Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2019-03-13
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



Aguda, A Wider Bridge discuss U.S., Israeli LGBT communities
by Gretchen Rachel Hammond

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Representatives of the forty-year-old Israeli national LGBT taskforce the Aguda returned to Chicago in February alongside leaders of A Wider Bridge—a U.S.-based organization with the mission of creating understanding, connections, education and experience between Israelis and LGBTQ communities and their allies across the United States.

At a Feb. 13 roundtable discussion and breakfast held at the Chicago offices of the Consulate General of Israel to the Midwest, consulate staff welcomed A Wider Bridge Founder/Executive Director Arthur Slepian alongside his director of programs and development, Tyler Gregory, and Aguda Co-Chair Chen Arieli, who discussed their work with a cross-section of Jewish and LGBT community leaders including representatives from the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, Temple Sholom, Northwestern University and the Bungalow Group.

"When the Aguda was established it was illegal to be gay in Israel," Arieli said. "A lot has changed in forty years. We are looking forward to tolerance and acceptance of the LGBTQ community in Israel."

She added that the principal fight of the organization is one of recognition. "Every single right that I have as a Jewish lesbian woman I got by the Supreme Court or through personal fights," she said. "For the next 40 years, the Aguda [will fight] to establish once and for all for LGBT rights to be written in the [Israel] Book of Laws."

The organization's activities have been centered around each of the many issues facing the Israeli LGBTQ community even after the 1988 repeal of anti-homosexuality laws inherited from the British legal system when the country was founded forty years earlier.

The Hoshen ( Education and Change ) organization was initially started as a small group inside of The Aguda through which LGBT individuals travelled to Israel's schools to tell personal stories in order to combat pervasive stereotypes about the community. Now it has taken on a life of its own, growing exponentially with each year.

"We want to encourage entrepreneurs inside the community and to help them stand on their own two feet," Arieli said. "We have an LGBTQ youth organization called IGY [Israel Gay Youth] that have 80 groups around Israel and the Gila Project promotes transgender rights [and empowerment]—all these activities happen under the Aguda roof. Now we are going to concentrate on advocacy and lobbying for our needs and rights at the Knesset [Israeli legislature]. A year ago we established an LGBT community lobby group who meet with Knesset members and ministers demanding our rights and suggesting partnership in writing and promoting those bills."

To help explain the kind of challenges LGBT people in Israel face, Arieli told the story of a gay couple who had married abroad and were seeking a divorce. "There is no civil marriage," she said. "If you want to get divorced you have to go through the Rabbinical system. So we have zero gay marriage and one gay divorce. We have to fight to separate state from religion. It's not just an LGBTQ fight, it a human rights fight. We should be granted the choice to live [a good] life. My belief is that as a minority fighting for our civil rights we have the responsibility to fight for other minorities as well."

For five years, A Wider Bridge which is now based in both San Francisco and New York has been engaged in its own fight to change perceptions—ironically those held by members of the LGBTQ community in the United States towards the policies of Israel itself. "It started with three observations about the LGBT and Jewish worlds that I was a part of," Slepian recalled. "One was that in the LGBT communities that I knew about Israel was a topic that we either didn't talk about or that we just argued about. The second was that in the broader LGBT world it had become almost a badge of honor to [believe] Israel is a pariah state. The third was that going to Israel I met people and communities of activists and artists doing amazing work. I thought 'why aren't we collaborating more?'"

A Wider Bridge has since engaged itself in a kind of cross-cultural exchange. "Every year we bring 20 or 25 [LGBT] people from the US to Israel," Slepian said. "We also bring people to the U.S. to speak and talk about their work whether they're LGBT activists, filmmakers or artists representing the community who can help people here with an understanding of what life is like in Israel."

On June 9, A Wider Bridge and the Aguda will host a conference for LGBTQ leaders from nations spanning the globe. The event will mark the Aguda's 40th anniversary and culminate in Israel's Pride celebrations.

There is no doubt that A Wider Bridge faces challenges in terms of smoothing the waters between U.S. LGBTQ communities and their concerns about Israel's foreign and domestic policies. In a 2011 New York Times Op Ed author and activist Sarah Schulman used the term "pinkwashing" to describe what she called "a deliberate strategy to conceal the continuing violations of Palestinians' human rights behind an image of modernity signified by Israeli gay life."

Windy City Times asked Arieli about her thoughts regarding the accusations leveled by the LGBT community against the policies of her country. "I'm a woman, I'm a lesbian, I'm Jewish, I'm white and I'm Israeli," Arieli said. "I have criticisms about my government and I am taking action to try to change it. I am not pinkwashing anything. My visit is not funded by the government. No one is telling me what to or what not to say and I will give my opinion at every opportunity I have."

Arieli added that her work both in the Aguda and her personal political endeavors are one and the same. "I am working towards bringing peace and equality for all," she said. "Israel must proceed with the peace process [with the Palestinians] because every human being is entitled to prosperity in the essentials of economics, health and education. The government are responsible for instigating those basic things if you are gay or if you are Palestinian. My personal belief is that the LGBTQ fight [in Israel] is a left-wing fight. We need to bring everyone together even if our political views are different."

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

ELECTIONS 2019 Queer Black activists confront Lightfoot 2019-03-23 - A press release from an organization called #StopLightfoot stated that young Black queer people were slated to confront Chicago mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot ...

Gay News

75th U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus to Speak atvLGBTQ Military Event 2019-03-21 - WASHINGTON — Today, the American Military Partner Association ( AMPA ) — the nation's largest organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer ...

Gay News

NATIONAL Couples' eviction, Pete Buttigieg, Cory Booker, dancer sentenced 2019-03-20 - A lesbian couple filed a complaint against the transitional housing facility they once called home after they were forced out, LGBTQ Nation reported. ...

Gay News

WORLD Irish PM, landmark Canadian ruling, Brazilian murder suspects 2019-03-20 - The openly gay prime minister of Ireland had breakfast with Mike Pence—and he made some pointed comments about accepting others, LGBTQ Nation reported. ...

Gay News

Supreme Ct. rejects anti-gay B&B's appeal 2019-03-19 - On March 18, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of Phyllis Young—who runs the three-room Aloha Bed & Breakfast in ...

Gay News

Anti-gay fliers criticizing Lightfoot distributed near churches 2019-03-18 - Fliers decrying lesbian mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot appeared at a number of churches with predominantly Black congregations the morning of Feb. 17. The ...

Gay News

Homophobic attack targets Lori Lightfoot in Chicago mayoral race 2019-03-17 - Washington, DC — Homophobic fliers targeting openly lesbian Chicago mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot were distributed on cars in key neighborhoods of the city ...

Gay News

PASSAGES Former U.S. Sen. Birch Bayh dies at 91 2019-03-14 - Former U.S. Sen. Birch Bayh ( D-Indiana )—a champion of women's rights and author of two amendments to the U.S. Constitution—died March 14 ...

Gay News

Equality Act introduced in U.S. Congress 2019-03-13 - On March 13, Democrats reintroduced the pro-LGBT measure known as the Equality Act in the U.S. House, The Washington Blade reported. Rep. David ...

Gay News

LGBTQ inclusive curriculum bill passes Illinois House 2019-03-13 - SPRINGFIELD — Students in Illinois public schools would learn about the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in Illinois and U.S. ...


Copyright © 2019 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.








About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.