I have to admit I have mixed feelings about months dedicated to promoting a theme or a cause. Yes, it is good to highlight a priority concern, but what about the rest of the year? So it is with "Pride Month," which is now coming to end. An important takeaway is: What can we do the rest of the year to further the goal of ending discriminatory treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people? If you already identify as part of that group, you most likely don't have to ask this question. But if you are a straight ally, you need to pay attention that there is a lot you can do year-round that will make a difference.
If you belong to an organization with any commitment at all to equality, be it your employer, a community organization, or a religious group, begin by ensuring that everyone feels welcome to join or be involved. If your organization does outreach, find the gay and lesbian groups in your area and be sure they get notices of your meetings. Arrange to meet their leadership in person to find out what their organization concerns are and how you might help. Be sure they feel welcome to bring their concerns to you -- whether they pertain directly to LGBT issues or issues that may serve people's needs in a more general sense -- like the need for child or elder care that can affect anyone. It might seem to make little difference in the present, but down the road relationships can be key to jump-starting an alliance around an issue.
At your workplace or in your community, let it be known you do not tolerate anti-gay behavior, whether you are on a coffee break, on the soccer field or at a PTA meeting. Speak out when you see bullying or disparagement. Talk about your beliefs about equality and how they are rooted in your religion or personal belief system. Much of the rise in support for marriage equality comes from the fact that many, many more people personally know someone who identifies publicly as an LGBT individual. Those relationships lead to support. The more your speech and behavior contributes to the general sense that being LGBT is normal, the more LGBT persons will be able to enjoy acceptance and normality in everyday life. And the more others who believe in equality will be empowered to say so.
NCJW is committed to ensuring our staff, our sections around the country, and our governing boards are inclusive of LGBT individuals and concerns. We proudly display the LGBT Safe zone logo on our website because of our commitment to end discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. And we participated in a survey by the Human Rights Campaign to assess our workplace policies and practices in terms of LGBT inclusion. We work at the international, federal, state, and local levels to ensure full emancipation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals, couples, and families. We advocate for marriage equality and inclusionary hate crimes laws, employment protections, and education policies, and we strive to make our nation and our communities safe for LGBT individuals to thrive, free from discrimination. Within the Jewish community, NCJW is a strong ally of Keshet, the organization that works for the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) Jews in Jewish life.
We believe that the Jewish tradition and Jewish values support the notion that we are all equally valued. In NCJW's organizational principles you will also find assertions that human rights and dignity are fundamental and must be guaranteed to all individuals; that we must value diversity and promote mutual understanding and respect for all; and that we must protect religious liberty and the separation of religion and state. And in the Jewish tradition, we think it not enough to believe, but that we must act. That is the spirit we need to bring to Pride Month and every month of the year.
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