Questions of transgender inclusion become even more complex when Jewish law comes into play. In 2003, the Conservative movement deemed sexual reassignment surgery an essential component of gender transition. But many trans people never receive surgery, and so their transitions go unrecognized by the movement.
Rabbi Leonard Sharzer, a bioethicist at the Jewish Theological Seminary, has written a Jewish legal opinion that counters the Conservative ruling, saying that Jewish law should consider trans Jews according to the gender they identify with regardless of surgical status. He plans to submit his opinion to the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, the Conservative movement’s law-making body.
All six rabbis and rabbis-in-training are actively involved in creating Jewish ritual for gender transition, from a prayer for binding the chest to a prayer for taking hormones. It remains to be seen whether these individuals will gain long term employment as Jewish leaders. But they’ve already become sought-after voices on panels at synagogues and in community centers on the topic of gender transition and Judaism.