Fairmount Temple congregant and high school student Eric Giesler joined Rabbi Robert Nosanchuk in Washington, DC at the Consultation on Conscience of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in April 2013. Eric’s participation in this conference was supported by the Darnovsky/Bonder Fund and the Maurice H. Shapiro Consultation on Conscience Fund of Fairmount Temple. We encourage you to share this post, to comment below, and to see more information about the Religious Action Center’s important work on behalf of our Reform Jewish movement in Washington, D.C. at http://rac.org
The Agape Health Team has been offering annual temporary medical clinics on the island of La Gonave, Haiti for over 10 years, staffed by a combination of volunteers from the United States and Haiti. Eno Mondesir, Ph.D., a public health official and Protestant minister who was born on the island, founded the team. After the devastating earthquake of January 2013, volunteers from the Reform Congregation of Temple Isaiah in Lexington, Massachusetts joined the team in a spirit of tikkun olam (“repair the world”). Since then, a productive partnership has been developed between the Boston area Haitian-American community and congregants from Temple Isaiah. The Temple Isaiah Sisterhood and Social Action Committee have provided crucial financial support, in 2010, 2011, and 2012 the Agape Health Team planned and operated one-week clinics on La Gonave, seeing several hundred patients each year. It also does research and planning to determine how to best improve public health on La Gonave.
On May 2, Rhode Island’s governor signed a marriage equality bill, making it the tenth state to take this important step. Shortly afterwards, Delaware and Minnesota also passed marriage bills, making this a remarkable spring of advancement towards equality.
I composed the following reflection after the last critical step in the long process of advocacy and legislative debate, the hearing held by the Rhode Island Senate Judiciary Committee in March. Read more…
Martin Luther King’s letter from a Birmingham Jail is one of the most powerful and stirring documents of the Civil Rights movement in America—in some ways more compelling than the now legendary “I Have a Dream” oration, which electrified the historic March on Washington 50 years ago.
Unlike the Dream speech, which was aimed at the conscience of all Americans, the jail speech was deeply personal and directed specifically at the leading clergymen in Birmingham who had called on King to abandon his public Birmingham campaign and content himself with the small, non-controversial steps that the clergymen were promoting behind the scenes.
As a Boy Scout I lived the Scout Oath. Every Tuesday night from around age 11 until around age 18, scout meetings opened with its recitation. Every time I was up for a rank advancement, I was asked to explain what it meant. When I became an Eagle Scout, I was taught that I would forever be a “marked man;” that everywhere I went, I would be judged by whether I upheld the Scout Oath and lived my life according to its words. Notwithstanding the slight hyperbole of my Eagle Scout ceremony, when I tell people I’m an Eagle Scout, they do look at me differently. The meanings of those looks though have changed over the years.
May 9, 2013
Boy Scouts of America
Middle Tennessee Council
3414 Hillsboro Pike
PO Box 150409
Nashville, TN 37215
I am writing as a rabbi and as one who became an Eagle Scout in 1966. From 1963 to 1972, I spent time each summer at the Stahlman Camp of the Boxwell Reservation in Middle Tennessee. From 1970 – 72, I worked on the waterfront there. In 1970, I attended the National Camping School of the BSA and in 1971 was an instructor in that school. I was also honored by being Order of the Arrow. At one time, I was even considering a career path in the BSA.
I am writing to express my significant disappointment that the Middle Tennessee Council of the Boy Scouts of America has announced that it would not support a proposed policy change that would open membership to young people who are openly gay.
In all my years of scouting, I cannot think of one minute wherein I was encouraged to discriminate against another scout. I grew up during the Civil Rights era in Nashville. The first significant friendships and relationships that I had with African American youth my age occurred at Boxwell. I learned there that social justice and treating others with respect and fairness were integral parts of scouting and the Scout Law. Specifically, I learned from the Scout Law that “A Scout is Friendly. A Scout is a friend to all. He is a brother to other Scouts. He offers his friendship to people of all races and nations, and respects them even if their beliefs and customs are different from his own.”
I can hardly see how discrimination against openly gay young people and openly gay adults who wish to work as patrol dads and/or Scout leaders is not an egregious violation of the Scout Law.
Around the country, educators – myself included – are actively working to curtail bullying. This ban actually makes it more likely that bullying will occur and that significant harm will occur to gay youth, adults and their families around the country. I also wish to point out that most distressingly LGBT youth experience significantly higher rates of suicide. These children and their families must not be denied the opportunities to achieve as well as the structures of support that the Boy Scouts already provide to so many.
Personally, I am not gay. I am the proud father of three wonderful children and the devoted husband to my wife for thirty-eight years. As I Jew, I have seen only all too recently the terrible effects of discrimination against the Jewish people. The recent history of the Jews in World War II illustrates the terrible consequences of bias and bigotry, even when sanctioned by the majority of people within a society. Accordingly, I am appalled by the statement that this decision was based upon research during which “of about 3,000 surveyed, 66 percent said openly gay youths should not be allowed to participate in Scouting. About 15.7 percent said gay Scouts should be allowed. The rest were neutral.” Basic human rights should never be subject to the will of the majority. When I was growing up, I learned that the Scout Law applied to everyone, not just to those who were popular, Christian, white or heterosexual.
Jewish tradition here is fully congruent with the best of the Scout Law when it teaches that all human beings are created in the image of God. This is also entirely congruent with the twelfth Scout Law, “A Scout is Reverent” which obviously I take very seriously. That stamp of the divine applies to us all!
Therefore, I would like to urge you to support the lifting of the BSA’s policy of discrimination that currently impacts both children and adults. When that occurs, I would look forward once again to participating again in the worthy work of the BSA.
Rabbi Fred Guttman
Note: Rabbi Fred Guttman is a native of Nashville, belonged to Troop 31 sponsored by St. Georges Episcopal Church and is a graduate of MBA and Vanderbilt.
Rabbi Fred Guttman is the senior rabbi at Temple Emanuel in Greensboro, NC.
The Religious Action Center is currently circulating a sign on letter for rabbis and cantors calling for the Boy Scouts of America to lift their ban on gay scouts and scout leaders, if you are interested in signing please click here.
This article was originally published in The New York Jewish Week on April 23, 2013.
As concerned as we are about economic justice, the American Jewish community has failed to understand, on a gut level, a glaring reality: adults with disabilities in the U.S. disproportionately experience poverty. According the census bureau, about one in five Americans has a disability. That means twenty percent of us.
Eighty percent of adults with disabilitiesare unemployed or under employed not because they cannot work, but because they are denied the opportunity to work at jobs they are qualified to do. Employment discrimination makes people poor!
I recently had the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. where I attended the Religious Action Center’s flagship policy conference, Consultation on Conscience. I spent four days listening to inspiring speakers, having meaningful discussions, and learning more than I ever thought possible. While reflecting on this incredible conference, I realized that there are three Hebrew phrases that can aid me in sharing my experiences: Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof (Justice, justice you shall pursue), L’dor Vador (From generation to generation), and im tirtzu, ein zo agada (If you will it, then it is no dream.)