In recent weeks, I have been privileged to work with an extraordinary group of activists (including some wonderful fellow clergy and CABI members Jeannette Bowman and Sydney Fidler) pressing our legislature to finally add four words—“sexual orientation” and “gender identity”—that would extend basic human rights protections to the LGBT community. Recently, our leader, the peerless activist and former Senator Nicole LeFavour, asked me to write a statement about why I am participating in this effort. I penned a brief response, which I offer below. Note that this week’s Torah portion is called Vayakhel, which means “And you shall assemble.” Our tradition has long recognized that we need sacred community--kehillah kedoshah--to create justice and peace. Both the name of the parsha and my experience with “Add the Words” serve as powerful reminders of the holy labor that can only be done when we work in concert. Or, as the old song goes, "The more we get together, the happier we'll be."
My statement for Nicole:
One of my heroes, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, marched with Martin Luther King in Selma. Sometime later, when an interviewer asked him about the experience, Rabbi Heschel responded: “I felt my feet were praying.”
I have always taken Rabbi Heschel’s words to heart. Why have I spent time demonstrating at the Statehouse and even getting arrested? Because I believe that my prayers in synagogue would be empty and even hypocritical if they were not accompanied by those of my feet participating in this struggle for equality for my LGBT brothers and sisters.
Another hero of mine, Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel has said: “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.”
I am inspired by the Idahoans of all faiths and of none, of all sexual orientations and gender identities, who are working so hard to “Add the 4 Words.” It is an honor to have my feet marching, standing—praying—together with theirs.
And here's a great soundtrack for the work, from Dan Nichols: