What we can learn from the RCA and the URJ

Gay Jewish blogger Amram Altzman says that groups like RCA and Reform Judaism who respect the LGBT community provide the ritualized and institutionalized framework to give previously disenfranchised groups more than just an honorary spot at the communal table

On Oct. 30, mainstream Orthodox leaders in the Rabbinical Council of America confirmed once again that women who receive the same training and jobs as men still are not — and never will be — equal to men. Six days later, the Union for Reform Judaismpassed a landmark resolutionon the inclusion of transgender individuals in the Reform movement. It would be too much to pass up the irony of these two events happening in the same week.

As much as I want to focus solely on the progress marked by the URJ resolution and the fact that a Jewish religious organization can vote resoundingly — without one “no” to be heard — and affirmatively when asked if they should take more active steps to include transgender individuals in their communities, I’m tempered by the statements of the RCA.

What this past week has highlighted is nothing new: Increasingly, the role that gender and sexual minorities can play in public Jewish ritual is becoming the dividing line between the Orthodox (who are increasingly becoming politically fringe yet growing much more dramatically in numbers than other denominations) and progressive Jews. On the other hand, however, we’ve been shown two divergent ways to incorporate disenfranchised groups into our religious communal lives.

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