Posted by Tera Greene
Time to Create Change!
I’m just a few hours away from the first leg of my travel to this year’s Creating Change, the 24th National Conference on LGBT(Q) Equality in Baltimore, Maryland. Fellow “Oy Gay"ers, Janelle Eagle and Kadin Henningsen will be in attendance, as we head up the constituents creating change around faith-based organizations during the Practice Spirit, Do Justice Sessions and various other plenaries. I am honored to be representing JQ International, and am so grateful to Southwest Airlines for their generous flight arrangements to get us all there. The schedule is jam-packed for all of us converging on Charm City and I, for one, am already feeling the energy and inspiration… I’m especially looking forward to the Day of Lobbying on the Hill in DC.
For more on this year’s Creating Changing Conference, point your browser to this link, and keep your eyes peeled here and on the interwebs for various blogs and commentaries on all of the action that will transpire during and after this next week of community building. “Action is hot; Power is sexy”, the National Gay + Lesbian TaskForce states on their website.
2.17.13 at 11:04 am | Registration for the May 2013 trip is NOW OPEN!. . .
2.6.13 at 9:26 pm | This event is in honor of award winning. . .
11.14.12 at 10:52 am | Beth Chayim Chadishim commemorates Transgender. . .
8.25.12 at 3:13 am | The 'If I Were a Rich Man Tour' is a. . .
7.17.12 at 10:05 pm | Each and every day, with open eyes, we can. . .
6.24.12 at 1:44 pm | Outfest is celebrating its 30th Anniversary July. . .
7.23.10 at 12:09 pm | "our obligation [is] to treat human beings with. . . (41)
1.24.12 at 1:20 am | The 24th National Conference on LGBT Equality:. . . (6)
10.19.10 at 2:48 pm | (5)
January 12, 2012 | 7:40 pm
Posted by Tera Greene
On January 11, 2012, I helped welcome a group of panelists who were invited to speak about the Jewish-ness of the Occupy movement. My fellowship cohort and an audience that was both live and virtual joined the panel of experts at the top-tier, newly re-located and Eco-friendly host synagogue, Beth Chayim Chadishim (BCC), which I must say, is breathtaking. Rabbi Lisa Edwards of BCC, “the world’s first synagogue founded by, and with an outreach to, lesbians and gay men” moderated, and the free event was sponsored by Progressive Jewish Alliance + Jewish Funds for Justice.
BCC’s website stated:
Panelists will include:
• Rabbi Jill Jacobs, Executive Director of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America and author of the new book “Where Justice Dwells: A Hands-on Guide to Doing Social Justice in Your Jewish Community”
• Professor Peter Dreier, Director of the Urban & Environmental Policy Program at Occidental College and author of “The Next Los Angeles: The Struggle for a Livable City”
• David Levitus, Jeremiah Fellowship Alumnus, PJA & JFSJ, Southern California Regional Council member, and Ph.D. Candidate in History at USC
We were also joined by Scott Shuster, an Occupy LA activist, and NYC City Councilman and former community organizer, Brad Lander. Afterward, my cohort continued to dialogue and listen to a few of the panelists, the Councilman and the dynamic Occupy LA Activist, Elise Whitaker, who both attended the public panel in the audience and then joined us and the panelists in a private hour-long discussion. There were so many insightful perspectives shared and many great questions posed by the audience. There were fascinating ideas discussed in the private session. However, I came away with the following throughout the evening:
• The Occupy movement may not be “mainstream”, but it sure is viral. And in the age of New Social Media, is it not more impactful to be viral than mainstream, even if just to start? In our private panel discussion, Ms. Whitaker relayed a sentiment that went much like, and I paraphrase, “The fact that they could organize in one area of Oakland and be hit with such violent opposition, and then almost immediately London was protesting in solidarity of the Occupiers in Oakland,… made the events of 2011 a success.”
