Your honor, my name is Daniel Fink. I am a twenty-year resident of Boise and the rabbi of Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel.
You have heard (and will hear more) stories of LGBT citizens and their families, detailing the harm that they have suffered because our state does not extend them legal protection from bigotry and injustice.
As a straight male, I am privileged. I can live and work free of fear, without hiding who I am; no one disputes my right to love and marry and parent and be buried with my partner. My immediate family and I have suffered no direct harm on account of our sexual preference or gender identity. Why, then, did I end up here in this courthouse today?
I am here because as a rabbi, I speak not only for myself but also for my Jewish community. I serve all Jews and their families, gay and transgender and straight: LGBT Jews and their parents and partners and grandparents and children and brothers and sisters—and quite a few of these members of my congregational family have, indeed, suffered harm. I can speak for them here and now because I am privileged and can speak openly, while too many of them still live in fear of bullying, bigotry, and bodily harm.
I am here because I, as a rabbi, know all too well that, alas, the very legal injustices that have caused grievous harm to the LGBT community have often been justified by and even grounded in words taken from my faith tradition. I am here because I believe this is the worst profanation of God’s name; that bigotry perpetrated under the guise of religion is the most horrific of idolatries. I believe that if we are honest, we people of faith must see that we bear significant responsibility for the harm done to our LGBT brothers and sisters, and therefore have serious amends to make. My work with Add the Four Words was the least that I could do toward that end.
And finally, I am here in this courtroom today because I believe with all of my heart that when the God that I serve sees inequality and suffering, She weeps with us and then demands that we, Her partners, do our part l’taken olam—to heal the wounds and bring repair to all that is unjust and broken. This is the most basic Jewish obligation, a moral imperative born of our own history of persecution. As Holocaust survivor and Nobel prize winner Elie Wiesel reminds us all, when harm is being done, there is no excuse, ever, for inaction: “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
Your honor, I thank you for this opportunity to share my story, and the stories of those I represent that are all too often untold on account of fear and oppression. I am inspired by the brave community around me today, and look forward to a time, in the not too distant future, when in the words of the prophet Amos, justice will roll down like a river, and righteousness like a mighty stream.