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The Schmooze

LGBT Convening: Why They Came

From June 27-29, dozens of Jewish LGBT organizations are gathering in Berkeley, CA for the first-ever “LGBT Jewish Movement-Building Convening.” Gabriel Blau, a conference participant and the founder of GayGevalt, is blogging about the gathering for The Shmooze. You can read his first post here and follow the conversation on Twitter here.

If you think it’s hard to get a consensus from a group of Jews, try a group of Jews that have committed themselves to the LGBTQ Jewish community. Let’s just put it out there: Us non-heteros are not an easy bunch. We’ve got ideas, visions and commitments. We are still discriminated against in the law as well as in our culture. We have a fine-tuned sense of acceptance and equality. And if you’re one of the people who has made Jewish LGBTQ issues part of their professional or semi-professional lives, you also have a healthy ego — a requirement in a field that is constantly shifting. Wonderfully, there seems to be none of that here.

The people who are at the Convening, and many who are not here, have achieved incredible things. They have organized conferences, founded shuls, grown organizations, changed politics, saved people’s lives, and even had a lot of fun doing it. But this conference is an attempt to do more than that — to bring together the leaders of a maturing movement to work together more than they already are. To better understand their efforts, I asked a few of my colleagues to share what brought them here.

“The opportunity to work together, collaborate, be strategic, and deliberate,” said Michael Hopkins, Chair of the Board of Directors of Nehirim. “It’s really clear there are a lot of people around the country doing a lot of things, and we just don’t all know what’s going on with each other. With limited human and financial resources, and growing needs, this work is as important as ever.”

For Rabbi Dev Noily, director of the Kehilla Community Synagogue School in Oakland, CA, coming here is a part of her job, and a good one. “I’ve been doing Queer Jewish work for almost 20 years,” she said. “These are my people and I’m curious about what other people are doing. I’m excited about sharing what are the fruits of a few decades of Jewish creative Queer work.”

“I came to recommit my rabbinate to Queer movement building with an eye to inclusion of trans, multi-ethnic and multiracial Jews,” added Rabbi Joshua Lesser, leader of Congregation Bet Haverim in Atlanta, GA.

Rabbi David Mitchell of Radlett & Bushey Reform Synagogue came from the UK to observe and participate. “I wanted to see what’s going on in America, see what we can learn, how we can grow, and what alliances we can build,” he said. “Just to feel part of a bigger network.”

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