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Category Archives: LGBT Alliance

What comes next

I realize I’ve been a little M.I.A. lately, but I have a good excuse! I have started to use my organizing skills in a new way. As you may know, the grant that made my position possible at the San Francisco based Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund reached its successful completion early this spring. So, after many years, I left the work of advancing the lives of LGBT Jews in the very capable hands of Sasha T. Goldberg who is the Bay Area Director of Keshet (info).

I am still in the loop: I still serve on local committees for JCRC, NUJLS, and Keshet, proudly claim my membership at Sha’ar Zahav, as well as continue to be involved in the work of a variety of groups. After only a few months consulting outside of the Jewish community, I accepted a temporary position with the New Israel Fund as Interim Regional Co-Director while Becky Buckwald is out on maternity-leave through August. I am already deep into helping with the Annual Guardian of Democracy Dinner (info), shaping the logistics of NIF’s International Board Meeting and promoting local events such as Love, Hate and the Jewish State (info).
Say Yes to Better Israel with the New Israel Fund
Working with the brilliant folks like Orli Bein, Steve Rothman, Daniel Sokatch, Penina Eilberg-Schwartz, Hannah Ellenson and Etai Freedman has already given me an incredible opportunity to engage with topics that I care about in a whole new context.
This new professional chapter for me has just started and already it has been incredibly rewarding. While I don’t know where I am specifically going to land again in September, I do know that I’d like to continue using my organizing skills for a cause I care about, but that could of course could be within a variety of areas.

I’m open to ideas and I want to hear from you! I’m excited to see what happens next! Much love and hope to see you soon!

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2012 in LGBT Alliance

 

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countering the untrue

As the GLBT portal of the 16th Street J, The Kurlander Program for GLBT Outreach and Engagement (GLOE) engages metropolitan Washington’s GLBT Jewish community by sponsoring original programming and fostering a welcoming and inclusive environment at the Washington DCJCC.

My colleague in Washington D.C., who like me works to break down obstacles in our communities paths to living Jewishly, responds to the article, “Bridging the gap between faith and sexuality” (WJW, Oct. 20) in the brilliantly written (and re-posted below) letter. This article that my colleague writes about seems to express a limited capacity as to the centrality of Judaism in the lives of many that are outside of a hetero-normative experience.

I too have a limited capacity to understand how the role of Judaism can not be central to my life. Proudly I am as Jewish as I am a proud Lesbian, American, Feminist and ally to identities that are created in the image of the divine, צֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים‎‎; t’zelem elohim, but are not my own. Judaism helps to make meaning of my life, help me understand the inexplicable and it gives me some structure to the chaos around me. This afternoon, the chaos around me can be read simply through the blatant disregard for LGBT Jewish identity in this passive Editors response to my colleagues letter, “WJW had no intention to take a position on this issue.”

This evening I am speaking on a panel hosted by Spectrum, Marin’s LGBT Center. We will be talking about how different religions handle biblical prohibitions against homosexuality and on the role religion plays in helping make meaning of our LGBT lives. I anticipate questions about how LGBT Jews continue to look beyond words written in Torah as well as how it is that so many LGBT Jews continue to love a community of cultural relevance, faith and spirituality when some continue to foster feelings of marginalization for LGBT Jews and our steadfast allies. I have a few answers to these questions, including boasting about how extraordinary our local Jewish Editorial staff is, but I would prefer to give them in person, so if you are up for a conversation please join us.

Meanwhile, read this letter as it has been ‘cut and pasted’ from wjw: “What GLOE works to counter everyday. As a proud member of both the Jewish and GLBT communities in Washington, I was hurt and outraged to find that Washington Jewish Week seems to state that these communities are mutually exclusive. As the director of GLOE, a program of the DCJCC, I know that they are not.

The article “Bridging the gap between faith and sexuality” (WJW, Oct. 20) stated “While the Torah strictly prohibits homosexual behavior” as a fact without question. Such a qualifier does a tremendous disservice to all GLBT Jews and undermines the effort to build a more inclusive community.

