Human Rights Campaign Releases Historic Jewish Organization Equality Index

Earlier this week the Human Rights Campaign, a frequent coalition partner of the Religious Action Center, released its first ever Jewish Organization Equality Index. Based on the model that HRC has used for years to evaluate corporations, the JOEI seeks to illustrate how well various Jewish communities have sought to welcome and integrate LGBT members. The JOEI surveyed over 200 Jewish organizations and contains a wealth of information and ideas on how the Jewish community can best work toward justice and live the values of equality that we espouse.

In the document’s introduction HRC president Chad Griffin says the JOEI “build[s] upon the pioneering work of other groups within the Jewish community, [it] is also a roadmap for how future initiatives may take shape.” Griffin commends the great strides Jewish groups have already taken, noting that 94% of the communities surveyed provided insurance policies to the same-sex partners and spouses of its employees. He concludes by hoping that the JOEI, “illuminates new paths toward full participation and equality for members of the Jewish LGBT community.”

The report begins with 14 concrete steps that Jewish communities can take in order to achieve that equality, steps based on those already developed by organizations from around the country. The list includes such ideas as adopting equal employment opportunity policies and non-discrimination policies that include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity and creating fully inclusive enumerated bullying policies for youth programming.

The Union for Reform Judaism, the RAC and a number of Reform synagogues across the country participated in the survey. For over 30 years we as a community have fought for equality and justice for the LGBT community on the national stage (including supporting policies like those suggested above such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and anti-bullying legislation), but we have also struggled to do the same within our own community. Speaking in a video featured on HRC’s website, Rabbi David Saperstein spoke of the progress toward acceptance and openness in Jewish communities, “There is a demonstrable change from what we saw 30 years ago when I first began in my position heading the Religious Action Center and what we see now.”

The goal of the JOEI is to help measure and encourage this progress. Read the report, read its data and its suggestions and find out what your community’s policies are. How can your synagogue be a locus for building tolerance and understanding? How can your community center, or camp, or social service agency be at the forefront of this critical social change? We at the RAC and the URJ will continue to work tirelessly on all of these issues and we hope the rest of the Jewish community will join us.

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