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International Jewish LGBT Conference to Honor Jerusalem Parade Victim

Gay Jewish community builders from across the world are set to convene in Austria for the inauguration of an international think tank on their communities’ needs.

The 70 participants of the inauguration next week in Salzburg of the new think tank, which is called Eighteen:22, will also commemorate in the Austrian city the murder of Shira Benki, 16, who was stabbed by a repeat perpetrator of hate crimes at the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade and later died of her injuries.

Eighteen:22 is a reference to Leviticus 18:22, a biblical verse which forbids men from having “sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman.”

“Despite major advances in gay rights issues, we really have a lot of work to do inside the LGBTQ community and out,” said Robert J. Saferstein, the Ohio-born initiator of the new think tank, which grew out of the ROI Community network with funding from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.

While many Orthodox rabbis have spoken out against the murder, “we also see some rabbis who are more interested in promoting hate than condemning the loss of life, which is the most sacred principle in Judaism,” Saferstein added.

LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer.

Among the participants of the inaugural conference of Eighteen:22 and the commemorations will be Zehorit Sorek, a religious Orthodox lesbian woman from Jerusalem who is among the cofounders of Bat Kol, Israel’s organization for religious lesbians, and head of the gay rights caucus of the centrist Yesh Atid party. Sorek attended the Jerusalem parade where the killer Yishai Schlisel, stabbed Benki and five others.

Other participants include Mordechai Levovitz, a social worker and a director of Jewish Queer Youth — a U.S. non-profit that assists Orthodox and Hasidic young gays and their families, and Eli Nassau, founder of Guimel – the first LGBT Jewish initiative in Mexico.

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