With close readings of the Hebrew Bible and New Testament, the latest data on the science of sexual orientation, and a sympathetic, accessible, and ecumenical approach to religious faith, Michaelson makes the case that sexual diversity is part of the beauty of nature, and that the recognition of same-sex families will strengthen, not threaten, the values religious people hold dear.  Jay Michaelson’s book, God vs. Gay?: The Religious Case for Equality, discusses the common misconceptions around this supposed biblical prohibition. Since this book, its author, and the surrounding program at the DCJCC were the topic of the article, I found it incongruous that the piece introduced Michaelson’s thesis with a dogmatic interpretation of the Torah. Even more importantly, the biblical imperatives towards love, community, justice, family, and saving a life, both vastly outnumber and outweigh any other verses one might “strictly” quote. WJW is an important voice in our community and the articles, images and words it chooses to print carry significance. That phrase, which betrays a bias toward exclusion, has repercussions throughout the community. I worry your readership will see this factually-stated interpretation and believe it to be true. Further, I am horrified to think of the closeted gay kids in our Jewish community whose parents receive this paper. Seeing an article in a Jewish paper that speaks to a gay and Jewish identity is a rarity for them. When they read beyond the headline, that “who you are is strictly prohibited in the Torah,” it only serves to shame them and to alienate them from Judaism – something GLOE works to counter every day.

Your statement was not just untrue – or even simply an unfortunate misphrasing – but rather, it highlights the bigotry that still exists within the Jewish community, and the lack of value placed on our lives as GLBT Jews. Haley Cohen, GLOE Kurlander Program for GLBT Outreach & Engagement Washington DCJCC”

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2011 in Hyperlocal, LGBT Alliance

 

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Queer Jewish Students are invited to Washington D.C. for Leadership Conference

National Union of Jewish LGBTQ Students Conference will begin on Feb 17, 2012 at the American University Hillel, Kay Spiritual Life Center • 4400 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, DC! Participate in the annual gathering of queer Jewish students by recommending a leader to attend!

Participating student leaders from Universities across North America began calling this annual gathering a conference of the National Union of Jewish LGBTQQI Students. Naturally, an abbreviation written as NUJLS followed this long-winded title, giving us the name of the conference that we still use today, NUJLS (pronounced "NuJoules" (nüjau(-ə)ls)).

In the fall of 1998 the Office of Student Life at the University of Oregon received a notice in the mail about a student leadership conference aimed at empowering GLBT Jewish leaders. The Dean who received the memo called our local Jewish Student Union, LGBT Alliance and Hillel House to recruit someone to represent the University of Oregon at this conference called NUJLS. I was nominated, grant dollars were dispersed, I flew to Texas, met a dozen new friends and learned about Jewish community leadership. Just like that my career, as I write about in this blog, discovered its roots.

From my perspective one of the many barriers that people experience into the organized Jewish community was eliminated for me. Representing the University of Oregon as a Gay Jewish leader, gave me the opportunity as a young person to easily navigate into the depths of what our Jewish community has to offer.

Each Spring since 1997, Queer Jewish University-level students, as well as our steadfast LGBT allies, have joined together on a selected University campus to learn from each other for a weekend Shabbaton affectionately called NUJLS. Each year NUJLS features speakers, text study, and workshops on topics such as Judaism and queerness, activism, relationships, ethics, coming out, and time to talk about our differing views on how students think about Israel. NUJLS provides an opportunity for student leaders from Universities across North America to build community, network and become more familiar with Jewish life.

This February at American University in Washington D.C. students will be able to hear from galvanizing speakers, share shabbat meals and participate in leadership workshops all the while fostering in the next generation of connected and inspired LGBT Jewish leaders.

As an alumni of NUJLS and now a proud board member I am asking my networks to help me spread the word on campuses and in your greater communities about NUJLS. Learn more!

 

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This is a gender neutral restroom.

We speak about removing barriers for people often at my work in the organized Jewish community. These barriers we speak about can often mean finances but they can easily be much simpler and much more tangible. These barriers can be a physical or mental block that keeps someone in the margins not able to get access to what our Jewish community has to offer.

Here is a barrier that we don’t speak about a lot in the organized Jewish community: restrooms. Many people have no safe places to go to the bathroom. It is true! Ever wonder about the gender of that long-haired person in the men’s room or that short-haired person in the woman’s room? Imagine the looks that they get each time they simply have to go to the bathroom because their gender presentation does not fit the mold of other people around them. Many people avoid public bathrooms altogether because these looks can quickly turn into harassment.

This is the gender neutral restroom sign we posted this past week at the San Francisco based Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund.

A copy of the sign that you can see in this blog is now hanging on our third floor outside of a restroom that was once reserved solely for use by men. A few years ago we put up a sign that simply said “gender neutral” but guests in our building kept referring to it as the “transgender bathroom.” This awkward phrasing that was being used started to create an even more isolating experience for both guests and employees. So together with two of my colleagues we were able to craft this updated sign.

