Trans Jews Are Here, At BCC!
Rabbi Jonathan Klein, Executive Director
At BCC in recent months, many of our visitors and new members have been transgender and non-binary Jews and non-Jews seeking a spiritual home; we can be proud that in this era of reprehensible attacks against an entire community of people, BCC has stood out as not only welcoming, but also embracing and integrating our fellow journey-mates into our family, even signing onto an Amicus Brief to defend transgender restroom rights in the courts.
In recent days, I put out a call for the formation of a Transgender Havurah; on July 12th, a first informal dinner at Rahel Ethiopian Vegan Restaurant brought six trans BCC-associated people, one partner and me together to discuss the future of trans engagement at the congregation. It was both enlightening and at times challenging, as individuals shared their hopes and their challenges within a BCC context, especially surrounding pronoun usage within our ranks. In many ways, it embodied what I imagined a first generation of BCC members in 1972 may have felt forming our Beth Chayim Chadashim, our House of New Life…at times alienated from the rest of an equivocating liberal world that touts inclusion but frequently falls short, even among allies. It confirmed what I have already found to be true: In order for those in the margins to gain legitimacy, become normalized, and integrate into the fullness of institutional life, their voice must be clearer and stronger; a “Trans Havurah” is a necessary step in claiming a voice within the delightful, diverse mosaic of LGBTQIS life at our shtibele, our beautiful little ongregation.
The Hebrew word for “to cross over” is La’avor, and the Jewish People were called “Hebrews” (Ivrim, the same etymology) because we “crossed over” the Jordan River to enter into the promised land. Years ago in an article that appeared in Tikkun by BCC’s Honorary Member, Rabbi Dr. Rachel Adler, “A Question of Boundaries: Toward a Jewish Feminist Theology of Self and Other” (Tikkun Vol. 6 No 3, May/June 1991), Rabbi Adler writes of the Jewish people, As boundary-crossers, ivrim (Hebrews) are bridgers of worlds, makers of transition. The name ivri is not resonant of self-perception. It reflects the perspective of those native to this side of the river, those who are at home. Those who do not cross the boundaries may view the relocations of the ivri as transgressions against a fixed cosmic order, trespasses into the anomalous and the chaotic.
In our narratives, however, it is God who demands that Abraham and Sarah become ivrim. A people rooted in one place experience a God rooted in a particular place. A people that has known transience can experience the translocal nature of God. It is the revelation of a God who is present in every place that makes possible the moral universe of the covenant, where relatedness rather than location becomes the ground of ethics.
Our trans siblings, too, have heeded the Call as people who have “known transcience;” they are uniquely equipped at BCC to show the rest of us how to “experience the translocal nature of God.” How might we more powerfully experience M’lo chol ha’aretz K’vod(x), “The whole earth is filled with [God’s] glory” (Isaiah 6)? I look forward to finding out through friendships with our growing trans community. What a blessing! What a gift for BCC!
This article was taken from G’vanim Issue 47 vol 6, July/August 2019 Check out the full issue