By Jennifer Wilson
With a series of training events last week, Vancouver’s Jewish community and clergy took steps to actively learn about and embrace LGBTQ+ Jews.
Alycia Fridkin, a member of queer Jewish group Yad b’Yad, said the training is integral to a dynamic community by “shifting the gaze away from queer and trans people and turning it on to organizations themselves.”
The group was one of nine organizations that, in collaboration with the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, supported the training events created by Keshet, a national organization which educates to ensure the safety and celebration of LGBTQ+ individuals and families in Jewish communities.
The training concluded with a storytelling workshop, facilitated by Keshet’s Rabbi Becky Silverstein and Christina Ware.
One participant talked about coming out in their 70s, the subsequent loss of relationships at their synagogue and their disappointment that a majority of the events had been for leadership only.
Keshet also provided practical guides to welcoming Jewish LGBTQ+ people.
According to Fridkin, a trans friendly washroom sign, like those already in place at Or Shalom Synagogue, may seem like a small step to cisgender members, “but it does wonders to make people feel more welcome in our community.”
Kathleen Muir, youth services coordinator for the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver, said the youth leader seminar emphasized a need for advocacy, not just support.
“This is life or death,” Muir said. “Trans people are dying from not being included, [and] choosing pronouns is not just a luxury.”
Although these discussions are often viewed as 21st century issues, said Rabbi Laura Duhan Kaplan of the Vancouver School of Theology, the issues raised in Keshet training are not modern inventions. Key Jewish texts dating back 1,500 years document a long history of debating LGBTQ+ inclusion in Jewish communities.
“It’s something that our tradition has been working on for centuries,” Kaplan said.