• Though there were obstacles, the people who participated in the movement accomplished great miracles as far as collaboration with a diverse range of people goes. Mr. Shuster, Occupy LA activist, mentioned at one point during the public panel discussion some of the experiences organizing with all of the backgrounds that participated in the movement. I don’t know about you, but how many people can say they’ve had members of skid row help them learn how to make an intentional community - and welcome it because their expertise was valuable? How many of those same people have worked with so many people, with so many opinions, and from such diverse backgrounds and perspectives, -all at once-, with the commitment to at least coming to a 90% consensus on each issue addressed, no matter what?
• At least for the Occupy LA movement, when it comes to anti-semitism, there was just as much of that as there was “anti-everythingisms”. I’m not sure if that is because Los Angeles is such a melting pot and therefore more stereotypes are apt to be scapegoated, or if Los Angeles’ residents are simply equal-opportunity rude to all other residents they encounter. Regardless, anti-semitism was addressed, and to help come up with a way to create change, specifically by Jews, Professor Peter Dreier, Director of the Urban & Environmental Policy Program at Occidental College and author of “The Next Los Angeles: The Struggle for a Livable City”, said “Jews should confront Jews and their oppressors.” I believe this was significant, as it put accountability back in the hands of Jews to hold other Jews accountable who oppress others (i.e. slumlords), as well as making sure to not just preach to the choir, but also speak out against oppressors (e.g. Ron Paul), so that senseless hatred is combated.
But the answer I derived in response to the discussion’s topic “What’s so Jewish about the Occupy Movement?” was:
• The women.
It occurred to me first when panelist Scott Shuster took to the mic with not a question, but a comment. After speaking briefly about the dynamic of presence of women at Occupy LA he stated, “Women have been oppressed by men so much for so long that there’s no movement that’s going to be lead by men.” [In the video, this section starts at 53:36] It was fascinating that in that one comment, my eyes opened to the power of women, though even prior to his statement, I had found myself so enthralled by the eloquence of Rabbi Jill Jacobs, who communicated to the audience in such a clear way that was made even more inspiring by her fluidity of answering questions three at a time.
It also occurred to me the movement is very much still bubbling up and the organizers are already beginning to understand a little more about what worked and what didn’t in 2011. However, like anything successful, the movement will gain momentum over time, rather than simply “overnight”, and I say this to nay-sayers and proponents of the movement alike. Professor Drier stated, “The radical ideas of one generation are usually the common [sense] of the next,” which we’ve seen happen in the examples of women’s suffrage (which started in the late 1800s and was actualized in the early 1900s), black civil rights and even homosexual sanctions.
Additionally, it must be taken into account that nothing is accomplished without communication, especially that of effective communication. Whether the means of communication is by mouth, technology or carrier pigeon, “it’s not enough to be right, you have to meet people where they are,” said panelist David Levitus, Jeremiah Fellowship Alumnus, PJA & JFSJ, Southern California Regional Council member, and Ph.D. Candidate in History at USC.
I couldn’t agree more.
So let’s hope for the sake of the Occupy movement, the Jewishness of the Occupy movement, and even just for the sake of any radical shift bubbling at the surface that could potentially become a “movement”, access to quality education increases so that communication is effective and people are met where they are; people unite for longevity versus immediacy, and therefore create change through consistency; and women are supported in leadership roles either after claiming their spots or being promoted. Unfortunately, the latter of the two choices for women is usually not the top-most option; but hey, anything’s possible, as illustrated by the Occupy movement and the fact that TIME crowned “The Protester” 2011’s Person of the Year... and the image was that of a woman.
