Rabbi Joshua Heller's Full Remarks at Tuesday's Anti-Discrimination Rally

Rabbi Joshua Heller of Congregation B'nai Torah participated in the rally against Georgia's so-called "religious liberty" bill on Tuesday, March 17, 2015. Here are his remarks: 

 

I’m an unlikely speaker today.

There are others among my colleagues here today who have established themselves as advocates on the issues of concern to many joined here at this rally. I have not done that. I was ordained in a denomination within Judaism that is still wrestling with those issues. I serve a synagogue that is among the five largest Jewish congregations in Georgia, of any denomination, and among those five we are the most traditional.

And yet, I stand before you and with you, today, because I see a wrong being contemplated, in the name of God, in the name of people of faith, and I cannot be silent and let that wrong come to pass.

Not in my name, not in our name, not in God’s name.

I stand here today knowing that there are voices in our Jewish tradition and our community that debate, sometimes stridently, questions of gender, sexuality, and marriage, questions that begin in Leviticus. I have read the same passages in Leviticus that my neighbors have, and I wrestle with them. But I have also read Leviticus 19:18, that says “V’ahavta L’re’akha camocha”- love your neighbor as yourself. Leviticus 25:17, Lo Tonu Ish Et Amito. Do not oppress your neighbor. 
And so when I see someone citing Judaism, and our Torah, to exclude people from our larger society, and denigrate human beings trying to live in dignity, I must say:

Not in my name, not in our name, not in God’s name.

People of faith may, and indeed must, decide how to observe in their own homes, even who to include and exclude in their own houses of worship, their own places of religious study. However, in a society where faith is the litmus test used to decide who may live among us as neighbors, work at or patronize our places of business, then all are at risk- not just Gays or Lesbians, but Jews and Christians alike. And to that I must say no.

Not in my name not in our name, not in God’s name.

I have heard the argument made that this bill will protect against autopsy, which is a practice opposed by traditional Jewish belief except under rare circumstance. I would like to prevent that, when possible, but there are easier, more subtle legal ways to accomplish that goal. More importantly Judaism also says, we uphold the dignity of the dead, but not at the expense of the life and dignity of the living.

Not in my name not in our name, not in God’s name.

As Jews we do not have the hubris to impose our faith traditions on the larger society. We do not ask those that we come into contact with to conform to the strictures of Jewish law. I have never demanded that the Georgia Bulldogs not handle a pig skin on the Sabbath. To the contrary, there is a principle of Dina D’malchuta Dina- that we respect the just practices and fair laws of the society in which we live, which must protect Jew and Gentile, Gay and Straight alike.

And so, I ask that people of faith and conscience reject this law, which would provide cover for hatred and discrimination, under false flag of faith. People who are committed to the traditions of the Bible should oppose this bill, not despite their faith, but because of it, and say:

Not in my name. Not in our name, not in God’s name.

 

To contact your representatives and to get involved in the fight against this bill, please visit GeorgiaUnites.