It’s final exam season at TanenbaumCHAT.  Students are busy studying for and writing exams.  Teachers are marking FST’s, papers, and exams.  Everyone is busy. Yet, if school were in session, I’d ask that we either assemble students, speak to them in class, or prepare some words to be read over the loudspeaker about the tragic events this past weekend in Orlando.  Forty-nine innocent people were murdered; nearly an equal number suffered injuries.  I’ll have to suffice with a blog post even if it’s not clear whether or not it will be read.

As much as we are members of a sacred family, the Jewish people, we are also members of the family of humanity.  Ours is a tradition that believes that all people are created in the image of God.  Our Torah begins not with the first Jew, Avraham, but with the first human being, Adam.  Our tradition teaches that to destroy one life is to destroy a whole world.  Regardless of sexual orientation, religious background, political party, or skin colour, a life is a life.  Ours is a tradition that teaches that every human being is endowed with three inalienable qualities:  infinite worth, equality, and uniqueness.

Ours is a tradition that urges us is to make it known to all people that denigrating human dignity of any person is unacceptable and intolerable.  Our task is to assert with every fiber in our body that all people are made in the image of God and to desecrate that image is one of the greatest of all sins.  Our message is to proclaim that the image of God is reflected in heterosexuals and homosexuals, Gentiles, and Jews, black people and white people, We all come from the same Source.

The NY Times columnist Frank Bruni makes a related point in his June 12, 2016 column:

This was no more an attack just on L.G.B.T. people than the bloodshed at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris was an attack solely on satirists.

Both were attacks on freedom itself. Both took aim at societies that, at their best, integrate and celebrate diverse points of view, diverse systems of belief, diverse ways to love. And to speak of either massacre more narrowly than that is to miss the greater message, the more pervasive danger and the truest stakes.

To be a good American or Canadian, not just a good Jew, one must remember, cherish, affirm, and preserve what is right and true and worth fighting for:  human dignity, freedom, and equality.

As Canadians, we might feel that what happens in Orlando, Florida, in the United States is not so relevant.  But, as Jews, we are taught that the commandment “love your neighbour as yourself” is not just a geographic obligation but a moral one.  Nevertheless, I want to bring this message as close to home as possible.  In our great institution, there are students who are homosexual. Some are public about their orientation; others are not.  I imagine that many of these students feel vulnerable, and especially so in light of what took place at the Pulse nightclub.  As members of the TanenbaumCHAT community, we need to think carefully about the language we use and the actions we take so that all our students feel safe and valued.  We, who learn and teach the sacred messages of our tradition, must be sure to that we are building a school community where every member is regarded as being created in the image of God with infinite worth, equality, and uniqueness.

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