The Rainbow, Equality, and Our Children

This blog post originally appeared on the blog of Rabbi Loren Filson Lapidus of The Temple and 2014 recipient of the Michael Jay Kinsler Rainmaker Award at Purim off Ponce 2014. 

This month, our family had the opportunity to do two social justice opportunities together. The first was the Atlanta Pride Parade, where we walked with 180 other people representing the Jewish community's support of LGBT equality. This was our daughter's third time in the parade, and our son's first.

Then, this week, Micah and I joined with other clergy in standing in support of marriage equality at a rally hosted by Georgia Equality, asking the state's Attorney General to stop defending the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. We didn't realize we would be standing behind the podium for the rally and had brought our children. No matter--our family, not just the two rabbis, stood in support (remarkably quiet due to the apple slices and lollipops in my bag--look to the left of the podium).

On the drive home, I reflected with my daughter on our "special mitzvah". She wanted more information so I said, "You know from school that there are many kinds of families. Some people have a mommy and a daddy, some people have just a mommy or just a daddy, and some people have two mommies or two daddies." She replied, "I saw two mommies there." I said, "I did too! That's why were there, to say that all families are special." For my 3 1/2 year old daughter, that made perfect sense.

So many people get nervous about explaining homosexuality or same-sex marriage to their children. I would offer that, just like any other topic in life, if we focus on the basic truths for us and answer the questions being asked, we create an open dialogue and build understanding. I would ask each parent to consider how they explain marriage between a man and a woman to their child, how they help their children to know that single parent-families are families too, and then build messages around this.

In our home, we say all people are special and all families are special. And, at preschool Shabbat this week, teaching the story of Noah, I focused on the image of the rainbow. We counted all the colors represented there, how each had their space and could be seen in the rainbow. In the same way, all people should be seen and loved and given their space, too, because we were all created by and in the image of God.

While this is the preschool-friendly way of explaining diversity, and we will continue to layer more information as appropriate and requested, the reality is that the truth will never change. We will never tell our kids: "Hey, remember when we told you that all people are special and made in the image of God? Well, that was just because you were little." Instead, we can use this idea of all people are equal and deserving of respect to explain racial, religious, and ethnic diversity, why some people are in wheelchairs or have special needs, and any other questions our children's ever-developing brains bring to us. By the time they are adults forming their own opinions, it is our hope that they will always come back to this message, remembering that from their youngest ages, they stood for equality, dignity, and the hope for a better world.