Enough is Enough: Put Family First

The world is going crazy around us. You could make varying arguments for when it started going crazy, but that’s neither interesting, productive, or important – the fact remains that the world has taken a bunch of crazy pills and we get to see its reactions to these crazy pills. With governments falling left and right all around us, we can get distracted from the battles we fight on the home front here in Israel – for women’s rights, for non-Jewish citizens’ rights, for immigrants’ rights, for family rights.

I think it’s safe to say that, as a blogger for New Family, I obviously fall on the left end of the spectrum on these issues… and most of the readers of this blog would probably be about the same. But no one knows where the future leads for families in Israel and the rights that they have available to them.

I sometimes find myself wondering: How do we know we’re not the crazy ones? Anyone who’s read Catch-22 knows that the crazy ones think they’re sane and the sane ones are the ones who would say they’re crazy to get out of the crazy that’s all around them… so what side do we fall on?

In high school, as any queer Jewish feminist high-school girl living in a right-wing religious Southern Baptist town in Georgia would, I found myself getting very much into political theory, specifically John Locke and the other foundational philosophers who preceded the American founding fathers. I became particularly attached to the Locke-ian dictum: Man ought to be free to do whatsoever he pleases, so long as it doesn’t impede on others’ ability to do the same.

The inherent genius of this core sentence resonated with me – it’s basically a self-balancing system. Do what you want or what you need to do, as long as it doesn’t prevent someone else from doing what they want or need to do. This rules out the big societal no-nos like murder, because as much as you may want to kill someone, they probably want to live, and murder would be interfering with such, just as stealing would interfere with a person’s desire to keep the things he or she rightfully owns.

“Well, duh,” you say… but the logic goes further.

You also can’t prevent someone from doing something they want to do, like purchasing a book, as long as the purchaser and the seller agree to the sale, since buying the book doesn’t harm anyone. Sure, you could argue the ideas in the book could harm the reader, but it’s still the reader’s choice to purchase or read the book. This is the basis for freedom of speech and the press, rights which both Americans and Israelis hold dear.

So, with this logic, what right do you have to prevent a lesbian woman from marrying her partner? Or an interfaith couple from getting married? Or a Reform couple from having a Reform rabbi officiate the wedding they worked so hard to plan and have that marriage recognized by the state? Or a gay couple from bringing their legally adopted child from India to Israel? Or… you can insert any one of NewFamily’s goals in this equation – forming one’s family in the way a person wants doesn’t prevent anyone else from having the rights they also deserve.

Sometimes I look back on my teenage political self and know I’m supposed to see the 16-year-old me as naïve and innocent and not involved enough in the real world to know how it really works… but as much as I try to brush my Locke-ian philosophy off as a youthful intellectual fling, it still manages to make perfect sense to me today, after I’ve spent years growing up, learning about myself, and exploring the world as much as my situation would allow. As a student in rabbinic school, I wholly plan on working with families in the future, and I have no interest in telling one family that they’re doing it wrong, because I believe that Judaism strongly values family, no matter the form that family takes.

Israel is a Jewish state, yes, but it’s also a democratic one. How can we best serve our citizens: by forbidding them the freedom to obtain state recognition for their families, or by embracing everyone with open arms and recognizing that love takes many forms, and no form is more right than any other?

As a religious Jew, I say family first. As a state that claims to be Jewish, Israel should say the same. There are bigger fish to fry than judging families for who they are. Enough with the crazy pills: it’s time to sober up, re-evaluate our values, and work to protect all Israelis, regardless of who they fall in love with, have children with, or create a family with.

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