From Community Building and Support to Speaker Training to Mobilizing Allies
Sign up to join OAR – and we’ll connect you to other allies so that you are not alone. Together we will help our communities become more inclusive. This short questionnaire will take less than five minutes.
Eshel’s first efforts were to gather and support LGBT Orthodox Jews and to support people to remain religiously connected and observant. We run retreats that bring hundreds of Orthodox LGBT Jews from all over North America and beyond for a weekend that comforted them, inspired them and gave them hope.
In raising the self confidence of gay Orthodox Jews, we discovered that while many had incredibly moving and often painful stories to share, they had no idea how to tell their story in a way that would move the hearts and minds of other Orthodox Jews. We understood that our stories are the most potent way to grow tolerance and understanding in our community. We then began to offer training based upon Marshall Ganz’s public narrative work. In our second iteration of this training three parents of LGBT children asked to participate.
The experience lead directly to a ground-breaking retreat for parents sponsored by a mother and father who wish to remain anonymous. The parent’s retreat, the first of its kind ever, was, according to the forty attendees, nothing short of transformational. Several parents have written powerful essays and a third gave a two hour shabbat afternoon presentation to his synagogue on Homosexuality and Judaism which in turn has lead to the formation of a cadre of members in the shul who want to urge the rabbi to do more.
It has become clear over the last decade that much of the success of various LGBT inclusion initiatives derived from the fact that we were no longer alone. Our parents, sisters and brothers, cousins, uncles and aunts, friends and colleagues were standing up for with us and for us, speaking out and marching and often leading the those very efforts. A similar power of allies is growing now in the Orthodox world, but it is still a sleeping giant. In the Orthodox community, parents, siblings, other family members, friends and general allies of LGBT people are a vital, and largely untapped, power in shifting attitudes and policies.
The Power of Allies
The Marriage Equality Movement was initiated by gay people but it was made successful by allies of all kinds. Whatever the number of LGBT persons is, the number of our allies is five to ten times larger. Bringing the force of family relationships and committed friends into the fray is especially key in traditional communities.
Eshel has an Orthodox allies project, the Orthodox Allies Roundtable (OAR), designed to bring allies out into the open, to ask them to be counted and to encourage them to join together in an effort to organize their voices into a force for pragmatic change.
In light of this realization, we are shaping a community organizing project called OAR (Orthodox Allies Roundtable) to engage those who self define as allies, find out what motivates them, where they live and work and significantly, who they know in the Orthodox world who is a decision maker or who may have influence on decision makers. We will facilitate allies locally, connect them to each other to determine what their shared values, aims, abilities and connections are and to determine what they collectively and separately can do to make a difference in LGBT inclusion. We will also offer them a range of actions to consider, among which will be public writing efforts, education efforts such as bringing Eshel speakers to their local Orthodox synagogue or JCC, and direct one on one conversations to move the community incrementally toward meaningful pragmatic policy change.
While lay folks in traditional communities do not and should not tell their rabbis how to determine halakhic norms, they do feel that it is legitimate for them to share their concerns for people. Family and friends can let leadership know that the well being of gay people matters to them. And they can urge their rabbis, educators, and lay leaders to choose pragmatic policies that are fully responsible to the LGBT people in their institutions.
Please join us by signing up to join OAR!