I just caught this article from the Los Angeles Times regarding the move by reform Judaism to support transgender rights. This is a sign from the largest U.S. branch of Judaism that faith and gender identity or gender expression are not mutually exclusive. While some may link Judaism to fundamentalist beliefs and conservative points of view and strict adherence to the religious law as passed on by Moses, the cause for justice and equality seems to have taken priority over old myths and stereotypes about what we might expect of Jewish communities.
Christians and others may only associate Jews with Old Testament beliefs that seem antiquated, outdated, and irrelevant to today’s society. Some might suggest they are trying to adhere to the strict laws of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Well, Reform Judaism at least in the U.S. is attempting to tackle those assumptions and challenge outdated orthodoxy in favor of a faith that can adapt and meet the needs of today’s people of Jewish faith and culture– without sacrificing identity or heritage or faith in God. Their challenge is the same being faced by some North American Catholics struggling against a more conservative, somewhat out of touch college of cardinals. Pope Francis is definitely trying to reform and overhaul Catholic theology and bring it to the 21st century. He struggles against cardinals and bishops who still cling to a very strict and conservative status quo– a status quo that continues to block LGBT persons from being included in Catholic congregations and equal members of the faith.
What the Reform Jews are saying basically, is that under the eyes of God, all of His creation is worthy of respect and all can pray and worship and be included in fellowship.