Next week, over 100 local and national Jewish lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) organizations are getting together for the first time. And where, else, but in Berkeley! The 2010 LGBT Jewish Movement-Building Convening is the first meeting of its kind. And part of what makes it so unique is that it is being funded by some of the biggest, mainstream Jewish funders in the United States – the Schusterman Foundation, the Goldman Fund, and the Haas Fund– best known for funding Hillel, Birthright, Moishe House, the Foundation for Jewish Camping, and others.
So, what gives? Well, it appears that there are three national Jewish LGBT organizations whose missions focus on Jewish LGBT people – Keshet, Jewish Mosaic, and Nehirim. There has been no real coordination of efforts or even decisions about goals or priorities for the Jewish LGBT movement. In part, each of these organizations started with more regional foci and have recently grown and expanded to include more national programs. Add to the mix local Jewish LGBT temples, groups, and organizations, and you end up with a confusing and often inefficient network of organizations. Even from Los Angeles, where I call home, there are representatives from EIGHT organizations attending the Convening. Lots of organizations want to help temples and synagogues be more inclusive. Lots of organizations want to help the Conservative and Reform movements navigate the waters of LGBT inclusion in liturgy, life cycle events, and stances on hot button political issues. In some ways, it is remarkable that in the 32 years since Harvey Milk, a Jewish gay man living in San Francisco, was killed for being gay and 38 years since the first temple for lesbian and gay Jews, Beth Chayim Chadashim, opened its doors, the Jewish community has so many organizations doing this kind of work.
On the agenda for the Convening are sessions examining current activities, a discussion of issues and priorities, meetings with funders, and opportunities to learn from the success (and failure) of other faith communities.
One can only hope that leaders of over one hundred organization attending the Convening will return to Los Angeles and their own communities renewed, re-centered, and ready to make change happen. With limited funding dollars, limited time, and lots of need for change, it serves the Jewish Community well to have this Convening be productive and successful.