The URJ has a proud history of supporting the rights of those in marginalized communities. This includes making sure people of all genders are welcomed into the Reform Jewish community.
We’re excited to announce our latest step in our journey to make our communities more inclusive: updated language around gender in our registration system, CampMinder.
CampMinder is used to collect information about the participant to help programs have a fuller picture of the participants needs. Since CampMinder is an outside service, there are some limitations, one of which is that program registrants are required to indicate whether they are male or female, with no other options. While we are not able to edit this, we are able to add in additional questions in order to provide a full picture of the participant’s identity. Although participants will continue to have to choose between male and female for housing purposes, everyone will have the opportunity to express their own gender identity, whether they are transgender or non-binary, what gender pronouns they use, and if there is anything else the program should know. This inclusive language allows participants of all genders to complete the form without feeling like they have to pick up the phone to disclose more information. It also enables the URJ staff to best understand how to meet the needs of each participant. The directors of the program will still reach out to families/participants for details about how the participant can best be supported, just as they would any participant who may have diverse needs, but it helps create a process that feels more welcoming than the current language in CampMinder.
A concerted effort to make our community inclusive of all genders began in 2015, when the URJ put their commitment into writing by unanimously adopting the Resolution on the Rights of Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming People. In the past few years, the URJ has shown its dedication to this commitment in synagogues, camps, NFTY, Mitzvah Corps, NFTY in Israel, and other programs.
For example, we have asked everyone to share their gender pronouns at different events such as the URJ Biennial 2017, NFTY Convention 2019, and at many travel programs and NFTY events. This is important to normalize specifying pronouns for all so people who may not go by the pronouns assumed based on presentation don’t feel singled out when identifying their personal pronouns. Read more about why this is an essential inclusive practice in this article in Medium and on the Pronouns Matter website.
Some other important changes the URJ has implemented are:
- URJ Youth houses participants at camps, travel programs, and NFTY events according to gender identity, not sex assigned at birth, on a case by case basis
- URJ Youth provides guidance to staff around creating an all gender restroom when there is not when built into the infrastructure
- The URJ Audacious Hospitality team created the LGBTQ Educational Resource Module in order to help congregations create a more inclusive environment
- NFTY has been working with Keshet to learn about how to best move forward
The changes we have made make a difference. Lauren Bayne, the NFTY Missouri Valley Social Action Vice President (SAVP) in 2018-2019 says “In NFTY Missouri Valley, gender inclusion is part of who we are. We put stickers of our pronouns on our nametags, we always make sure that there is an all-gender restroom available, and we take the time to learn about the LGBTQ+ community and how to be better advocates.”
While we have made great strides in including folks of all genders in the past, we are excited to keep raising the bar. We hope this change to CampMinder helps participants of all genders feel like they have a place in the URJ. This language is just one small, but important, step in creating a system of awareness and inclusion for all of our participants.