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Rabbi Saperstein: "As human beings, we have a responsibility to ensure that the spark of the Divine presence in each individual is respected. To that end, we hope that our participation in the It Gets Better campaign will remind LGBT youth who are struggling that they are valued and loved."
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Washington, D.C., September 13, 2011 - Today the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism released a video as part of the It Gets Better Project, a campaign started by columnist Dan Savage to provide support and encouragement to LGBT youth. Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
We are proud to join countless others, including President Obama, celebrities, athletes, religious leaders and individuals across the nation, who have participated in the It Gets Better campaign to provide messages of hope to LGBT youth.
Unfortunately, even as we celebrate the growing acceptance of marriage equality and the end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," we know that members of the LGBT community still face stigma and discrimination. This is especially true for teens who, all too often, are bullied because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
When we hear the word "bullying" we often think merely of name calling, but LGBT youth sadly endure far much worse than that. According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, more than sixty percent of LGBT youth reported that they felt unsafe at school as a result of bullying related to their sexual orientation; more than forty percent were physically harassed (i.e. shoved or pushed) and nearly twenty percent were assaulted (i.e. punched, kicked, attacked with a weapon). The effects of enduring this are severe: the Center estimates that 30% of all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth have attempted suicide at some point - a rate that is three times that of their heterosexual counterparts.
That is why messages of hope, not hate, are so vital. As Jews we believe in the inherent dignity of all people, for we read in the Torah, "So God created the human beings in [the divi
ne] image, creating [them] in the image of God, creating them male and female" (Gen. 1:27). As human beings, we have a responsibility to ensure that the spark of the Divine presence in each individual is respected. To that end, we hope that our participation in the It Gets Better campaign will remind LGBT youth who are struggling that they are valued and loved.
In addition, we will continue our efforts to make it better for LGBT youth, as we advocate for passage of legislation to enhance anti-bullying efforts in schools, including the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act. Today's video is a continuation of the Reform Movement's decades of work on behalf of LGBT equality and rights as well as our longstanding commitment to fighting bigotry, wherever it may arise. To view the Religious Action Center's "It Gets Better" video, please visit http://j.mp/roLINW.