I don’t always know how to honor each one of our community’s micro successes in the LGBT inclusion work that I do. We do not even know yet if this new sign can be seen as a success. I simply hope that this sign and story can present an opportunity to shape the way we can see things differently as a community.

I am aware that we need to share these moments of change to help other communities take similar steps towards greater inclusion. So if you have a suggestion on a success that you have experienced, please share it!

If you are looking for more gender neutral bathroom resources take a look here:

  • Safe2pee – a collective of like-minded activists offering resources to find safe places to use the bathroom and activism to promote gender free public restrooms
  • Toilet Training – a documentary video and collaboration between transgender videomaker Tara Mateik and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. Using the stories of people who have been harassed, arrested or beaten for trying to use bathrooms, Toilet Training focuses on bathroom access in public space, in schools, and at work.
  • Toilet Training Toolkit – a companion toolkit full of useful facts and talking points about trans equality and bathroom access
  • Peeing in Peace – a resource guide created by the Transgender Law Center combining basic information about how someone can protect themselves with common sense steps that can be taken to change the way in which an employer, school administrator, business owner, or government official handles bathroom access issues
  • West Coast LGBT Training Institute for the Jewish Community – The purpose of the training is to make sure that LGBT youth, families, and staff are safe and affirmed in all Jewish educational and community settings. Participants will be trained and given the tools and guidance to replicate the trainings in their own communities.
 
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Posted by on October 24, 2011 in Jewish Bay Area, LGBT Alliance

 

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LGBT Book Readings at the Jewish Community Library

Keep Your Wives Away from Them: Orthodox Women, Unorthodox Desires, A presentation by Miryam Kabakov will be held on Thursday, November 17 at 7pm.

Reconciling queerness with religion has always been an enormous challenge. When the religion is Orthodox Judaism, the task is even more daunting. The anthology Keep Your Wives Away from Them, edited by Miryam Kabakov, takes on that challenge by giving voice to lesbian, bisexual and transgender Jewish women who were once silenced—and effectively rendered invisible—by their faith. It tells the story of those who have come out, who are still closeted, living double lives, or struggling to maintain an integrated "single life" in relationship to traditional Judaism.

On Tuesday, December 13 at 7pm join Noach Dzmura, editor of Balancing on the Mechitza: Transgender in Jewish Community along with contributors Chav Doherty, Martin Rawlings-Fein, Jhos Singer, and Max Strassfeld in conversation.

How can transgender people live pious Jewish lives when many of their significant life choices might be considered “un-kosher”? How might parenting be complicated, or perhaps, enhanced, when one parent has changed sex? How does it feel to be in “men only” ritual space when you were once defined by your community as female? Balancing on the Mechitza is an anthology by activists, theologians, and scholars, both transgender and non-transgender allies, who share their interpretation of Jewish texts about ambiguous bodies, as well as their sacred and secular stories

                                                                                                                                     

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

                                                                                                                                                               Both readings are free and open to the public at the San Francisco Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE) Jewish Community Library. The library is located at 1835 Ellis Street, San Francisco, 94115, between Scott and Pierce on the campus of the Jewish Community High School. There is free garage parking at the entrance on Pierce Street between Ellis and Eddy. For more information contact Allison at (415) 567-3327, ext 703 or ajgreen@bjesf.org.

 

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Outing Rabbi Eger

In November 2008 Rabbi Eger was named one of the FORWARD FIFTY by the national Jewish newspaper the Jewish Daily Forward as one of the 50 most influential Jewish leaders of the year along with Rahm Emmanuel, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Sarah Silverman. In 2010 Rabbi Eger was named by the Jewish Daily Forward as one of the Sisterhood 50. One of the fifty most influential women rabbis in America. Now she is listed as October 11, 2011 Coming Out Day LGBT leader.

Rabbi Denise Eger believes that activism is an important part of her rabbinate. She is now the historical leader recognized for the 2011 Coming Out Day. Mazel Tov, Rabbi Eger!

In California, we are fortunate that we have become the first state in the nation to require public schools to add lessons about our gay and trans history to social studies classes. Yet, this only happened after Governor Jerry Brown signed this landmark bill a few months ago created by LGBT Jewish leader Mark Leno (learn more).

Therefore because our LGBT history is not being taught and talked about much, the month of October has become LGBT History Month. The goal of this month is to send a consistent message about the vital importance of recognizing and exploring the role of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in American history.