View the entire Panel Discussion here: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/19709431
January 5, 2012 | 9:04 am
Posted by Kalil Cohen
I am currently in Israel with my family, visiting cousins and spending quality time with my parents and brother for the most part, but also enjoying queer life in Tel Aviv. Upon arriving in Tel Aviv, I began to search for queer events to attend, and was very happy to find Rogatka, a collective, volunteer-run space that has been in existence for over two years here in Tel Aviv. Rogatka is a small space that resembles a black box theater with a raised stage, folding chairs, a projector, a small bar area, and many friendly Israeli queer folks. They host a weekly brunch on Saturday mornings which is family friendly (i.e. I can invite my parents) as well as frequent performances, lectures, and film screenings. During my two weeks here in Tel Aviv there are five or six different events happening at the space, including a drag show, a workshop on blogging for the transgender community, a punk show, and of course the weekly vegan brunches.
One interesting aspect of the space is that they have become a frequent venue for straight punk shows, which has led to some outreach to a community that has not been particularly aware of queer issues before Rogatka opened. There is a large sign on the front door in Hebrew and English explaining that Rogatka is a safe space where there is no tolerance for hate speech. It goes on to specifically identity homophobic and transphobic language, as well as uninvited touching, as unacceptable. I heard from one queer collective member that she has seen many straight punks read the sign with a puzzled look on their faces, which she interpreted as their first encounter with such concepts. This has been a great opportunity for the Rogatka community to affect change in larger Israeli society through their use as a venue for non-queer shows.
There are currently 11 members of the collective, which is able to afford the space through selling alcohol at their events and by charging very low admissions for shows and for the Saturday brunches - usually around $5. The organizers and event attendees are incredibly friendly, and my partner and I were immediately invited to dinner at someone’s house, offered a ride back from the space after the event, and I was even asked to perform at an upcoming show. One of my favorite things about being queer, much like being Jewish, is the immediate sense of community that you have when you meet other folks who share your identity. I am not particularly interested in going to bars, which can often be the only place to find queer communities, so I am so excited that Rogatka exists, and that I was able to attend a workshop and meet people interested in art and politics rather than at a bar.
For more information about Rogatka, click here to visit them on Facebook.
January 4, 2012 | 7:03 pm
Posted by Tera Greene
The Workmen’s Circle is starting a “Secular Yeshiva” Course in Advanced Jewish Studies. The program will be February 2012 through January 2015.
If you are interested or want to read more, head to: http://www.sholem.org/Secular_Yeshiva.html
Who is eligible?
• Members, staff and friends of The Sholem Community, SoCal Arbeter Ring (Workmen’s Circle), as well as others, including graduates of the Jeremiah Project, willing to commit to an intensive two-year course of study. Applicants will be asked to submit a brief description of past education and/or activities in Jewish and general cultural/educational/social movements.
• Maximum enrollment: 15 individuals.
• Apply no later than Jan. 21, 2012 to firstname.lastname@example.org
Feel free to pass/re-share this info! Thank you!
January 3, 2012 | 1:02 am
Posted by Lia Mandelbaum
On New Years Eve, only a few hours shy of 2012, I decided to drive from my house in Silverlake to Huntington Beach, so that I could be with a woman whom I have recently started to date. While driving in the dark on an unfamiliar route, halfway between our houses, I hit some very dense fog, and was having trouble reading the signs along the highway. I was also having trouble with the navigation because I was unfamiliar with my new GPS. I began to get the feeling that I may have already missed my exit, but I wasn’t sure, and kept going. The drive had become an intense experience, and I became anxious and frustrated. To top it off, I am truly clueless when it comes to having a sense of direction. I was lost, and by accident, had even gotten onto the wrong highway at one point. I decided to just get off the 405 and attempt to use my GPS again to help me find my way from wherever I was. Turns out that had I driven several miles past the exit, and added an additional half hour to my trip.
I found myself getting angry at the situation. Right after I had gotten off the highway, she had sent me a text saying that she was getting sleepy, and I immediately had the urge to just drive back home. As soon as I recognized that I was getting caught up in the unhealthy cycle of being angry, I stopped myself and said, “What is my responsibility in this situation? How can I see things differently?” In that moment of surrender, I acknowledged the reality that I am often unable to wrap my head around directions, and when combined with darkness, fog and a faulty GPS, the moment is going to get complicated. I need to be more aware and prepared for when these kinds of situations may come up. I also acknowledged that my anger was a defense mechanism, and that it was really just masking the embarrassment I had for getting so lost.
