Letter to Senator Schumer (RAC L’Taken 2019)

This weekend I attended a social justice seminar, L’Taken, run by the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism. This letter was spoken to two of Senator Schumer’s Staffers. This letter was co-written with two other students from my synagogue and another student from a neighboring synagogue. The paragraphs in which talk about Judaism is the paragraphs that I wrote but I did edit the entire piece before lobbying.

Although it has been over 50 years since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, the LGBTQ community still faces discrimination every day in various aspects of their lives. Currently, our government has no specific law that ensures protection against discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity.  For instance, there are 26 states that do not protect LGBTQ individuals when being interviewed for a job or for renting or buying a house. This means that simply because of their gender or sexual identity, many people in our country may be denied the right to buy a house or rent one or would be rejected for a job they are qualified for compared to a person who is heterosexual. Likewise, a total of 27 states do not give protection to people in the LGBTQ community in regards to public accommodations. This means that there are American citizens that by law can be told to leave a store or a public building for no real reason and they can’t disagree because the government doesn’t have any law saying that any LGBTQ member has the same rights as a straight person in the United States. Our Declaration of Independence states that all people are created equal, but having no specific laws that ensure that the LGBTQ community have the same rights as everyone else means that this country is failing to live up to this vision.

Just like in the Declaration of Independence, in Reform Judaism, we hold the value of B’tzelem Elohim very highly.  B’tzelem Elohim indirectly translates to being created in the image of God, or the Divine Image. This means that while everyone might not believe the same things, act the same way, or think the same thoughts, the way in which one does is valid for their individual self.  G-d created each and every person in his or her own special way.  The belief is that everyone will go on to find their G-d given truth, purpose, and true calling in life.   Part of that could be identifying themselves as a part of the LGBTQ community.  This is why we need to protect their rights and their beliefs that allow them to identify themselves as a part of this community as a step in their life journey to achieving their most authentic selves.

As well, Rabbi Janet Marder, Past President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, commented that “…The Judaism I cherish and affirm teaches love of humanity, respect for the spark of divinity in every person and the human right to live with dignity. The God I worship endorses loving, responsible and committed human relationships, regardless of the sex of the persons involved.”  It is not just, for human beings to be discriminated against at their place of work, while trying to obtain a roof over their heads, or at public accommodations such as bathrooms. Each and every person on this planet holds so much value and so much worth.  They are planted on this earth to be loved, cherished, and to be accepted as a general part of society.

I have a cousin who’s gay. She has a wife and the most adorable daughter I’ve ever seen. At a Passover Seder when I was eight, my grandparents let it be known to me and the other 16 people at the table, probably not for the first time, all of their negative thoughts towards the LGBTQ community, and specifically targeting my cousin, her wife and daughter who were on the other side of my family and my grandparents only met them when my parents got married. As an eight year old who was very concerned with justice and equality, this struck a chord in me that said, “This isn’t right. I care about my cousin, and she and everyone else should be able to love whoever they love without anything bad happening to them.” I started yelling at them and asking to explain why they felt this way. They said that’s just the time that they grew up in when the LGBTQ community was bullied and persecuted. Over the years after that incident, I’ve talked with them every chance I get, and they always say the same things, sometimes with more or less care and respect towards a community that now my friends, part of my family. The idea that my cousin may not be able to get a job or housing to support her daughter just because of who she loves is completely ludicrous. That’s why it’s so important that you support the equality act.

         Before we conclude, we would just like to thank you for listening to everything we had to say.  America has always prided herself on her acceptance and equality, which is something that hasn’t always been the most enforced in practice. By your continued support on actions involving the LGBTQ community, we can rebuild this equality and make it more of a reality for more people, people who hadn’t been allowed this equality in the past. We thank you for cosponsoring the Equality Act, S.1006, in the 115th Congress and we hope that you will continue to support it when it is reintroduced during this legislative session as well as remain supportive of the LGBTQ cause in future events concerning the LGBTQ community. Everyone deserves to portray themselves in the way that best represents them, and it is in no way anyone’s rights to tell people who they are and how they should act. I would just like to leave you with this. As children, we are always taught two very important things. We are taught to always be ourselves and that love is the most powerful force in the world. Think about someone you love. Your support for this Act is supporting what every child learns during bedtime stories and learning experiences. Thank you for supporting the people’s right to identify anyway they see fit and to love unconditionally whoever their heart chooses, because honestly, love is a difficult enough path without people telling you your feelings are wrong. No one deserves to be told their feelings are invalid. No one can put restraints on Love. Thank you.

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