Members of the organization Israeli Gay Youth ( IGY ) spoke at Anshe Emet Synagogue Dec. 15 about life for LGBT young people in Israel.
IGY operates about 40 social and support groups in 20 communities throughout Israel. Formed about 13 years ago, it engages its members and the larger community in numerous ways, according to Creative Director and International Relations Coordinator Zachary Cohen. Among its activities are lobbying, and operating both a center for research and numerous drop-in centers.
He added that the group has an extensive online presence where LGBT youth can find one another. "it's a forum where people can open the closet and bring thousands of people with them," Cohen said.
While Israel stokes a reputation as being the most LGBT-friendly nation in its part of the world, LGBT Israelis can endure their own share of hardship. Cohen noted, "If you are white, wealthy and Jewish in Tel Aviv, you're fine, but there are some segments in our community that are really struggling."
Incidents of anti-gay violence have occurred as well. Cohen was standing just feet away from the July, 2015, stabbings at the Jerusalem Pride Parade that left one dead and five others injured. "When this happened, there were young people in the red IGY shirts running around hysterically," he recalled. He noted that, after that incident, numerous young people reached out to the organization.
Moran Dankner, an IGY group leader, said, "We are really trying to teach the kids a lot about solidarity, and understanding each otherto have more power and fight in a better way."
She added, "What I really like about a drop in center is that you never know what's going to happen. You never know who's going to come. ... I find myself learning more than I'm giving."
Cohen and Dankner's talk was introduced by Rabbi D'Ror Chankin-Gould of Anshe Emet Synagogue and Laurie Grauer, Midwest manager of programs and operations for the organization A Wider Bridge.