Posted by Naomi Goldberg
In one week, Keshet, an organization working for the full inclusion of LGBT Jews in Jewish life, will host its annual Keshet Cabaret – a chance to come together, dress up, and celebrate leaders in the LGBT Jewish community. This year’s honorees including Idit Klein, Keshet’s executive director. Idit has been at Keshet for 10 years – a lifetime in terms of change in the Jewish LGBT world.
Think back to ten years ago when Idit first got involved with Keshet. Gay and lesbian couples could not marry anywhere in the U.S., and only one state prohibited discrimination based on gender identity in the workplace. The Conservative Movement of Judaism hadn’t yet issued its teshuvot affirming gay and lesbian Jews or its statement on transgender Jews. Trembling Before G-d hadn’t come out yet. Idit worked out of a home office. Fast forward to today, when LGBT Jews around the U.S. are finding new and innovative ways to celebrate rituals (and they can legally marry in eight states and the District of Columbia), the two largest streams of Judaism ordain openly LGBT rabbis, and the nation’s Jewish youth groups make videos to combat bullying. Keshet has offices in Boston, San Francisco, and Denver and a diverse, growing staff.
My, how far we’ve come. And, LGBT Jews around the U.S. owe much to Keshet and Idit’s leadership. You may not have had a Keshet staff member speak at your congregation, meet with your clergy, or train teachers in your community, but chances are through workshops at conferences for clergy, Jewish educators, and youth, the idea that Jewish communities can be inclusive of LGBT Jews and the tools to help them become inclusive have been developed and shared by Keshet. The film Hineni has been shown around the world and has given communities a way to talk about LGBT inclusion through one girl’s story. Posters celebrating LGBT Jews hang in classrooms around the country.
Join me in saying “kol ha kavod” to Idit and Keshet! Thank you for all you’ve done, and all you continue to do for LGBT Jews around the U.S.
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March 1, 2012 | 5:42 pm
Posted by Tera Greene
Here’s to the day. Here’s to you making your way. Here’s to being Brave.
How are you being today?
I am happy to be me. I am.
Be thankful, no matter what. Even for the times when you are frustrated, angry and feel slightly lost.
Be thankful, thankful, thankful…
No matter what.
February 14, 2012 | 12:27 am
Posted by Tera Greene
Creating Change One Proposition at a Time.
Much to the chagrin of Romney and Gingrich, Prop 8 has been overruled here in California. Yup, that means the state’s ban on gay marriage was deemed unconstitutional by the Ninth Circuit Court on February 7, 2012. Romney, whom I officially am calling a jackass, and not even because of this following statement, stated, “Today, unelected judges cast aside the will of the people of California who voted to protect traditional marriage. This decision does not end this fight, and I expect it to go to the Supreme Court. That prospect underscores the vital importance of this election and the movement to preserve our values. I believe marriage is between a man and a woman and, as president, I will protect traditional marriage and appoint judges who interpret the Constitution as it is written and not according to their own politics and prejudices.”
See that right there is why so many youth have no clue that they can be (insert race/religion here) and LGBTQ.
And why does everything always have to be a fight? Is not the true meaning of competition “to strive/work together”?
And, for that matter, is not Mitt Romney interpreting things according to his “own politics and prejudices”? Aren’t we all?
And furthermore - while I’m on this soapbox-, if I may ask, what are “our values”? I know my values, I know some of my close friend’s values, but what are “our values”? Preserve my tuchas.
Is fighting against people who want to illustrate love how they deem it part of that value system? Is fighting against people who want fair and just taxation a part of that value system?
Have we even taken the time to define our values as a Nation? As individuals?
By the way things look for many people, no matter the side of the coin they reside, I’d say we’ve not really sussed out our core values. As a collective people we are not acting in the image of good that I personally feel we are capable of, regardless if on the one hand I also feel there’s not even really good or bad in the first place and on the other, I do see small, progressive shifts in consciousness happening.
