Dear Board Co-Chairs and Rabbi Hannah,
With respect to the dialogue project regarding Or Shalom’s proposed gender-inclusive Jewish identity policy, I am pleased to provide the following documents linked at the bottom of this letter.
My overall impression, from both breakout rooms and a close reading of the complete feedback from the dialogue and emails to the Board, is that, while reservations remain, the prevailing perspective of the community is that the implementation of a gender-inclusive policy should proceed.
This note-taker would like to further observe that there has been considerable evolution of the overall stance of the community from the previous dialogue, with several respondents indicating a change in their feelings in the intervening years.
The following themes emerged most prominently from the dialogue.
1. There are 3 main concerns in making the proposed policy change:
First, a concern over losing traditional Jewish values and also that Or Shalom would need to develop its own traditions (for example Chevra Kadisha) to accommodate a broadening of inclusion.
Balancing this viewpoint, some congregants point out that Jewish Renewal is called to be continually shaped and evolved by its practitioners, to be “backwards compatible”, and that Or Shalom must re-define its egalitarianism in order to continue to be relevant and meet the needs of its community.
Secondly, there is a concern over any loss of membership that might ensue.
This possibility was countered by the perspective that Or Shalom would be offering sanctuary to families who may not already have a home and, even more crucially, welcoming its existing patrilineal members into deeper and fuller relationship.
Thirdly, there is concern over a possible change in Or Shalom’s standing among Vancouver synagogues.
In balance to this concern, some observe that Or Shalom is called to be an example to other Canadian congregations, putting into direct action its commitment to serve the evolving needs of the Jewish community.
2. Regarding a qualifier: It is widely felt that any qualifier would be problematic. If any qualifier were included in the statement, it was suggested that it should a) be applied to matrilineal-descended people just as much as any other Jew by birth, and b) should be fulfilled by the person’s self-assessment, not as judged by a rabbi or other person.
For a complete record of the dialogue, please refer to:
All Breakout Notes & Email Excerpts Summary (see pdf below)
Complete Emails received after the dialog event (google doc)
Complete Dialogue Breakout Notes as taken by Note-takers