Its OK to be gay and Jewish: Agencies endorse anti-bullying pledge

Jewish agencies around the United States want LGBT Jews who have been stereotyped or marginalized to know they have supporters — 18,000 of them.

Locally, the LGBT Alliance of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation is encouraging people to sign the Do Not Stand Idly By online pledge, a commitment to ending homophobic bullying, harassment and intolerance in synagogues, schools, institutions and communities.

The Jews March for Pride contingent takes part in the San Francisco Pride Parade in 2009. photo/ofir zwebner

The goal is to attain signatures from 18,000 individuals by the end of the year. As of Oct. 11, more than 3,500 Jews, including 400 rabbis, and Jewish institutions had signed on to the pledge. 

“We want to show that it’s OK to be gay and Jewish,” said Lisa Finkelstein, director of the LGBT Alliance. “The pledge is normalizing the LGBT experience and spreading a message of hope.”

Signatories of Do Not Stand Idly By vow to “speak out when they witness anyone being demeaned for their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, and do whatever it takes to ensure every person in their community is treated with respect and dignity.”

To view and sign the pledge, visit

Local synagogues and Jewish agencies have embraced the campaign, originally launched by Keshet, a Boston-based grassroots organization that works for the inclusion of LGBT Jews.

Among them are congregations Netivot Shalom and Beth El, both in Berkeley, and Sha’ar Zahav in San Francisco; Kehilla Community Synagogue in Piedmont; S.F.-based Be’chol Lashon; and Hillel at Stanford.

In addition, the organizations that constitute Kol Tzedek, a San Francisco–based coalition fighting for LGBT rights, also signed on.

While the pledge is a catalyst for conversation about the recent gay teen suicides nationwide that resulted from bullying, Finkelstein said it also draws attention to positive programming and resources for those in need.

She added that the LGBT Alliance website,, offers numerous links to informational referrals for LGBT people and their allies, parents and friends, as well as a list of 10 actions anyone can do to show their support for the LGBT Jewish community.

Finkelstein mentioned National Coming Out Day, which was Oct. 11, as a means of increasing the visibility of the LGBT community in a positive way.

“The media wave of recognizing the suicides is quite tremendous,” Finkelstein said. “Gay teens are four times more likely to commit suicide than their straight counterparts. Many are kicked out of their houses and feel disenfranchised. But these are not new stats. It’s essential that we figure out how to normalize speaking about LGBT individuals in positive ways, not just within the realm of civil rights.”