Jews discuss gay and lesbian issues

Jewish students gathered at GW this weekend to talk about issues concerning sexual orientation.

More than 100 participants went to the 7th annual National Union of Jewish Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer and Questioning. Sessions throughout the weekend took place at GW Hillel, and a rally was held at a D.C. synagogue.

“I am a queer Jew and I am affirmative of both identities,” said senior Nathan Weiner, co-chair of the conference. “This conference is critical for a community of potentially disenfranchised Jewish students who often feel invisible as queers in the Jewish community and as Jews in the queer community.”

The weekend began with an opening session late Friday afternoon. Participants attended Kabbalat Shabbat and Ma’ariv services later that night, followed by a dinner. Saturday sessions featured speakers Rami Rosen of the Israel Travel Advisory Service, Caryn Aviv and Gregg Drinkwater of Jewish Mosaic and Rabbi Marcus Burstein, who spoke about Jewish commitment ceremonies.

“We’ve had to do fundraising, grant-writing, networking, publicity and programming,” Weiner said, commenting on the eight months spent preparing.

Audrey Shore of the Jewish Theological Seminary and David Levy, United Synagogue Youth regional president, also spoke about the presence of homosexuality in the Bible

Many students said the highlight of the weekend was a “Solidarity Rally,” held to encourage the Conservative Jewish movement to welcome non-heterosexuals into its Rabbinical and Cantor schools and international youth staff.

“The rally is an important cause because it joins Jews together across the nation,” said conference co-chair Sharon Greenbaum.

Rabbi Mark Loeb of Beth El Congregation in Baltimore spoke at the event in support of the community. David Cavill of Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, New York’s largest LGBT synagogue, also spoke in support of the movement.

“The goal is to have everyone feel included and to provide an outlet. It’s important that everyone has a voice. It’s a time when everyone builds on tolerance and diversity,” Greenbaum said.

The conference’s co-sponsors include The World Congress of LGBT Jews, the Human Rights Campaign, Hillel International, the Foundation for Jewish Campus Life and GW Hillel.

“The sheer numbers make me all the more confident and passionate about being open and honest in Jewish community,” said D’ror Chankin-Gold, head of Hillel at Pitzer College. “There’s nothing more important, more holy than a loving community of faith that openly embraces all of God’s children.”

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