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Jewish Community Responds to Epidemic of GLBT Teen Suicide

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18,000 Jews asked to pledge to end bullying in their community

(Boston, MA) Keshet, the largest American organization working for Jewish GLBT inclusion, launched Do Not Stand Idly By: A Jewish Community Pledge To Save Lives, an urgent campaign to put an end to homophobic and transphobic bullying in the Jewish community. The campaign was launched in partnership with 90 cosponsors including the official bodies and rabbinical associations of the Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, and Jewish Renewal movements; The Jewish Theological Seminary and three other rabbinical schools; Hillel International; Jewish Council for Public Affairs; Reform and Conservative youth movements; major philanthropies like The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and The Samuel Bronfman Foundation; Jewish Family & Children’s Service, Jewish Federations, and day schools from around the country.

In the first 24 hours over 1000 individuals and institutions have signed the pledge, including over 300 rabbis and an additional 140 institutions, which seeks a commitment to “ending homophobic bullying or harassment of any kind” and a personal pledge “to speak out when I witness anyone being demeaned for their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Do Not Stand Idly By was launched in direct response to the recent suicides of six GLBT teens in the past month. The title of the campaign comes from the Torah, “Do not stand idly by” when you see another being harmed (Leviticus, 19:16). “We are deeply troubled, we are saddened, and we cannot be silent in the face of this crisis. As Jews, we have a moral imperative to make our synagogues, our community centers, our camps, our institutions and our homes safe and affirming for every teen,” says Stuart S. Kurlander, Chair of the Keshet Board of Directors.

Despite the progress we have made, GLBT teens are still at tremendous risk. A 2009 report from the American Association of Pediatrics revealed that nearly one in four GLBT teenagers attempts suicide. Although similar studies have not been conducted with Jewish teens, when Keshet surveyed 100 Jewish youth in seven Jewish intuitions in 2007, 91% reported hearing or using “that’s so gay,” a disparaging remark, in Jewish youth settings.

“We must speak out as Jews both within the Jewish community and in the broader world whenever we see injustice, but especially at such a time of crisis. Let’s honor the memories of the six young men and the many, many other victims of homo/transphobic intolerance by making it absolutely clear: the Jewish community is a place where all of us must be embraced as our full, authentic selves,” said Idit Klein, Executive Director of Keshet.  “The Talmud tells us that whoever saves a life, it is considered as if that person has saved an entire world. So if one gay Jewish teen feels safer, supported, and understood, we have done our job.”

On October 11, National Coming Out Day, Keshet will release the names of all the signatories. Keshet will also establish a web presence for this campaign, which will include resources for inclusion and education as well as a way for people to connect with others who are committed to ending gay and transphobic bullying in the Jewish community.

KESHET — www.keshetonline.org, Pledge: http://tinyurl.com/donotstandidlyby

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