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Rabbi James Lee Kaufman, Speaks for His Congregation, Temple Beth Hillel, San Fernando Valley, CA: Tells the BSA They Will not Follow Their Anti-gay Policy and Advocates Change from Within the BSA


2/5/01

Rabbi's Monthly Message
By Rabbi James Lee Kaufman


Boy Scouts of America

Lynda buzzes me: "Jim, a congregant is on the phone and wants to know why TBH is involved with the Boy Scouts of America."

"Please put the call through."

"Rabbi Jim, how come you allow, and I hear, support the presence of the Boy Scouts at TBH? You are so involved in securing equal rights, civil and religious, for gays and lesbians. Why is a flagrant anti-gay group at TBH?"

"Well, let me explain".

"And another thing. I know that you do teach belief in God and exchange many different approaches to God but you also affirm the right of a Jew to be an agnostic or atheist and still be a part of our synagogue family."

"That's true, but….."

"Then why would TBH align itself with an organization that excludes not only gays but atheists? My apologies for not letting you answer but I am so disappointed that my congregation is involved."

"Please let me say that I am sorely disappointed too, not at TBH's involvement but in the Supreme Court Ruling allowing the Boy Scouts of America (the Girl Scouts have since its inception been inclusive) to continue its offensive national policy of exclusion and I am also disappointed that the national leadership continues to adhere to such a discriminatory policy." "So throw them out!"

"No, because change is on its way. But since the courts will not demand a change from without, the only way to fight the BSA is from within. TBH has been chartering the Cub Scout Pack 311 for 3 years. TBH member David Karp is a leader in the Scout movement in Southern California and at TBH. The national charter agreement does include a clause stipulating that the chartering organization (TBH) agrees to conduct the scouting program according to its own policies amongst other things. TBH's position of inclusiveness vis a vis sexual orientation or theology is a TBH policy. David Karp appended to our charter a clause of inclusiveness, and though the national leaders did not like it, neither did they de-commission our troop. The clause reads: "We select our leaders based on values that we find important to our faith."

"So TBH is inclusive but what about others? This not just a Beth Hillel issue!"


"I completely agree which is why David Karp and others are proceeding to press the national body to change its public posture. The BSA have so many outstanding goals and positive values- most of which parallel Jewish values. There are many Orthodox Jewish troops because there are no conflicts since their policies are anti-gay and anti-theological doubt. For us, the conflict is of major importance but we seek not to "discard the baby with the bath water." We are intent in taking our regional success and leveraging change on these two issues in the national arena. But we must remain "in" to do so."

"I do see your point but….."

"You know, four hundred years ago, the early Reform Jewish community wanted to bring change and greater freedom of choice. We could have jettisoned all of Judaism and started a new religion. Instead we kept the core values and ethics
and some rituals and ceremonies but created a Jewish community that afforded less harsh Rabbinic judgement and of course broader inclusivity. But today there are still some Reform congregations that are not welcoming to the gay and lesbian community. And over half of the Reform Rabbinate will not perform same gender traditional wedding ceremonies. We will continue to work from within; as we did four hundred years ago, we are doing today. As for the Boy Scouts of America, we have seen significant change on a regional basis. We will need to institutionalize that change. It will take time but we have just begun to alter many years of discrimination in an organization that is basically wholesome and good. The Scouts may not be for everyone, but it must be open to everyone. I know you are concerned for TBH's integrity and our commitment to inclusiveness. I assure you that it will be maintained at TBH with Scouts. We are working to get an inclusive BSA with every charter."

"Thank you, Rabbi Jim, I appreciate the explanation. Since I have you on the phone, there is something else I'd like to talk about."

"Is it urgent?"

"No."

"Then I gotta go. I'll call you back this afternoon."

 Shalom,

Rabbi James Lee Kaufman

 

 

 

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