Starting in 2006, a nonprofit group called Equality Forum has promoted 1 of 31 chosen LGBT History Month Hero’s or Icons each day in October. Throughout the short history of this tradition 18 Jewish leaders have been recognized. These LGBT Jewish Icons are: Susan Sontag z”l*, Annie LeibovitzLeonard Bernstein z”l, Larry KramerLowell SelvinBarney FrankDavid GeffenHarvey Milk z”l, Maurice SendakLeslie FeinbergSuze OrmanJoan NestleMagnus Hirschfeld z”l, Allen Ginsberg z”l, Tony KushnerHarvey FiersteinStephen Sondheim and Aaron Copland z”l.

This year marks the 6th Anniversary of this work by the Equality Forum and today is the unveiling of the 19th Jewish LGBT leader to be listed. Today, on Coming Out Day, which falls annually on October 11, Los Angeles based Rabbi Denise Eger has been chosen as the LGBT hero or icon of the day. Her bio and story can be seen here.

Mazel Tov, Rabbi Eger! Thank you for being an inspiration to so many people throughout both our Jewish and LGBT worlds!

A selection of the 19 LGBT Jewish icons that have been honored and recognized by Equality Forum among the 186 LGBT Icons choosen since 2006.

In 2006, Equality Forum began providing content, promotion and resources for LGBT History Month. Now, LGBT History Month celebrates the achievements of 31 lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender Icons. This is a selection of the 19 LGBT Jewish icons that have been honored and recognized by Equality Forum among the 186 LGBT Icons choosen since 2006.

* There are several traditional Jewish honorifics for the dead which are used interchangeably when naming and speaking of the deceased. The most common honorific is translated from the Hebrew into English to mean, of blessed memory. In Hebrew this honorific is written זיכרונה לברכהזיכרונו לברכה  (Hebrew transliteration is zikhrono livrakha/zikhronah livrakha). As seen frequently on this blog the use of this honor is further abbreviated to the first two letters of the Hebrew transliteration words, z”l or the first two letters of the Hebrew wordsז״ל

 

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Will you join me and pledge to go purple in support of LGBT youth?

I Support #SpiritDay

Last fall, a young person named Brittany McMillan wanted to do something about the LGBT teens who died by suicide. So she put a call out via a social network for people to wear purple on October 20th in support of LGBT teens and called it spirit day. She thought that only a few hundred at most would wear purple. She never imagined that thousands would respond by wearing purple. But her idea went viral quickly. The cast of Glee dressed up in purple as well as a few of the hosts on The View. Even Anderson Cooper and Dr. Phil got in the purple spirit of spirit day. It was inspiring to see a young person have so much impact.

This year, Brittany is asking the world again to dress in purple. She hopes that the LGBT teens who walk into their classrooms on October 20 to see their teachers and classmates wearing purple will give them a feeling of hope. Again, this year I’m joining Brittany on spirit day by wearing purple. It is such an easy way to help bring hope to young people in our San Francisco Bay Area community. I hope that you also choose to pledge to go purple on October 20 too. Then I hope you will put a call out to your synagogue, school, organization or company to observe Spirit Day as well. Do me a favor, email me at work {lisaf @sfjcf.org} or tag me on facebook with pictures of you dressed in purple so I can continue to create a poster of how our Jewish community dresses up to support LGBT causes.

Together, we can show LGBT teens that they are supported. By pledging to wear purple on October 20, LGBT teens can find you, remember who you are and if they ever need someone to trust in coming out they know you can be a safe advocate and friend to connect with.

What is Spirit Day? How can you celebrate LGBT Teens in your Jewish community? Learn more.

During a gathering at the San Francisco Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM) LGBT Advocate, Jessica Trubowitch, with Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) speaks with another proud LGBT San Francisco Jewish leader, Rebecca Prozan!

During a gathering at the San Francisco Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM) LGBT Advocate, Jessica Trubowitch, with Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) speaks with another proud LGBT San Francisco Jewish leader, Rebecca Prozan!

Me with another proud 2010 Spirit Day supporter, LGBT Jewish leader, Jamie Wolfe at the San Francisco Contemporary Jewish Museum!

Me with another proud 2010 Spirit Day supporter, LGBT Jewish leader, Jamie Wolfe at the San Francisco Contemporary Jewish Museum!

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2011 in Jewish Bay Area, LGBT Alliance

 

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