Back to Stories & Articles

Why We Are Using More Inclusive Language on Our Membership Forms

For decades, B’nai Jeshurun has been on the forefront among mainstream American Jewish organizations in fighting for equality and acceptance of all people. 

BJ was one of the few synagogues supporting people living with HIV/AIDS and those caring for them in the 80s. We began sanctifying same-sex unions in the early 90s, ahead of the Conservative Movement of which we were then affiliated. In the mid 2000s, BJ members took an active part in the fight for marriage equality in New York State, traveled to Albany for lobby days, hosted a Stonewall Seder, and participated in a “wedding march” over the Brooklyn Bridge. And since it passed in 2011, we have rejoiced in celebrating many same-sex marriages spiritually and legally in our community and beyond.

But being an open and inclusive kehillah (community) is an on-going journey, so this year, we made some small but significant changes to our membership forms.

We are expanding the language options for gender identity: evolving the choices to demonstrate respect and acceptance of members from our community, or who want to be part of this community, who are transgender, non-binary, or gender non-conforming, and creating the space for them to identify, and be seen, as they are.

For some, the answer may change from year to year, and that’s ok, too. We don’t want anyone whose personal story is evolving to have to make an extra effort to tell us. That’s why we will always ask when you renew each year, and as part of some program registrations or other surveys.

These changes are important to us, and for us. By simply asking everyone the same questions, we remove important barriers for people to be fully present and authentic. This effort reflects our deep commitment to inclusiveness and our hope for a community that fully lives the value of b’tzelem elohim (that we’re all created in God’s image).

We want to create a culture where all people feel welcomed, valued, loved, and celebrated in their full identities.

We must always continue to stand up and speak out for the rights of all. The work is never done. So far in 2021, 23 anti-LGBTQ bills have been enacted into law in states in this country, surpassing 2015 as the worst year for anti-LGBTQ legislation in recent history, according to analysis by the Human Rights Campaign.

So we’re doing this together, to recognize that we welcome all, that everyone has a home here, and that we create this kehillah kedoshah (holy community) together.

This is a logical next step in the journey toward building a more loving, just, equitable, and inclusive world, starting right here within our community.


Cis

Anyone who knows themself to be the gender they were assigned at birth.

Trans

Anyone who knows themself to be a gender that is different from the gender they were assigned at birth.

Non-binary

Anyone whose gender identity specifically rejects the notion of binary gender.

Gender non-conforming

Anyone whose gender expression does not align with societal expectations based on their perceived gender.
 

J. Rolando Matalon

Written By J. Rolando Matalon

José Rolando Matalon, B’nai Jeshurun’s senior rabbi, was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and was educated in Buenos Aires, Montreal, Jerusalem, and New York City. After his ordination at the Jewis...

View Profile
Felicia L. Sol

Written By Felicia L. Sol

Rabbi Sol has served as a rabbi at BJ since 2001, becoming the first woman to serve as a rabbi to the community in the congregation’s almost 200-year history. Rabbi Sol began her initial involve...

View Profile