Do Not Stand Idly By

For the past several years I have tried to keep my family out of my professional work in order to respect their privacy. Today I’m going to deviate a little from that rule.

Two weeks ago one of the happiest occasions in my life took place in my home: the bris of my first grandchild. A grandchild is a wondrous creature — I keep saying that he is like an entire universe of possibilities, and we have no idea how they will play out.

While I was making a few remarks at the bris, I noticed a young adult guest starting to cry. She came up to me afterwards and said that as a lesbian she had been overcome by my choice of pronouns in my remarks. All I had said was the following to my son-in-law and daughter: “We just said a prayer that we hoped that Jonah had huppah, a loving partner, in his life. I hope that 25 or 30 years from now the two of you are talking to each other about who Jonah is going out with, do you like the person, is the person good for him, is the person ‘the one.’”

It would have been easy for me to have said “is she the one,” and I did chose my words carefully, but I was quite taken aback that what I said had such an impact. It left me wondering how many times the young woman had experienced expressed assumptions of sexual preference that left her feeling different and disfavored.

I tell you this because I wonder whether casual expressions of assumed heterosexuality lead directly to the homophobia playing out in the news. You may have heard that a Jewish newspaper, the Jewish Standard, printed an announcement of a same sex wedding, then apologized after members of the Orthodox community objected, then kind of retracted the apology when others objected to it. Our friend David Levy has been blogging about that at Jewschool, which also has a follow up story.

Much more tragic is the recent spate of teen suicides due to homophobic bullying. I am very proud that InterfaithFamily.com is a co-sponsor of Do Not Stand Idly By: A Jewish Community Pledge to Save Lives originated by our friends at Keshet. The pledge states a commitment to end homophobic bullying or harassment, to speak out when anyone is being demeaned due to sexual orientation or gender identity, and to treat every person with dignity and respect. You can sign the pledge on Keshet’s website. I hope that you will. if the commitment becomes more of a reality, my little grandson’s world will be that much of a repaired place.

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