In Song of Songs 2:10-12 we read the following:
“Rise up, my love, my fair one and come away. For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.”
This beautiful passage reminds us of how love, rebirth and the beauty of springtime are all intertwined. After a long winter, we are filled with hope. We marvel at the incredible diversity of God’s creation. We revel in the freedoms and possibilities that lie before us as the earth shows off its grandeur and mystery.
And yet, even during this time of infinite possibility, we need to recognize that there are those for whom the ability to celebrate their uniqueness is stifled. Try to imagine, if you will, how it must feel for someone to be unable to fully express themselves for fear of being excluded, ridiculed, bullied or even physically threatened because of who they are and how they were created.
Society can be cruel. It was not all that long ago that laws were on the books in parts of our country that forbade whites and people of color from getting married. We like to think that we have progressed beyond those dark times – and in many ways we have –yet there are still members of our community who are persecuted on a daily basis because of the way that they were created by God.
In particular, I want to call our attention to the treacherous path that non-gender-conforming men and women must walk on a daily basis. Transgender youth are particularly vulnerable. Studies have shown that transgendered adolescents are nine times more likely to attempt suicide then their cis-gendered classmates (someone whose gender corresponds to their assigned sex). These vulnerable and holy children face discrimination and abuse at home, in school, in public and even in sacred places like synagogues.
Temple Emanuel is committed to being a safe place for all people - regardless of gender identity, who they love, or how they love. As such, we are proud to be a partner with Keshet – a national organization that works for full LGBTQ equality and inclusion in Jewish life. We open our doors to all who wish to be a part of our sacred community. You may have noticed signs around the Temple with the words: “Trans Jews Belong Here.” It is on the door of my office and on many other public spaces in our building. This is more than a hashtag or a slogan. It is part and parcel of our moral and spiritual fiber. We welcome and embrace all of our children and adults who are part of the vast and mysterious tapestry of God’s creation. This means that we will continuously strive to be a safe and open place for all – especially for our young people who struggle on a daily basis to find their place in an increasingly complex and all too often unfriendly world. In addition, in the coming months we look forward to offering programs and resources that will help us to be a more welcoming place. We will not tolerate discrimination or oppression of any kind. Our religious school, youth group, Shwayder Camp and every place where students come together will be a safe space for all people – created in God’s image
In the Yotzer Or prayer we find the following:
מָה רַבּוּ מַעֲשֶֽׂיךָ יְיָ, כֻּלָּם בְּחָכְמָה עָשִֽׂיתָ
Ma rabu ma’asecha Adonai, kulam b’hochma asita
How great are Your works, O, God, You made them all in wisdom
At this wonderful time of year, as we embrace the beauty of spring, let us also strive to find the beauty in all of God’s creation.
Ken Yehi Ratzon – may it be God’s will.