BALTIMORE — A first-of-its-kind report on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered inclusion policies in Jewish organizations challenged the organized Jewish world to take steps “to be more welcoming and inclusive of LGBT families, couples and individuals.”
The report was presented at the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America this week, and was funded by the Schusterman and Morningstar foundations and authored by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.
The report, titled the “Jewish Organization Equality Index 2012,” is composed of the self-reported inclusion policies of 204 Jewish organizations. While that number is only a small percentage of the 2,172 organizations who were asked to participate, respondents include some of the largest and best-known Jewish groups, including the JDC, ADL, the Union for Reform Judaism, JFNA and Hillel.
Exactly 50 percent of respondents – 102 organizations – reported the highest level of inclusion policies examined by the study, earning its highest score. The report’s authors admit the figures likely reflect a
self-selection bias – groups who volunteer to participate are more
likely to have strong inclusion policies already in place – but argue
that the simple act of publicizing in a systematic way the widespread
institution of such policies among major Jewish organizations sets a
baseline for LGBT inclusion throughout the organized Jewish world.
Among the report’s findings, fully 98% of membership organizations who
took the survey recognize same-sex couples for the purposes of family
memberships, 66% of organizations reach out specifically to the LGBT
community to attract clients or members, 73% of respondents have a
written non-discrimination policy, of which 89% include “sexual
orientation” and 49% include “gender identity.”
Of the 160 organizations studied that provide health insurance
coverage to employees, 94% allow same-sex couples to be covered under the employee’s insurance policy.
Overall, respondents showed “broad familiarity with LGBT inclusion and
a willingness to do more,” the report’s authors write.
The report also revealed geographic differences among Jewish groups
that mirror “common geographic differences within the United States
concerning attitudes toward the LGBT community.”
“As a group, Jewish organizations in the Northeast scored higher on
the JOEI than those in other regions of the country. Assigning the
numbers one through four to the JOEI rating categories from inclusive
(where inclusive = 1) to least inclusive (where least inclusive = 4),
groups in the Northeast scored 1.70, groups in the West scored 1.86,
groups in the Midwest scored 1.90 and groups in the South scored
According to a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, Paul
Guequierre, the “Jewish Organization Equality Index (JOEI) is the very
first step toward what we hope will be a sea change in the way that
LGBT employees, volunteers, clients and members are included within
Jewish communal organizations. As a benchmark index, we realize the
JOEI cannot answer all of the questions and address every policy and
practice within the Jewish world. It was designed to provide an
initial snapshot of LGBT inclusion within a broad range of Jewish
organizations and stimulate meaningful dialogue that sets the stage
for more in-depth quantitative and qualitative research on the
critical issues of inclusion and equality.”