbis, I call on you to maintain the current Department of Defense guidelines welcoming transgender people to serve openly in the United States military. 

Transgender people have served in the U.S. armed forces throughout our nation’s history, and there are thousands of transgender and gender non-conforming people currently serving our country. They sacrifice each day in ways large and small and have committed to, if necessary, paying the ultimate price to keep our nation safe. To ban these brave individuals from further service is an insult to their sacrifice, a rejection of their commitment to our nation, and a step backward in the fight toward full equality for LGBTQ people.

A Rand Corporation study recently indicated that 18 countries allow transgender military personnel to serve openly. Based on intelligence gathered from foreign militaries and the U.S. military, this study found “no significant impact on unit cohesion or operational readiness as a result of allowing transgender…personnel to serve openly.”

As Jews, our faith is rooted in the intrinsic value of the holiness in all people. As we read in Genesis, every living person is created “btzelem elohim, in the image of god.” Every human being, regardless of their gender identity, deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Using gender identity as a qualifier for service in our armed forces directly contradicts this principal, and represents an outdated and divisive ideology.

We urge you to follow the advice of your own military leaders and maintain current guidelines welcoming transgender people serving in the United States armed forces, and allow the thousands of brave individuals to continue protecting the country they love.


Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner

Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Cc: Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph F. Dunford, Jr.