When Rabbi Howard Tilman moved to Jacksonville a few years ago to serve as the second rabbi at the Jacksonville Jewish Center, the city felt like home right away.
“I love the people — they’re very welcoming and very friendly, and they come from a wide variety of backgrounds and beliefs,” Rabbi Tilman said. “I love how many different areas there are to the city. Every neighborhood and every part of the city can have different feeling to it.”
Jacksonville’s diversity is often one of the driving attractions for new transplants — and it’s also what leads many people to mistakenly think that Jacksonville has fully-inclusive protections for LGBT individuals in employment, housing and public services.
“I always assumed protections were always there,” Rabbi Tilman said.
When he learned, however, that there are no explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBT people at the federal level, in the state of Florida, or locally in Jacksonville, he knew something had to change.
“I have always believed that every person is created with infinite value and potential,” Rabbi Tilman said. “And it is our responsibility that we treat them as we would like to be treated. Whether that is happening in Los Angeles or Jacksonville, that should a part of what we do and who we are.”
Supporting the Jacksonville Human Rights Ordinance isn’t just important to Rabbi Tilman personally — he also believes it is part of his calling as an American, and as a leader in the Jewish community.
As a person of faith, Rabbi Tilman strongly believes in the words of Leviticus 18:19, “Love your fellow as yourself.” But he also knows that often, gay and transgender people are treated differently and discriminated against, simply because of who they are or who they love. That’s something that Jacksonville residents shouldn’t stand for, Rabbi Tilman knows — and that’s why he’s speaking out in favor of the Jacksonville Human Rights Ordinance.
“My faith teaches that all people are created in the image of God. To have something that I’m passionate about as an American and as a religious person speaks to what we should aspire to be. The work we do should make sure that people of all faiths and backgrounds have the rights they need. The Jacksonville HRO certainly does this.”