President Barack Obama signed a landmark law Wednesday, Dec, 22, 2010, repealing the ban on gay men and women serving openly in the military, fulfilling one of his major campaign pledges and casting the issue as a matter of civil rights long denied. The new law ends the 17-year-old policy that forced gay, bi-sexual and lesbian persons to hide their sexual orientation or face dismissal.
The Jewish Reconstructionist Federation has been on record in support of full equality of rights and opportunities for gay men and lesbians since 1984, when our partner seminary, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, began admitting openly gay and lesbian applicants. The Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association passed a resolution supporting GLBT rights in 1990 and civil marriage equality in 2004, and the RRA rabbis manual includes same sex wedding ceremony templates. For resources on GLBT inclusion see http://jrf.org/GLBT-Inclusion.
The following paragraph appears in Homosexuality and Judaism: The Reconstructionist Position, a groundbreaking report issued by the Reconstructionist movement in 1993:
"We regard the Jewish values that affirm the inherent dignity, integrity and equality of human beings as having primacy over historically conditioned attitudes... It is our duty to correct the misunderstandings and resulting injustice of the past and to fulfill the Jewish obligation to seek justice."
In appreciation of JRF's support for GLBT rights and inclusion, we were invited to attend the Presidential signing ceremony for the repeal act. Rabbi Leila Berner, a long-time advocate for gay rights and equality, and a well-respected Reconstructionist rabbi serving our member community Kol Ami in Northern Virginia, represented JRF at the signing ceremony and issued the following report:
"Today I was proud to represent the JRF as President Obama signed into law the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010. By my purely unprofessional count, there were about 2,000 people in attendance including many members of Congress, many discharged members of the military (victims of DADT), representatives of hundreds of organizations like ours that had long supported repeal of "Don’ Ask, Don’t Tell" and GLBTQ activists from all around the nation. We gathered at 7:00 a.m., and for about two hours an entirely festive atmosphere prevailed. Someone remarked that he had never seen so many hugs and kisses at a governmental event!" "Many men and women of all ages who had been discharged from the military simply because they were gay or lesbian proudly wore their uniforms and their medals, strangers introduced themselves to each other, and even hugged, and throughout the morning, tears of joy were shed."
"One gentleman introduced himself to me and, seeing my kipa, asked me if I was a rabbi. When I responded “yes,” he smiled and said, “so I guess God doesn’t mind after all!” I told him that I was a lesbian and that I guessed not — and after all, why did God placed us GLBTQ folk on this earth if there weren’t a sacred purpose for us being here." "Another elderly gentleman told me that he had been a high-ranking naval officer for 25 years and was up for the admiralty, but was told in no uncertain terms that because it was known that he was gay, he’d never get there. His buddies didn’t want to “turn him in” and have him lose his pension, so he resigned quietly. At that moment, this square-jawed, still-fit man began to weep. And then we embraced and the tears turned into joyful ones. “But today’s a happy day,” he said. “It is indeed,” I responded.""As President Obama stepped to the podium, the crowd spontaneously broke out in a chant, “Yes, we did! Yes, we did!” — and for an instant, I felt the thrill of hope I have felt at other moments in history — such as the March on Washington, when the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I have a dream” speech. I felt that whatever our differences and disappointments in this complex country of ours, we still can move forward – perhaps sometimes at an agonizingly slow pace, but we can progress. This morning, I am proud to be an American once again."
"President Obama delivered an eloquent speech that I truly felt came from his heart. Beginning with a poignant story about a veteran of World War II whose life had been saved by a comrade, only to learn four decades later that he comrade was gay, the President concluded the story by saying that the son of the soldier who had been saved (now deceased) was in the audience. He had come a long way to thank all the GLBTQ soldiers who had come along since “Andy,” the gay soldier who had saved his father — and enabled his own life to unfold."
"President Obama spoke about what it means to live with freedom and integrity, and about the presence of gay soldiers on the battlefields of the American War of Independence, Gettysburg, Europe during World War II, in the Pacific and in all the wars our country has fought and is currently fighting. The President reiterated his theme of diversity – e pluribus unum – out of many, one people here in America, irrespective of sexual identity, gender, race, religion, creed.""I am proud that the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation has been at the forefront of the Jewish world in supporting the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and GLBTQ rights. More than two decades ago, I was able to fulfill my dream of becoming a rabbi because of Reconstructionist stance on equality. This is one of the reasons I proudly remain a Reconstructionist today."
Rabbi Fred Dobb, Rabbi of Adat Shalom Congregation in Bethesda, MD, forwarded these words to us and with his permission, we share them with you: "Mazel tov, all, for our own groundbreaking efforts and for JRF's stellar coalition work which earned us this invitation. The DADT repeal vote was on Shabbat -- the same day that our bar mitzvah boy happened to be Rep. Sander Levin's grandson, and thus Sen. Carl Levin's grand-nephew. Senator Levin had sent last-minute regrets, since the procedural (substantive) vote would be that morning. We also gave a same-sex couple an aliyah for their anniversary that morning, and at that time shared from the bimah that any senators who'd have otherwise been at the bar mitzvah had a 'pass' to miss it, in light of the avodat hakodesh (holy work) that they were doing! The bar mitzvah boy did a magnificent job, and our focus remianed on him and on Shabbat. Later, at the family's party downtown Senator Levin and his wife Barbara entered, and received a huge round of applause when it was shared that the procedural hurdle had cleared, but that he had to be back in the senate for the 3pm final vote which was now pro-forma!"
Rabbi/Chaplain Arnie Resnicoff's invocation at the signing of the repeal of the DADT law:
O Lord who made a world of change,
You challenged us to mend, repair, and change the world.
...Some lose faith and think that things will never change,
But we Americans – of every faith – religious faith or not –
...Refuse to give up hope or abandon that most American of dreams:
That we can make a difference, and that the future can be better than the past.
Today we make a change as President Obama signs this bill to law.
Today we recall that unity, not uniformity, is our goal,
That we need not fear differences
Among those united to defend our nation’s freedoms and its dreams.
Today we honor ALL brave men and women,
Including those who served so long without the honor they deserved.
O Lord our God, and God of generations past,
Help us move forward,
Toward a nation a little more united, more indivisible,
A union a bit more perfect, founded on a great deal more respect.
Let us pray that if the day has not yet dawned
When we can see the face of God in others
Then we see, at least, a face as human as our own.
Lord, help us keep faith the day will dawn
When justice flows – for ALL – like mighty waters,
When liberty will be proclaimed throughout the land,
When every man or woman can stand tall,
And none shall be afraid.
And may we say,