Our tradition teaches us that all human beings are created b’tzelem Elohim, in the Divine image (Genesis 1:27). The belief that the stamp of the Divine is present in all humans is fundamental to Reform Judaism and teaches us that we cannot tolerate discrimination against any person because of who they are. URJ Camps embody this by welcoming each and every camper and staff member into our fun, immersive Jewish camp experiences.
As I wrote this week for The Clarion–Ledger, we Southerners are rightly proud of our commitment to hospitality, to making everyone feel welcome. Perhaps we feel that obligation especially keenly because of our past; I rather hope so. I would like to think our history can be a source of inspiration and not just a source of regret.
That’s why we at URJ Jacobs Camp are so deeply troubled by the recent passage of HB 1523, legislation that permits state government employees, state contractors and grantees, non-profit organizations, and even for-profit businesses to refuse to serve – and, in many cases, refuse to employ – legally married same-sex couples and their families, transgender and gender non-conforming people, and many others, including single moms and survivors of sexual violence. This law irrevocably weighs religious freedom over laws that protect against discrimination, without the possibility of evaluating the appropriate balance for each situation. Read the Jacobs Camp’s full statement on HB 1523.
Want to speak out against this legislation? Take Action: Urge Governor Bryant to Repeal HB 1523! Anyone can send an email to urge Governor Bryant to repeal this discriminatory law; you do not have to be over 18 or live in Mississippi. In less than five minutes, you can send an email through the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism’s website.
This law will, under the guise of protecting religious freedom, allow for discrimination against the LGBT community and other vulnerable populations without any possibility for recourse. Like most Southerners, I take my religion seriously. The belief that the stamp of the Divine is present in everyone is fundamental to Reform Judaism and teaches us that we cannot tolerate discrimination against any person because of who they are. (Again, you can read more from me on this topic in my op-ed for The Clarion-Ledger.)
In spite of this legislation – and the fact that in many states and at the federal level, LGBT people are not protected against discrimination as they ought to be as equal members of society – we at URJ Jacobs Camp will continue to welcome all into our community to model the world we wish to see.