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Synagogues Now Creating ‘Safe Spaces’ For Transgender Congregants

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Amber Randall Civil Rights Reporter

A group of conservative rabbis recently voted to implement a resolution that creates “safe spaces” in synagogues for transgender congregants.

The Rabbanical Assembly, an international association of Conservative Rabbis, passed the “Resolution Affirming the Right of Transgender and Gender Non Conforming” in late May. The resolution seeks to establish “the full welcome, acceptance, and inclusion of people of all gender identities in Jewish life and general.”

“It is increasingly becoming the norm to affirm the dignity of transgender people through implementation of accommodation in both site facilities and language,” according to the Rabbinical Assembly. The resolution cited years of teaching and tradition that “affirms the variety of non-binary gender expression throughout history.”

The Rabbinical Assembly encourages all synagogues and programs affiliated with the conservative movement to educate congregants about the needs of transgender people — including  using a person’s preferred name and pronoun. The synagogues were told to create “inclusive environments” and “safe spaces,” as well as “evaluate their physical site needs, workplace needs, and language that impact gender and gender expression.”

Rabbi Adam Zeff, of the Germantown Jewish Centre located in Philadelphia, has been very supportive of the resolution.

“Germantown Jewish Centre has been at the forefront of welcoming LGBTQ families and individuals into our congregation as active and valued members. Several years ago we had several trans members who went through transition while members of the synagogue, and there was an incredible level of acceptance, support, and celebration as these people courageously lived their true selves as members of the congregation,” Zeff told TheDCNF.

Germantown Jewish Centre also implemented a gender neutral bathroom for transgender members, Zeff said. And many congregants put themselves through an “audit” to make sure they were being as inclusive as possible to the transgender people and their families.

Some congregants, however, we’re uncomfortable with the changes within the synagogue.

“There have definitely been people who were resistant to this idea and were uncomfortable with it, “Zeff said, but “Most went through their own process to find their way toward acceptance through learning and reflection.”

Zeff says that the congregation has a little way to go, but “we know that we are on the path to creating a welcoming and supportive congregation for trans people.”

The resolution ends by calling on local governments to change their policies as to bring equality for transgender people everywhere.

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