Gender-Inclusive Ritual Guidelines

aliyah card sample imageWe are proud to provide a gender-neutral option for individuals receiving honors (such as an aliyah, hagbah, and gelilah) during our services. Honorees can choose to be called up using either masculine, feminine, or gender-neutral language.

The addition of a gender-neutral option is part of our ongoing commitment to increase the inclusiveness of our community’s egalitarianism. We hope these guidelines are an important step toward the goal of making Kehilat Hadar a fully welcoming space to all, and we continue to welcome input from the entire community as part of an ongoing discussion of additional inclusion initiatives.

Review the Guidelines

FAQs

Who created these guidelines?

Our gender-inclusive ritual guidelines were developed by the KH Steering Team, the shamashim (who oversee the ritual aspects of our services), and community members who use gender-neutral language or are experienced in developing LGBTQ inclusion training. It was enacted in early 2018.

The guidelines were formed under the guidance of Rabbi Ethan Tucker, our mara d’atrah (halachic advisor) and was inspired by the All Gender Torah Service Liturgy prepared by Rabbi Guy Austrian at the Fort Tryon Jewish Center in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan.

Why did you create these guidelines?

As an independent, egalitarian community, we are committed to spirited traditional services, lay leadership, and a warm and welcoming environment. Some of our community members and guests at our services use gender-neutral pronouns. However, Hebrew is a gendered language, and previously we did not have a policy about how to modify the traditional text for offering honors (such as an aliyah, hagbah, and gelilah) to those individuals. These new guidelines allow us to be more inclusive of those community members and guests and honor them without using either masculine or feminine pronouns.

Why not have everyone be called up with gender-neutral language?

When developing these guidelines, we decided to retain the existing gendered Hebrew language options in addition to providing a neutral option, rather than erasing gender differences altogether. In this way we can honor the choices of each individual, whether they would prefer to use masculine or feminine pronouns, or whether they would prefer to use gender-neutral pronouns. We feel we can be most inclusive by allowing people of all genders to find language that suits them.

How do I tell the shamashim what option I want to use?

Each aliyah card will list the three options, and you have a few options for when you communicate your choice. You can let the shamash know when they offer you the honor, you can let them know later during the service before you are called up, or you can point to the option of your choosing on the aliyah card when approaching the table.

I’ve already had an aliyah at Kehilat Hadar. Is it too late to switch to using gender-neutral language?

It’s never too late! You can let a shamash know that you’d like to use gender-neutral language the next time you have an aliyah, or anytime before then as well. You can change your language choice anytime you wish and as often as you wish.

Can I use the gender-neutral option for aliyot even if I use gendered pronouns for myself in English?

Absolutely. We encourage everyone to choose the wording that works best for them.

How will guests to our services find out about these guidelines?

Any guest receiving an aliyah will see the three options printed on their honor card with instructions for how to communicate their language choice to the shamash.

Who can I contact if I have other questions or thoughts on these guidelines?

Email contact@kehilathadar.org, and we’ll put you in touch with a Steering Team member who would love to hear your thoughts or help answer any additional questions. Thanks for reaching out!

What other inclusion changes is KH working on?

We are working with Schechter to make a gender-neutral single-stall restroom available during out Shabbat services. Keep an eye out for signs pointing it out as soon as it is available, along more inclusive restroom signage in general.

Some of our existing inclusion practices include offering gender-neutral restrooms at our annual Shavuot retreat, as well as inclusive registration language and the option of mixed-gender bunk housing.

We would love to hear from you if you have suggestions for additional things we could do to be as inclusive and welcoming as possible. Email contact@kehilathadar.org, and we’ll put you in touch with a Steering Team member who would be thrilled to chat with you about your suggestions. Thanks in advance!

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