Sunday, January 24, 2016

JQY at the National LGBTQ Creating Change Conference: What really happened

JQY is devoted to the health and well being of LGBTQ Jewish Youth at risk. Our membership reflects the full spectrum of Jewish feelings about Israel. As our focus is the emotional and physical welfare of all LGBTQ young people in the Jewish community, it is important that no one feel excluded from care because of their political or denominational stance. While we do not take political positions on issues such as Israel and foreign policy, we are committed to the full inclusion of LGBTQ Jews in every aspect of Jewish life. We are proud that we were the organization responsible for finally allowing LGBTQ groups to march openly at the New York Celebrate Israel Day Parade.

This past Shabbos the leaders of JQY were invited to the National LGBTQ Task Force's Creating Change Conference in Chicago. We were tasked with representing the Jewish Movement Working Group at the conference, and helped organize the multiple Jewish themed sessions and Friday Night Shabbos Service. We have been working in partnership with the Task Force for the last five years. Included in our offerings this year were a 3 hour Queer Muslim Jewish Dialogue, a Jewish LGBTQ organizational strategy session, and a Queer Jewish Caucus that focused on engaging young Queer Jews on what it means to have both Jewish and LGBTQ identities. These Jewish sessions, including the Friday prayers, were all well attended, peaceful, successful, and went on with absolutely no protest.

Due to our close involvement with the Task Force and our position of leadership facilitating many of these conversations, we feel that we are in a unique position to provide background and clarity with respect to what occurred at the conference and our response:

  1. The anti-Israel protest that took place was not against the Shabbos Service; it happened on a different floor, at a different time and was directed at a reception which was a separate event.
  2. The leadership of JQY proudly attended the A Wider Bridge reception, but also appreciate the rights and feelings of LGBTQ Jewish teens who, based on their own consciences, chose to peacefully protest the event.
  3. There were 4 protesters that entered the reception room. 3 of the young women occupied the stage. They were outnumbered by almost 100 reception attendees, most of who were not conference participants. The protesters inside were vocal but not physical, and at one point they tried to leave the room but were prevented by hotel security.
  4. Antisemitism, silencing points of view, physical intimidation, denying Jews the right to live in Israel, and calls to violence are inexcusable and JQY does not tolerate this in our space or any other.
  5. We are disappointed in the LGBTQ Task Force for neither supplying the reception attendees, nor the protesters, designated spaces in the corridor so that people could both safely access the event and feel heard without risking arrest.
  6. JQY stands with the Jerusalem Open House, and at no point were we pressured by the Conference to silence, boycott, or remove Jerusalem Open House speakers from our Jewish sessions. On the contrary, even when the A Wider Bridge party was temporarily canceled, Task Force leaders encouraged us to include the Jerusalem Open House speakers at our Jewish conference sessions.
  7. While we believe that the Task Force leadership may have made mistakes, we wholly reject any accusation of antisemitism against their Executive Director Rea Carey, Conference Director Sue Hyde, or any National LGBTQ Task Force staff. Our experience working with the Task Force has made us confident that the intentions of their leadership have always been fueled by good will and integrity.
  8. JQY is committed to a longer and more thought-out engagement on these issues with the National LGBTQ Task Force. We call on the Task Force to invest the appropriate time, resources and effort to give this serious (and often triggering) issue the respect it deserves.

We leave the conference inspired by the wisdom, energy and brilliance expressed by the Jewish LGBTQ teens at the Conference's Jewish Queer Caucus. They reminded us that just like one can only learn about someone's gender identity and sexual orientation by listening to how that person self identifies, we can not make assumptions about what loving or criticizing Israel means to someone until we allow them to express the full complexities of this relationship. Being LGBTQ and Jewish can inform the way we think about Israel in that we should not feel that we have to choose a box, binary, or label. Caring and compassion are not a zero sum game. We are infinitely dedicated to the safety, well being, dignity, self determination, celebration, and liberation of all people. These are the Jewish values that guides our mission to provide the support, crisis work and advocacy for LGBTQ young people at risk in the Jewish community.

Join us for the upcoming JQY community discussion about this topic featuring conference attendees and leaders. Details will be posted on and our JQY Facebook Page.

Thank You,
The JQY Team