By 11pm, the drive got even foggier because the route I was told to take was on the Pacific Coast Highway, which runs along the ocean. When I first got onto PCH, I was bummed because I couldn’t see the beautiful ocean at all, and I immediately recognized my negative thinking, and instead of getting upset about that, I rolled down the windows and let myself feel and smell the ocean air. I began to feel the presence of the ocean, even with the fog, and it made me happy. In the past, when I was struggling with addiction and felt dead inside, when I would look out at the ocean, I would feel nothing. I could be at the beach witnessing the most magnificent sunset, but still felt nothing, which depressed me even more. Here I was, driving through dense fog, and yet I could still feel the presence of the magnificent ocean. It made me realize how far I’ve come from my struggles, and that I felt open, alive and connected. I became grateful.
As I arrived to my destination, I became annoyed for a moment because I couldn’t find parking anywhere close to where she lived. After I parked and began to walk through the foggy streets, I crossed a man who initially came off to me as being a bit creepy. As soon as he asked me a question and we began to talk, I could see that he was a sweet man. He was just lost in an unfamiliar and foggy neighborhood, like I had been lost on the highway, and just wanted some direction. When I told him that I wasn’t from around there, he thanked me anyways and gave me a nice smile and wished me a happy new year. His voice sounded genuine, and when I said it back, I knew that I was also being genuine. The experience made me feel good, because of how in the past, when I felt empty and dead inside, I struggled to connect and have genuine experiences with most people, and here I was having a genuine, sweet and simple exchange with a stranger.
As I kept walking, I began to think about what I could take away from my experience with getting lost in the fog. What was the message that I needed to learn? I believe that we are given the opportunity for personal growth, with every challenge we face, if we choose to do so. I realized that similar to the lack of visibility that I experienced in the fog, as we enter the New Year, we really don’t know what we’re walking into. We can have a general idea of what’s to come, but we cannot predict all of the challenges we will face, as life unfolds. The radical and unexpected changes, unseen forces, and wildcards that we will face, offer us the opportunity to empower ourselves by having the ability to surrender to the perfection of the bigger picture. I felt really good as I thought about walking into the unknown, because I have faith and integrity these days, and a strong ability to handle challenges. When you struggle with addiction, you cannot count on your ability to handle issues well, and in fact, you create most of the issues for yourself and those around you. In that moment, I had transformed what could have been viewed as an awful experience, into a spiritual one. In every moment we have an opportunity to transform the way we view our reality in order to create a new experience. I want to make the most of this life and reach my highest potential, and remove the stumbling blocks that come my way. Even though I had a far walk to her house, it allowed me the chance to discover my new years resolution, which is to be really mindful of my attitude during challenges, and empower myself to transform my experiences. I am actually grateful for the fog, because it blinded me from outside distractions and forced me to be in the present moment. The irony is that fog was the catalyst to help me shed the light needed to clear my own foggy mind.
As I entered her apartment, I felt really good because I knew that I was meeting her with an uplifted spirit, and not an angry one. She had left her front door open, and when I walked up to her, I was greeted with a sweet smile, as she was just waking up and stretching. I realized that the embarrassment I felt for getting lost wasn’t even necessary…the only reason why she told me she was getting sleepy was to let me know that she was going to take a nap. Since she had been sleeping, she didn’t even notice the time it took me. I’m so glad I didn’t turn around and drive home. I ended up having a really nice time with her.
I’m sharing this experience because I want you, the reader, to think about how you can empower yourself to completely transform your experiences. We often get so caught up in our heated emotions over situations and challenges, that we let them fog our minds, and we loose sight of the blessings that can be found within almost every situation, if we allow ourselves to.