Jewish Organization Equality Index Released: First-Ever on Inclusion In Faith-Based Community

November 12, 2012

By E Jewish Philanthropy

Washington, D.C. – November 11, 2012 – The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, released today its first-ever index of inclusion within a faith-based community. The Jewish Organization Equality Index (JOEI) provides benchmarks for gauging, and resources for improving, LGBT inclusivity policies and practices of North American Jewish communal organizations.

Key findings from the index create a preliminary snapshot of how a broad range of Jewish organizations – from national umbrella and advocacy groups to local nonprofits and synagogues – address LGBT diversity and inclusion in three categories of practice: organizational inclusion efforts, community/client engagement and workplace policies.

An estimated 10% of the organizations invited to take the 89-question survey completed it, which is consistent with HRC’s experience in launching inaugural indices of this type. Of the 204 Jewish nonprofit organizations that participated, 50% received the top score of “inclusion,” meaning they are taking significant steps to welcome LGBT individuals and families. By contrast, the first year of HRC’s Corporate Equality Index, which rates Fortune1000 companies on inclusion for LGBT employees, only 13 organizations of the 319 rated – or 4% – received the highest score.

The index also highlights significant opportunities for improvement, especially in the areas of recruitment and training. Of the participating organizations, 79% expressed they have not targeted the LGBT community in workplace recruitment efforts, and 59% have not completed any diversity or inclusion training in the past three years. More work is needed to understand how representative these findings are across the broader Jewish communal sector.

Initiated by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, together with The Morningstar Foundation, Stuart Kurlander and an anonymous donor, the report aims to push the Jewish community to prioritize inclusion of LGBT employees, members and volunteers into communal organizations. HRC was brought on to guide the process of self-evaluation by creating a numerical index and survey that would provide objective, measurable results about organizations and make those results public to provide a mechanism for others in the community to hold organizations accountable.

Additional findings from the index include:

  • 98% of participating membership-based organizations offer same-sex couples family memberships;
  • 90% of participating organizations include inclusive terms in their publicity materials;
  • 75% of participating organizations have not specifically recruited LGBT individuals to their lay leadership board in the past three years (often cited as a significant contributor to increased awareness about inclusive policies);
  • 73% of responding organizations have a written non-discrimination policy;
  • 66% of participating organizations actively reach out to the LGBT community to attract members or clients; and
  • 33% of participating organizations with youth programming have a written anti-bullying policy.

Organizations that participated in the survey were from 26 states across the U.S, the District of Columbia and Canada, and represented a range of denominations, though no survey submissions were received from any Orthodox institutions. Jewish Community Centers, Jewish Federations and Hillels were among those with the highest rates of participation.

“This is an important moment for our community,” said Lynn Schusterman, Chair of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Philanthropic Network, speaking on behalf of all of the funders. “We applaud the organizations that participated and are taking important steps to foster LGBT inclusion, but we still have a long way to go until LGBT Jews – indeed, all Jews – are embraced as full and vital members of the Jewish family in every aspect of communal life. We have an opportunity to use these findings to truly commit ourselves to the vital but challenging work of forging a culture in which inclusivity, diversity and equality are paramount. The question is: will we?”

In 2010, Schusterman issued a call for all Jewish organizations to join her foundation in adopting non-discrimination hiring policies that specifically mention sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Among the goals of the index was to encourage more organizations to adopt such policies, and in recent years, some of the largest Jewish organizations have done so, including BBYO, Birthright Israel, Foundation for Jewish Camp, Jewish Federations of North America and Moishe House, among others.

Timed to coincide with the release of the report, the survey’s supporters have joined with Keshet – the national grassroots organization that works for the full inclusion and equality of LGBT Jews in Jewish life – to raise awareness of the importance of inclusion and spread these and other tools for action. You can visit the dedicated website here.

Led and supported by LGBT Jews and straight allies, Keshet offers resources and trainings to create inclusive Jewish communities nationwide as well as community programs for LGBT Jews.

“This report marks a milestone in the Jewish community,” said Idit Klein, Executive Director of Keshet. “We hope it will galvanize our leaders to make LGBT inclusion a key priority, and we invite organizations at any stage of inclusion to reach out to us for training, resources and assistance to make our community a home for all.”