Human Rights Campaign First-Ever Index of LGBT Religious Inclusion

Jeremy Burton

Statistics show that most of us have some family members who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or questioning where they fit in terms of gender. Loving and including our loved ones for all of who they are is what healthy families and communities do, IMHO. So it is good to learn that The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, released today its first-ever index of inclusion within a faith-based community. “The Jewish Organization Equality Index (JOEI) provides benchmarks for gauging, and resources for improving, LGBT inclusivity policies and practices of North American Jewish communal organizations. The entire report is available at online.”

Rabbi David Saperstein

Joy Ladin

Initiated by the ever-progressive Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, together with The Morningstar Foundation, Stuart Kurlander and an anonymous donor, the report aims “to push the Jewish community to prioritize inclusion of LGBT employees, members and volunteers into communal organizations. Here are some excerpts from their press release:

Findings from the index include:

  1. 98% of participating membership-based organizations offer same-sex couples family memberships;
  2. 90% of participating organizations include inclusive terms in their publicity materials;
  3. 75% of participating organizations have not specifically recruited LGBT individuals to their lay leadership board in the past three years (often cited as a significant contributor to increased awareness about inclusive policies);
  4. 73% of responding organizations have a written non-discrimination policy;
  5. 66% of participating organizations actively reach out to the LGBT community to attract members or clients; and
  6. 33% of participating organizations with youth programming have a written anti-bullying policy.

Organizations that participated in the survey were from 26 states across the U.S, the District of Columbia and Canada, and represented a range of denominations, though no survey submissions were received from any Orthodox institutions. Jewish Community Centers, Jewish Federations and Hillels were among those with the highest rates of participation.

The report contains a number of resources, including a checklist of 14 steps organizations can take to be more welcoming and inclusive of LGBT families, couples and individuals, and an assessment of organizations’ cultural competency in delivering services to the LGBT community.

Timed to coincide with the release of the report, the survey’s supporters have joined with Keshet-the national grassroots organization that works for the full inclusion and equality of LGBT Jews in Jewish life-to raise awareness of the importance of inclusion and spread these and other tools for action. Visit the Tumblr site.

Led and supported by LGBT Jews and straight allies, Keshet offers resources and trainings to create inclusive Jewish communities nationwide as well as community programs for LGBT Jews.

“This report marks a milestone in the Jewish community,” said Idit Klein, Executive Director of Keshet. “We hope it will galvanize our leaders to make LGBT inclusion a key priority, and we invite organizations at any stage of inclusion to reach out to us for training, resources and assistance to make our community a home for all.”

Full Disclosure: Rabbi Milgram authored the first inclusive guide to Jewish rites of Passage titled Living Jewish Life Cycle: How to Create Meaningful Jewish Rites of Passage at Every Stage of Life.