It Gets Better: Where are the Jews?
By now, the It Gets Better Project has made headlines around the world, with everyone from Lady Gaga to president Obama posting a video to support and encourage LGBT youth. A number of Jewish leaders have joined the conversation by making videos of their own. Here are a few of my favorites. Let me know if I’ve missed any good ones!
Rabbi Denise Eger of Congregation Kol Ami in West Hollywood and President of the California Board of Rabbis – and an out lesbian – says in her video, “As a rabbi, I want you to know that anybody who tells you that God condemns you is just plain wrong.” She goes on to recount many of the times in history when the Bible has been used as an excuse for bigotry and disbelief: “The same people who were wrong about what the Bible says about slavery, about women’s equality, about astronomy, are the same people who are wrong about homosexuality.”
Six gay Orthodox men from JQYouth.org came together to create a nine-minute It Gets Better video about their own experiences growing up gay in Orthodox communities –the bullying they experienced, the slurs they heard, the fear they had of how their sexual orientation would be perceived by their faith communities, and even the suicide attempts they made. One participant went to “reparative therapy” in an attempt to pray the gay away until he realized that no matter how hard he tried, being gay wasn’t going to go away. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cry while watching this one, especially when Mordechai tells of the advice his aunt gave him when he was in high school: “It gets better.” Really.
Staff and students of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion address some of the misconceptions they had about homosexuality before coming out – including the hope that they would grow out of it and the fear that they could be parents. Rabbi Shirley Idelson, dean of HUC-JIR’s New York campus, says progressive Judaism welcomes adherents of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
Erika Davis of the popular blog Black, Gay & Jewish pays homage to some of the gay teens whose suicides spurred the It Gets Better Project and other anti-bullying efforts. Though Erika says she didn’t have a painful coming out experience, she recounts some of the difficulties she’s gone through during her own journey and drives home a simple primary message: “It’s important to love yourself.”
Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, leads his staff in an In Gets Better video that outlines some of the ways they support LGBT equality: by advocating on Capitol Hill for LGBT-friendly legislation, by supporting same-sex couples’ right to adopt, by speaking out against bullying and by fighting for the legalization of same-sex marriage.
Videos aren’t the only way Jews have shown their support for the It gets Better project and gay teens everywhere. Keshet, the Jewish grassroots organization for LGBT equality, has launched Do Not Stand Idly By: A Jewish Pledge to Save Lives. Rabbi Andrea Myers writes of her own experiences in “It Gets Beautiful.” And in an emotional first-person memoir, Conservative Jewish rabbinical student D’ror Chankin-Gould writes that he grew up learning that God hated him. “The truth is, life doesn’t get perfect,” he writes, “But life does get a whole lot better. But the deal is that you have to live in order to experience that. I hope you will. We need you with us.”