It feels like every day there’s another attack on the Jewish community. Another cemetery with overturned headstones in the news, another slew of bomb threats called in to terrify JCCs—our nursery schools! Our children!
This heated political climate is bringing out a kind of hatred that is more dangerous and violent than anything we’ve seen in a long time. Thank Gd no one has died–yet.
But what about the people who ARE dying because of this climate of hatred and violence? There is so much pain we sometimes forget that people are being killed almost daily, within our very communities. Young people, some just a few years older than the toddlers in JCCs, are being harassed and even killed just for being who they are.
Trans youth need our protection. They need to be welcomed in our synagogues and in our youth programs. We can’t just turn a blind eye to this vulnerable part of our population—trans youth are significantly more likely than their cisgender peers to experience bullying or feel unsafe in their day to day lives, and they are significantly more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression as well. The rates of suicide and suicidal ideation among transgender teens is terrifyingly high.
Why wouldn’t we do everything in our power to make their lives a little easier?
If you think this isn’t an issue in your shul, perhaps you don’t know that there are more than 1.4 million transgender adults living in the US right now. Trans and gender nonconforming individuals are everywhere, and odds are a trans person has already prayed with you at some point in your life. If you don’t see any trans youth in your synagogue’s religious school, perhaps it’s time to make religious school more welcoming.
This isn’t just about bathrooms, the same way segregation wasn’t just about water fountains, and the same way attacks on Jewish communities aren’t just about toppled headstones. This is about standing up for what’s right. This is about protecting our communities against the hatred that threatens the world.
We need to make sure all of our young people feel included in our communities. We need to reach out to our trans youth and their families to show them they are safe and welcome in our synagogues, our Hebrew schools, our summer camps, and our youth programs. The Jewish value of inclusion goes all the way back to our ancestors—Abraham’s tent was open on four sides, to welcome visitors from all directions. It’s time we as Jews honor that legacy of inclusion by educating ourselves on how to become better, safer, and more inviting for our trans youth.