We would like to think that we live in a progressive times. We include our pronouns on our zoom names and signatures to emails. We respect and celebrate every person’s gender identity. We know that every family is unique and there is no one size/gender fits all. We encourage our children to be who they are and be blessed in all that they are. While the Equality Act passed in February 2021, we see how quickly new legislation arises. Starting with Florida, followed by Alabama and now over a dozen other states are working to pass the “Don’t Say Gay” law.
Louisiana’s HB837 says that no teacher, school employee or other presenter shall cover the topics of sexual orientation or gender identity in any classroom discussion for grades kindergarten through grade eight. Nor shall any of them discuss their own sexual orientation or gender identity with students grades kindergarten through grade twelve. This could mean eliminating books with LGBTQ characters or removing people who identified as gay or lesbian from history lessons; this includes, but not limited to, Alexander the Great, Leonardo DaVinci, Michelangelo, Oscar Wilde, Alan Turing, mathematician who enabled the British to break the code of the enigma machine enabling the allies to defeat the Nazis in World War II. This also means barring students with gay parents from participating in class discussions about their families. These bills are not only targeting elementary schools, but middle and high school.
These bills go against everything that is a part of the fabric of our Jewish values. The greatest mitzvah is pikuach nefesh, to save a life, and these bills have the potential to do more harm to our youth who already struggle with their identity. These bills will take away our youth’s safe spaces that include their schools and access to teachers. Not every child has a support system at home and when they are struggling with identity, their teachers and school counselors can be great support and life savers.
Unfortunately, politicians are using the “Don’t Say Gay” bills to position themselves for the next general election with no consideration for who they are harming. Our youth, the most vulnerable, have a hard enough time in life that to take away the love, respect, compassion, and support they need in this moment is cruel and barbaric. Our children should not be used as pawns in political races or ways to punish big corporations who support all including the LGBTQ community. But once again, our children are caught in the middle.
We are reminded over and over again in Torah to remember that we were strangers and that no one should be made to feel like an outsider in their own community.
We are proud that HaNefesh provides a safe and affirming space for all and we will continue to work hard to ensure that this never changes. The work is never done, but together we can make a difference.
For more information on ways to get involved visit:
Keshet Online – For LGBTQ Equality in Jewish Life