Five Facts About Israeli Pride

by | Jun 18, 2018 | Entertainment, Facts, Fun, Hillel Ontario, LGBTQ+ | 0 comments

1. Israel was the first country in Asia to recognize any same-sex union, and still is in the Middle East, where most countries continue to criminalize same-sex relationships. This may explain why one of Tel Aviv’s many nicknames is “The Gay Capital in the Middle East.” Currently, Israel still does not allow gay marriage, but couples who get married outside of Israel are considered married in Israel, regardless of their sexual orientation. And hopefully Israel will soon be among the many countries who can proudly say that they allow same-sex marriages.

2. Tel Aviv was ranked the best gay city
In 2011, gaycities.com in collaboration with American Airlines put out a worldwide survey to find out what their users consider the World’s Best Gay Travel Destination. With 43% of the votes, Tel Aviv ended up in first place, followed by New York (14%), Toronto (7%), Sao Paulo (6%), and London and Madrid (5%). (https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/travel/1.5163176)

3. LGBTQ in the Knesset
Throughout the spectrum of Israeli parties you can find gay members and supporters of the LGBTQ movement. The first openly gay member of the Knesset was Uzi Even, who is a member of Meretz, a left-wing, social-democratic party and was elected in 2002. Since then, three other openly gay politicians were voted into the Knesset, and more than 11 parties and members of the Knesset have pledged to support the LGBTQ community. On February 23, 2016, the Knesset celebrated the first LGBT rights day.

4. More than 250,000 people participated in the Pride Parade this year, which marked the 20th annual Pride Parade in Tel Aviv. Out of the 250,000 participants, 30,000 travelled to Tel Aviv specifically to celebrate their pride. If you compare these numbers to previous years, you will see how much the LGBTQ community in Tel Aviv has grown. Last year 200,000 people marched alongside many colorful floats in one of the largest parades of its kind worldwide. In 2014, 100,000 people joined the march. This means that the parade has grown by 150% over the past five years.

5. The Israeli Army does not discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In 2014 the first global index, ranking armies on their inclusion of the LGBTQ community, was published. According to the report, the Israeli Defense Force made it into the top ten of more than 100 countries. Factors playing into the final results included anti-discrimination policies regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, army representation at LGBTQ events, recognition of gay marriage, and many more. Countries could receive a maximum of 100 points. With 92 points, Israel closely followed Canada (94 points) and far exceeded the US(73).

 

Jews of India

Jews of India

On January 28th, I was proud to host a panel discussion on the history and culture of the Jewish communities of India with 40 guests and about 80 listeners. I was inspired to put the program together by the thoughtful Sephardi, Mizrahi, Ethiopian, Bukhari and yes, Indian Jews on social media who advocate for their community’s representation within large Jewish institutions. 

For most of my life, ‘Jewish cultural programming’ has been synonymous with either Ashkenazi or Israeli culture, to the detriment of my understanding of our people’s beautiful diversity. Working at the University of Toronto Multi-Faith Centre, I realized I could use the platform I was responsible for to uplift these lesser-heard Jewish voices. I settled on Indian Jewry, as opposed to Ethiopian or Bukhari or Kai Feng Jews, out of interest in the origin story of their people: a ship fleeing war in Judea wrecks off the coast of Mumbai, where a dozen survivors reconstitute their culture in a strange land, isolated from world Jewry for hundreds of years.

We had four speakers. Dr Shalva Weil, a professor at Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Ann Samson, a historian and leader of Toronto’s Indian-Jewish synagogue; Judith Dworkin, an Indian Jewish educator raised in Toronto’s Indian-Jewish community and Director of McMaster Hillel; and Anna Rajagopal, a young Indian Jewish writer and activist from the United States, who is a prominent social media personality for Jews of Colour. 

The program was phenomenal. We had nearly 100 guests, and many questions for our speakers. All of the speakers enjoyed their time and are eager to come back for any future programs. It was equal parts fascinating and touching to hear these four people describe their relationships with ashkenormativity, diaspora, and most importantly, their own culture.

Jacob Kates Rose, Hillel UofT

A Hillel Staff’s Perspective

A Hillel Staff’s Perspective

Students have had a very different academic year. One that they have never experienced before. There has been isolation, lack of extracurricular activities and little to no in-person contact. In a recent McMaster Hillel student executive meeting on zoom, I said “we are in the business of community so we need to think creatively about what it feels like to be part of this community. ” How does one do this in a pandemic, when campus is closed and when we don’t see each other at all? How do we know how each of us are doing? Are we alone? Are we lonely? Are we coping? Do we bring our best selves to a Zoom and then grapple alone with our worries? These are the questions that I struggle with when trying to support a community despite the challenges that exist for us. 

From the beginning, Hillel pulled out all the pandemic stops to connect with students. Shabbat in a box and delivered to you? Yes! Zoom games night? Yes! Mental health and wellness box? Sign up here! We have you covered. These programs and services were created to keep our community together while at our own homes. We are able to connect through a screen and eat dinner, not together, but knowing that there were over 70 students enjoying the same meal in the comfort of their own homes as well. And we connected face to face over Zoom before and after, while enjoying our rugelach, of course!

All of these programs are great, but the individual connections are even more paramount. A text to a student to check in, a happy birthday wish on their special day or an unfortunate condolence call for those who have lost loved ones. For me, it’s putting in the extra effort to make a student feel special and finding ways to do this. Does the student have dietary needs that we can fulfill and can we make this student feel seen in making a special box for them? Did a student forget to sign up for Shabbat but do we have an extra meal for them anyway? Can we put an extra dessert in a bag, just because we know that student had a tough week? Even though we are in Hamilton, can we make an extra effort so our Toronto or out-of-province students also feel a part of our community and send them mailings and deliveries so that they feel part of our programming? Having inclusive programming is a cornerstone of Hillel’s mandate. In a pandemic, even more so. 

I miss seeing the students. I miss hanging out in the Hillel office and chatting over a bagel and cracking jokes over the lineup at the toaster. I miss bumping into students on campus, catching up on their lives, and being part of a place where they come for comfort and support (and food!).    With all the programming and outreach we have done in the past 10 months, I hope that we can continue to maintain our virtual community. That even though we are not in person, our students know we are still here for them. While the medium may have changed, the sentiment certainly has not.

 

 

 

 


Judith Dworkin,
Director, McMaster Hillel

X