Look, the people of CA, many of whom were people of color, alongside the Mormon Church and others, were committing actions based on values, too, when they voted so bigotedly in 2008. I even have a caucasian friend whom I respect that voted Yes on Prop 8. But overtime they came to see that their actions weren’t matched to their core values, which I doubt 100% align with what Romney thinks are his or “our values”, for that matter. Everything starts within. You can’t change the past. But, you have the ability to open your eyes to new perspectives - yes, to even change course altogether… so what’s the big deal? Why does a person like Romney feel this new decision on this issue is the worst thing that’s happened since (insert really bad thing here)?
Could it be that this gay marriage business (and really, it kinda is when you think of it) is the answer to all our Queer problems and therefore everyone is in a fuss because it’s like Wonka’s Golden Ticket in value to anyone who owns it?
Well, that’s like people saying (insert your belief about Israel and Palestine land equity here).
It’s one thing to one, another thing to another. And gay marriage is no different.
Though I’ve marched, protested and rallied alongside this fight since 2008, I personally don’t think gay marriage is our holy grail of magic fairy dust to which all things fair and just seemingly start to show their presence in the lives of LGBTQ folk. That would be too easy. It’s a cause to believe in, to advocate for, but to think of it as the end all to create a more harmonious world? Silly. I’ve known many LGBTQ folk who’ve been together - “unofficially” married - for 14, 15, 17 years, even met two women together for 50 years once. I have also heard of many straight folk who were divorced in less than 3 months, though painful it may have been. I personally am in a committed relationship with someone I definitely see in my future, but marriage isn’t the sole impetus for either of us being together in the present. There are so many issues that facilitate progress, once they are allowed to be discussed, and that rings true for interpersonal relationships and communities at large, such as that of the LGBTQ community.
Creating Change By Tackling Deeper Issues
I spent a day lobbying on the Hill in D.C. a few weeks ago as part of a historical Day Long Institute via The 24th National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change (http://www.creatingchange.org/). This Lobby Day was the first ever, and I was so grateful to be a part of it. About 300 other Creating Change Conference participants from various states and I showed up bright and early on a blustery Thursday in lovely host city Baltimore, MD in order to be shuttled with boxed lunches over to Washington, D.C. to speak up against oppression to our senators and senator staff. As a representative from California, I know personally that our groups didn’t lobby for gay marriage (good on Californians to show up in such force that we needed to form two groups to accommodate all of us this historic day). Sure we probably could all say something about the issue, but instead we shared stories about being LGBTQ human beings with needs and basic rights, like access to a discrimination-free workplace and school system free of bullying.
The day before, I attended the Creating Change Conference’s Day Long Institute entitled “Building an Anti-Racist LGBT Movement”. In one of my live tweets, I put forth the intention that we had set in our working group of about 300 people, many of whom would not also attend the Lobby Day. We were there to “Deepen the level of authentic conversations about + across race. #racialjustice #CC12”, because as facilitator Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington stated, “How do we show up in 2012 and still have this conversation?”
Well, for one, everything is trumped by the notion of gay marriage, which he also stated, “is not what’s going to help us solve all our issues”. I paraphrase because the way he said it in the moment had my head abuzz with intellectual engagement that I forgot to write in my notebook or tweet before it was impressed and the thought went into the ethers. Washington, the “engagement specialist”, indeed.
Which brings me to the larger question of “when did the notion that gay marriage would solve all our issues within the LBGTQ community and the global community come into our psyches?” Was it in 2008 or was it simmering for far longer, since so many LGBTQ folk have been together in loving, committed relationships for more than a 10 year period - many even with children. That’s a whole different conversation unto itself, though, especially when the issue of fair taxation comes into play for LGBTQ parents and families, so I’ll stuff those worms back in the can for now.
I suppose the takeaway from attending this year’s Creating Change Conference and hearing from the governor of Maryland say that his state was going to go forth and support gay marriage in 2012 (to be the 7th state to do so), and then not too long afterward hearing about the Prop 8 ruling and then Washington state adopting gay marriage (and actually becoming the 7th state to do so - too slow, Maryland!) when I landed back in Los Angeles, is that at least there’s something that is helping to advance the queer movement towards human rights equity.
It’s like gay marriage is our gateway drug to achieving more vitality and lifeblood in society. And the more it’s talked about, people share stories, create space for dialogue (#realtalk), and raise awareness of even deeper rooted and often more glossed over issues that usually don’t get discussed until someone takes their life or another’s, like internalized oppression, bullying, victimization in the workplace and racism.
As Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington proclaimed, “It’s important to share, first, from where you are.” Because, as he also stated, “we can’t leave the racial justice institute without being able to say ‘white’”.
Nor should we be able to live without being able to say “I’m gay”, just as much as we should have the right to be married, or not, without having one sole issue wash over even more pressing issues that way more people can identify with. There’s gotta be balance. But, again, at least this issue is raising awareness, which is leading to dialogue, even if it’s on the backbone of this larger issue that is built on the backs of even smaller issues like class and race. Even though gay marriage is seemingly overshadowing other issues, this avenue is welcome in my opinion, because dialogue is happening. And the more we share, the more compassion shines through and the values of loving thy neighbor and being made in the image of G-d (Beselem Elohim) reemerge.
Oh, you don’t remember those?
I guess gay marriage got in the way.
February 8, 2012 | 10:02 pm
Posted by Kalil Cohen
Amidst all the news coverage of yesterday’s ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that California’s November 2008 Proposition 8 is unconstitutional as well as Washington State’s passage of a marriage equality bill, I wish to nuance the excitement of these events with a critique of the narrow focus of the LGBTQ movement in recent years. I have personally participated in marriage equality activism through organizing voter phone banking against Prop 8 as well as the 13LoveStories project. In addition, as someone who works with queer youth, I think that this is an important decision that will impact LGBTQ youth self-esteem and self-acceptance. However, there are many other civil rights issues affecting LGBTQ folks that have been completely usurped by the marriage debate. By focusing so narrowly on this one issues, activists have created a mainstream agenda for queer rights that does not address the root issues of inequality.
The institution of marriage as maintained by the state is a means of enforcing private property, wealth inheritance, and individual, rather than societal, safety nets. The money and energy that has been dedicated to this narrow civil rights fight has compromised LGBTQ activism as whole by channeling the bulk of community resources towards an issue that will largely benefit affluent, mostly white, gay and lesbian folks. For queer folks who are poor, immigrants, gender variant, and/or people of color, civil rights issues around educational access, housing, criminal justice reform, and health care are much more pressing than the right to marry. All of these issues also lend themselves to coalition building with many other diverse groups, while marriage equality does not.
In addition to channeling community resources away from more basic survival issues that affect queer folks, the focus on marriage equality has served to only further enshrine the notion of the nuclear family, which in today’s society is largely a myth rather than a reality. With 50% of marriages ending in divorce, and a clear breakdown in our society of the nuclear family, why do we as queer folks wish to partake in a broken institution? While I am married and feel blessed to have had my ceremony during the months that all marriages were legal in California, I do not believe that the state should play a role in marriage, or that there should be rights and privileges for married folks. Queer communities have pioneered alternative family formations through our history of caring for one another in times of need outside of traditional, state sanctioned familial relationships. For example, the queer community’s response to the AIDS crisis is a demonstration of our ability to form alternative family structures that function effectively to support and care for each other. If the amount of funding, focus, and political will that has been dedicated to marriage equality were funneled into redefining the state’s notion of what makes a family and who is considered a caretaker, we would see a much larger coalition of groups involved including immigrant rights activists and health care activists. No one should have her or his immigration or healthcare status depend on being married, for example. Continuing to use narrowly defined identity politics as a basis for organizing leaves us more vulnerable to backlash, to being defeated by the majority, and to overlooking the root causes of our oppression.
I do believe, however, that this ruling and the marriage debate in general has created a much larger space to discuss LGBTQ issues in the mainstream media, in the classroom, and in families. This has had a significant and noticeable impact on the comfort level of many people when discussing queer rights, because being seen as loving family members humanizes us. I am grateful for the significant change that has occurred in peoples’ attitudes towards LGBTQ individuals in recent years, and I think that this ruling will continue moving us forward in the right direction. At the same time, it is important to temper our elation with an analysis of the pieces that are currently missing from the puzzle. If we do not address the root causes of LGBTQ oppression, the issue of marriage equality is likely to suffer the same fate as that of legalized abortion – a right that is continuously being challenged and restricted through legal action.
January 24, 2012 | 12:20 am
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.
January 12, 2012 | 6:40 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 | 8:04 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 | 6:03 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!