As we gather to call attention to the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools, let us take a moment to reflect on why some people and connections are respected or recognized by law while others are not.
Every day, students who experience intimidation, persecution and, sometimes, physical violence, feel powerless and alone before their oppressors and their peers. Whether gay, straight, transgender, or queer, on this Day of Silence, we stand in solidarity with those who feel silenced many times in the name of God.
Judaism teaches that all human beings are created b'tselem elohim – in the Divine image. The book of Genesis tells us that “God created humans in God’s own image, in the image of God […].” The belief that the stamp of the divine is present in all humans is fundamental to Jewish values; we cannot tolerate discrimination against or bullying of any person for any reason. But compassionate believes are not enough to end oppression.
In the book of Leviticus, the Torah instructs, “do not stand idly by while your neighbor bleeds” (Leviticus 19:16). Because we value human life, we must work to make life better for LGBTQ youth and end the harassment they face in our schools. Because we value human life, we must work so that every one of us is treated equally by the law, and in doing so, we will have paved a brighter future for generations to come.
O God, help us only to speak out and to hear the truth, yet time and again, from fear of loss or hope of gain, from dull habit or from cruel deliberation, we speak half-truths, we twist facts, we are silent when others lie, and we lie to ourselves.
O God of truth and justice, the evasions and deceits we practice upon others and ourselves are many; the cruelty and suffering so many endure are a slur to your Holy Name.
Whether we are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning, family or friends, our words and our thoughts speed to the One who knows them before we utter them.
May our prayer help us to practice truth in speech and in thought before You, to ourselves, and before one another; and may we finally complete our liberation so that no one should feel the need to practice evasions and deceits.
Remembering that we are all carry the Divine Image within us, we hope and pray for more inclusion. May our community honor our diversity and celebrate it. May the day soon arrive when respect and civil rights are freely granted regardless of who we are or how we choose to live our lives.
Baruch attah Adonai, elohenu melech ha-olam, Blessed, O God, Spirit of the World, who makes us holy through your teachings, and commands us to pursue justice and to honor all people and relationships.
(Delivered at the NE Indiana LGBTQ Coalition's Day of Silence Vigil, on 11 April, 2014 at Headwaters Park, Fort Wayne, IN)