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New Jewish manual
includes sex-change blessings

New Jewish manual
includes sex-change blessings

Halfway through a newly revised manual promoting inclusion for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in Judaism's Reform movement are two short blessings written by a rabbi who was raised Eliza and now goes by Elliot.

The prayers for Jews undergoing sex changes are included in the 500-page second edition of a guide called Kulanu, Hebrew for ''all of us,'' published this week by the New York-based Union for Reform Judaism.

''Here you have a Jewish person who is undergoing a very momentous aspect of their personal journey, and they will reach into their tradition to have this affirmed in the way we do it: through a blessing,'' said Rabbi Richard Address, an editor of the volume and director of the union's Department of Jewish Family Concerns. The union represents 900 Reform synagogues in North America.

The inclusion of the transgender blessings alongside a liturgy for same-sex union ceremonies and a divorce document for same-sex couples is in keeping with the Reform movement's tradition of liberal positions on human sexuality.

The largest branch of Judaism in North America, Reform Judaism allows gay and lesbian rabbis and cantors.

But Address said the blessings also illustrate a broader trend: an explosion in self-styled rituals and ceremonies written by people hungry to bring spiritual import to life's major events.

''They're saying, 'If the prayer book doesn't have one, I'm comfortable writing my own,''' he said.

That describes some of the transgender blessings in Kulanu. Two were written by Rabbi Elliot Kukla, who said he came out as a transgender male around the same time he was ordained last year at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Kukla wrote the blessings for a friend about to start testosterone hormone therapy.

''It was a way of sanctifying the moment for him, and also signaling there is a place in Jewish tradition for all the different parts of our lives, including moments that are profound and maybe surrounded by stigma,'' he said.

Kukla's contributions are simple and short. ''Blessed are You, Eternal One, our God, Ruler of time and space, the Transforming One to those who transform/transition/cross over,'' one blessing says. Another reads, ''Blessed are You, Eternal One our God, Ruler of time and space, who has made me in God's image.''

The manual also suggests using a Jewish prayer traditionally recited to mark special events or notable firsts, according to the Jewish news agency JTA, which reported on the revision Wednesday. Address acknowledged conversations about whether the sex-change blessings would be viewed as offensive, but the decision was to ''to err on the side of inclusivity.'' (AP)

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Matthew Van Atta