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Jewish Leaders Call for LGBTQ Acceptance Before Day of Atonement

Post submitted by Michael Toumayan with contributions from Religion and Faith Program Intern Leah Weinstein

Tradition is a key religio-cultural element in the Jewish faith that has bound together families and communities for centuries. This couldn’t be any more true than on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, one of the holiest days of the year in Judaism.

In the U.S., where a majority of Jewish Americans identify with the more LGBTQ inclusive Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist movements, leaders have often adapted Jewish tradition to embrace and include new possibilities, including making room for LGBTQ people in Jewish life. The more traditional Orthodox movement has, by and large, struggled with LGBTQ acceptance, both in the U.S. and in Israel.

But this year, in a deeply moving video, seven leading Israeli Orthodox scholars are calling for acceptance of LGBTQ people and an end to harmful anti-LGBTQ rhetoric in the religious community. The video comes just days before Yom Kippur, when it is traditional to ask for forgiveness from those one may have hurt.

The video opens with a powerful passage from the Talmud, a collection of writings that constitute the Jewish civil and religious law:

“Yom Kippur atones for transgressions between a person and God, but for a transgression against one’s neighbor, Yom Kippur cannot atone, until he appeases his neighbor.”

While Jews from around the world fast and attend services at synagogue, Yom Kippur is an opportunity for all Jews, no matter Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist or Orthodox to reflect, to ask for forgiveness and to make a change.

We hope that this opportunity will open the doors of all synagogues, as well as the hearts and minds of all Jewish communities and people, to LGBTQ people. Yom Kippur can offer an opportunity for more holistic LGBTQ inclusion in the Jewish New Year and enrich Jewish life, family and tradition for years to come.

Earlier this year, HRC Foundation released Coming Home to Judaism and to Self, a guide that challenges individuals to engage more deeply with their faith. Coming Home to Judaism, released in the spring, offers strategies for the LGBTQ faithful seeking enriching and meaningful lives in the Jewish faith. For more information, as well as other faith based resources, visit www.hrc.org/religion