Tel Aviv University has launched the course “Pride, Ostracism and Change: LGBT Life in the Past and Present,” allowing students to choose to become more familiar with the gay community and the LGBT struggle in Israel, and to volunteer in community organizations as part of the curriculum.
Members of the LGBT Fraternity
The new course is a joint initiative of the LGBT student fraternity and the department of community involvement at TAU. After supporting activities connected with scholarships for the leaders of the LGBT fraternity on campus in the last two years, it was decided to expand the cooperation to the academic level as well.
“This course is the only one I know of that speaks about the gay community in Israel,” says Erez Winer, co-director of the LGBT fraternity. “While there are other courses on queer theories as part of the humanities studies, and a slight mention of the community as part of sociology and anthropology studies, so far there hasn’t been a course dealing with the community itself. It is also not surprising that this initiative grows out of the program of the social involvement department.”
The course, which will be taught by Dr. Ofer Nordheim Nur, a recognized researcher and historian at TAU, will deal with understanding the life of LGBT people as a distinct group from a historical standpoint. The LGBT community made its way from a criminal, contemptible, religiously and socially ostracised community, into a distinct political identity, winning recognition and respect for political rights secured by the law. This development has changed the nature of LGBT life for better and for worse. The course is about familiarity with the gay community in the first few decades of Israel as part of Western World history, and a deeper understanding of the current state of the community and its struggles for recognition, respect and equality. Students will deepen their acquaintance with LGBT life of the past and this will deepen the understanding of their rights and responsibilities in society today.
As part of the practical component of the course, students choose to volunteer in a variety of activities and organizations. The term paper will include a documentation of a subject related to the volunteering ,in addition to a description of the personal experiences of volunteering.
“What is special about this course is that it will be shorter than usual (8 sessions instead of 13) and as part of it, students volunteer for 25 hours at an LGBT community,” explains Wiener. “The volunteering options are with the fraternity, with The Aguda, or with Beit Dror. There’s also an option to help with a unique history project. Although it’s only three organizations, the options are rather broad : students can volunteer in creating a digital campaign as part of the Digital Department of the Aguda, working with youth as part of Beit Dror, conducting climate research as part of the fraternity, or helping in the Legal Department of The Aguda, plus many more options.”
At the LGBT student fraternity there’s hope that the course will help expand and strengthen activities in the various LGBT organizations, as well as creating new voluntary frameworks. “There are students who would be really excited about the possibility to enter the world of volunteering through the university,” says Wiener. “Many students are simply not aware of the volunteering options, and when Tel Aviv University makes room for such activism, it contributes a very strong tailwind.”