JQ International and the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles have announced they will be co-sponsoring the first Los Angeles LGBT & Ally Birthright Trip to Israel for Jewish LGBTs and their allies this May. The 10-day peer educational experience will be free for 40 participants, and individuals will have the option to extend their stay to attend Tel Aviv Pride at their own expense.
Sign-ups begin today, Feb. 13, and all spots are expected to be filled.
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Nearly 300,000 Jews age 18-26 years old from across the globe have visited Israel through international philanthropy-supported Taglit-Birthright Israel. This nonprofit organization’s mission is to motivate young adults to explore their Jewish identity through a first-hand peer educational experience of historic and contemporary Israel. Itineraries vary but all provide a broad overview of many sub-communities within Israel’s highly diversified internationally rooted population, including religious and secular Jews and Israeli Arabs.
The L.A. LGBT & Ally group will also have a first-hand experience of Israel’s wide spectrum of social community, sexual orientation, gender identity and religious affinity. While one third of the population of Tel Aviv, considered the “Gay Capital of the Middle East,” is openly LGBT, on the other hand, same-sex groups are rigidly managed at holy sites, such as praying at the Western Wall.
The unprecedented trip is a benchmark accomplishment of the work that JQ Founding Executive Director Asher Gellis and JQ Board Director Janelle Eagle, both veteran Birthright guides, have been doing for over three years to promote gender equity and deeper inclusion for LGBT Jews in the greater community. They will serve as the two American staff on the trip that leaves from LAX. It's important that trip staff are prepared to support individuals who may not comfortably fit into the ‘female / male’ gender boxes.
“Historically, Birthright itineraries completely exclude Israel’s LGBT culture, so closeted LGBT participants may leave Israel without ever being exposed to Israel’s vibrant and inclusive LGBT community,” according to Eagle, an entertainment industry professional. Israel's LGBT rights are considered to be the most developed in the Middle East and Asia. Such rights include the acceptance of same-sex couples adopting children, legislation that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and allows homosexuals to openly serve in the IDF or National Service.
Six to eight LGBT & Ally Israeli Jews, as well as local staff, will join the tour and share personal experiences of LGBT life in Israel. “They see just how different Americans and Israelis are, yet how beautifully we are connected via our Jewish identities. The exchange is impactful and lasting.” Eagle shared.
For more details or to sign up, visit absolutelyisrael.com/our-trips or facebook.com/LgbtAllyBirthrightTripSummer2013.