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chaval al hazman

Standing in my kitchen in San Francisco, Rabbi Elliot Kukla gave me one of the most helpful everyday tools I have in my ‘diplomatic toolbox’. He taught me that when I am about to make a judgement of someone I can simply remember that we are all created btzelem elohim or in the image of the divine and let it be without smirking and being overtly crass. Today I used this tactic towards trying to let things go before I chaval al hazman or wasted any time

Most of day three in the Jerusalem Press Room of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs passed without any of my thoughts meandering or relying on btzelem elohim as a coping mechanism. By the afternoon session at 4pm with Professor Gerald Steinberg of Political Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan and as the head of the NGO Monitor my mind was on serious overload. I became emotional and raw as he mentioned his long distrust of a international nonprofit group that I trust quite a bit called the New Israel Fund.

Day three of the Diplomatic Seminar featured Israel Foreign Ministry's expert, Sara Weiss Ma'udi, on maritime and humanitarian law. See more of these photos by clicking here

Moving back a few hours into day three began at 8am learning from the Israel Foreign Ministry’s expert, Sara Weiss Ma’udi, on maritime and humanitarian law focused on the flotilla that made global headlines followed by a lecture on the Assault of Israel Legitimacy focused on the BDS Movement by Press Secretary DJ Schneeweiss and just before lunch a talk about developing our Diplomatic Tool Box focused on topics of Iran with Yehuda Yaakov, Director of Non- proliferation and Counter Terrorism. Our lunch, again perfect for me filled with fruits, vegetables and hummus, was followed with a meeting with Natan Sharansky, not only the Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel but the person thought of as beginning the Soviet refusenik movement. He is recognized as a human rights advocate and is most well known for being held in a Soviet prison for a decade for championing the rights of Russian Jews to emigrate into freedom. He has been a high profile Israeli politician, featured in films about being a Refusenik and author of numerous articles and three books. As my incredible boss, Karen Bluestone, who once worked in Russia as well as my mother who once worked with the Jewish Community in St. Louis, Missouri on the absorption of Jewish immigrants from Russia both said about meeting Sharansky, “That’s a really big deal.”

Before we were able to head off to our dinner at the Anngelica Restaurant with Yuli Yoel Edelstein, a member of the Likud serving as Minister of Public Diplomacy and the Diaspora, I was speaking with my new friend Rebecca about our last meeting of the day with Gerald Steinberg and why I had such an emotional response to his presentation. She simply said, “chaval al hazman don’t let it get to you…”

Today was not a waste of time and I won’t waste anymore of it. Today was an amazing day. It was an additional opening into the intensity of the complex pluralism that Israel represents for me. So in honor of Rebecca I take a moment to remember that malchar yom hadash or tomorrow is another day

Photos from dinner in Jerusalem with a few of the folks that are on the Diplomatic Seminar. In this photo folks from Romania, Denmark, France, United Kingdom, Australia, United States and Uzbekistan are represented.

 
 

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coming out day two

Golda Meir made a quip years ago, “Don’t be so humble, you’re not that great…” and so with Golda on my mind I begin tonight with the story of my introduction to the 36 folks I am about to spend two weeks learning with…

I forgot about the proverbial closet door I was about to step out of until I was the last person to arrive at the Ema Restaurant in Jerusalem for dinner. After our hosts Ami Mehl and Irit Stopper with the Jewish Communities Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs introduced themselves I was the first person to be asked to introduce myself.

For many folks that live with an appearance like mine coming out with your identity in groups like this is optional. As a queer Jewish professional my work is to advocate or represent folks that are not predominantly celebrated or welcomed into community conversations so I don’t have the option of holding in my full truth. I should be used to being out the second I state the title of my job yet – my own internal fear surprised me as my voice quivered when I started with my name.

While thinking of the best approach to continue my vague introduction I slowly muttered that I work for the Jewish community in San Francisco followed by I work with the Federation and that rolled into saying that I work as a community organizer. Once I was ready I dropped the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer words that allowed my proverbial closet door to swing wide open.

Frankly, folks looked unfazed. Good. It eased my need for simplistic and optimistic generalizations, for now, in the city that the Police are currently trying to stop Jerusalem Open House from marching in the streets for a Pride parade at the end of this month, I will continue to believe that queer LGBT Jews are an integral and celebrated part of World Jewry.

After dinner, I make a new friend, Jonathan, who shares with me that he is gay and he marched in a Pride parade for the first time ever this last week with the gay Jewish community of London.

Gay Jews in London

Already I learned more about our global LGBT Jewish community. My new friend on the trip joined with three LGBT Jewish UK groups, the Jewish Gay & Lesbian Group, Gay Jews in London and Beit Klal Yisrael, as one of the 100 Jews represented at London's Gay Pride Parade.

Thank g*d I am not the only lgbt queer person on this trip. Thank g*d for the blessing of being on this trip and thank g*d everyone seemed a bit oddly nervous when coming out with their introductions. Cheers to the humble beginnings of a journey with 36 folks representing 33 distinct global Jewish communities within 25 unique countries.

Favorite moment of the day: on the bus ride from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem I found the very last seat available at the back of the bus. I sat in-between two young soldiers with their big guns projecting from their hips. They were relaxed and spent an hour comparing their cell phone ring tones with each other. Although I had two deadly weapons on two sides of me I still fell asleep for the duration of the trip…

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2010 in Diplomatic Seminar, Israel

 

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israel

about a year ago, a few of my colleagues, donny inbar and lital carmel recommend to akiva tor, consul general of israel’s pacific northwest region, that he nominate me to apply for a diplomatic seminar for young jewish leaders that the israeli ministry of foreign affairs hosts each year. i applied and with the kind recommendation letters of the current chair from the LGBT alliance, arthur slepian and my incredibly encouraging boss, karen bluestone, i was chosen to participate!

to provide a bit of context about the seminar, the israeli ministry supports 69 embassies, 15 consulates, and 3 missions all of which were invited to recommend a leader to participate. of course, i am humbled to remind not only you but myself that not all of these places nominated someone. regardless of how many applied (and honestly i have no idea if it was a lot or just a few folks) i will be participating alongside 36 other leaders from jewish communities around the globe.

i have many thanks to give this community but in particular i need to thank akiva tor, consul general of israel for the pacific northwest, to thank for this chance to learn about israel from the israeli government perspective

the seminar is a study program intended to facilitate a deeper understanding of the political and national security challenges facing israel, and insight into the society, economy and culture of the jewish-democratic state. particular attention will be paid to challenges facing the jewish people as a whole: demography and jewish continuity, the battle against anti-semitism, and the relationship between israel and the jewish diaspora. conducted under the auspices of the department for jewish communities at the ministry of foreign affairs, the seminar will include lectures, workshops, cultural events and study tours.

i have so many thousands of people in this community to thank for their generous annual donations to the jewish community federation. because of these gifts i am able to participate as a jewish professional, a jewish community leader and an LGBT queer jewish community organizer in the hopes that my experience will foster enhanced dialogue and engagement upon my return. i have about 7 days available to explore partnership opportunities and build relationships with our federation grantees. please let me know if you recommend someone interesting to meet or something interesting to experience!

i could not have had this opportunity without the kind determination and hard work of karen bluestone, donny inbar, julie bernstein, paul cohen, gila noam, al baum, neta shacham, lital carmel, akiva tor, martin tannenbaum, rabbi camille shira angel, roberta catalinotto, arthur slepian, anat noam, mark hogains and many of you… thank you for making this opportunity possible. also, i have so many thanks to the support of kol tzedek without them none of my work in the LGBT jewish community could be possible.

in peace, gratitude, love and joy!

 

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