By Sergio Carmona
The Orloff Central Agency for Jewish Education of Broward County has partnered with Keshet, a national organization committed to inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Jews, for a year-long project.
This project, called “Orloff Central Agency for Jewish Education – Keshet Leadership Project: Opening Community Doors for LGBTQ Jews,” is designed to help Jewish institutions throughout Broward County become more successful in engaging LGBTQ Jews in Jewish living and learning. It recently began with a full-day training workshop in which 11 local Jewish organizationsparticipated.
“Orloff CAJE is committed to increasing engagement in Jewish learning and living,” said Arnold D. Samlan, Orloff CAJE’s executive director. “The 11 organizations participating in this initiative have committed to concerted efforts to bring LGBTQ members of our community into synagogue and communitylife.”
Each participating organization sent a team of two to four senior leaders to learn about LGBTQ inclusion and to develop an action plan that they will implement in their communities during the year.
Rabbi Bennett Greenspon of Temple Beth Emet in Cooper City, one of the participating organizations, said about the workshop, “We go to a lot of events, and this one was well- done and very informative. It opened our eyes to a whole new world.”
Other participating organizations are: Jewish Federation of Broward County; Ramat Shalom in Plantation; Temple Solel in Hollywood; Temple Dor Dorim in Weston; the David Posnack Jewish Community Center in Davie; Temple Sinai of Hollywood; Goodman Jewish Family Services in Plantation; Orloff CAJE; The Tribe, a South Florida organization geared towards young Jews; and Temple Beth Orr in CoralSprings.
Samlan said that all the participating organizations are receiving coaching from consultants, mostly by phone and some face to face.
Samlan said, regarding the goal for this project, “The goal is to make the Jewish community at its institutions a more welcoming space for Jews of all backgrounds, including LGBTQ Jews which comprise of at least 11 percent of the Broward Jewish community.”
Daniel Bahner, Keshet’s national director of education and training, said, “I would say we work to make organizations more culturally competent around LGBTQ identity and experience but ultimately work to give them the tools to create communities inclusive of LGBTQ individuals and their experiences, rather than compliant. We talk to organizations and communities about looking at their programming, policy, and institutional culture to become more LGBTQ inclusive.
For example, for programming, do they have a gender and sexuality alliance for your youth? Do they participate in local pride celebrations? Do their Jewish holidays andrituals include LGBTQ perspectives or symbols? When addressing policy, do institutions explicitly name sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression in their non- discrimination, harassment, employment, and accommodation policies? Do their marketing and outreach materials include visible images of LGBTQ inclusion? Are their safe zone stickers up in buildings? LGBTQ books in resource libraries? Those are some of the types of strategies we work with institutions onadopting.”
Bahner continued, “I think the Jewish community at large is working to become more LGBTQ inclusive. Look at the URJ, USCJ, JCC Association, National Youth Movements, and day schools to name a few examples.”
Mark Kravitz, chair for Orloff CAJE-Keshet Leadership Project: Opening Community Doors for LGBTQ Jews, noted, “Our LGBTQ community represents 400,000 Jews in the United States alone.
At a time when most Jewish communal organizations are desperately trying to fight assimilation and the decline of the Jewish population, we have the opportunity to reclaim a committed, loving Jewish population within our midst and in the process help heal the tragic, unnecessary wounds within countless families.”
The project has received support from the Jim Joseph Foundation, the Jewish Federation of Broward County, the Community Foundation of Broward Funds, the Jack and Ginger Weinbaum Fund, Huizenga Family Unrestricted Fund, Mary N. Porter Community Impact Fund and the Gay and Lesbian Broward Community Fund.
Contact Orloff CAJE at 954- 660-2070 for more information on the project.