Arthur Slepian: “Dare to dream”

Author: Jewcer
Source: Jewcer
Published: March 20, 2014

Jewcer, a website that supports Jewish initiatives, has featured a Spotlight Interview with A Wider Bridge’s Executive Director Arthur Slepian. Arthur talks about what inspires him, what challenges he faced as a Jewish innovator, and recommends an aspiring Jewish innovators read

Arthur-Slepian-500-400x400A Wider Bridge is a pro-Israel organization that works to build bridges between Israelis and LGBTQ North Americans and allies. We began in San Francisco four years ago, have staff now also in Los Angeles and New York City, and we partner with other organizations to bring our programs to cities and campuses across the country. We bring LGBTQ leaders, artists and activists from Israel to the U.S. to tell their stories and share their work. We lead an annual LGBTQ trip to Israel that introduces our participants to the history, beauty and complexity of Israel, provides opportunities for engagement and connection with Israel’s diverse LGBTQ communities, and builds lasting community among our participants. And our very popular website, awiderbridge.com, is an online magazine that explores the intersection of Jewish and LGBTQ life in Israel, North America, and around the world.

A Wider Bridge is helping LGBTQ Jews and allies to reclaim Israel as their homeland too, to see that there is a place for us in the Jewish peoplehood, and that we all have a stake in Israel’s future. We find that a common theme in the stories of LGBTQ Jews is a desire for wholeness, the chance to be all that we are, Jewish and queer together, with pride in all of our identities. There is great joy in the discovery that a taste of this wholeness can be experienced in Israel, our Jewish homeland. And by creating opportunities for Israeli and North American LGBTQ Jews to learn from each other and collaborate, we are enabling both communities to better advance their goals. We are building a bridge between two remarkable communities that have so much to offer each other.

How did you come up with your initiative?

Five years ago, as I considered my own experience in the Jewish world relative to Israel, I was struck by (and saddened by) the feeling that Israel had been reduced to something that we only argued about… or worse, something we didn’t talk about at all. Israel felt too important to Jewish life, too central to Jewish peoplehood, to be boiled down to an argument, or forgotten about all together.

I began to feel that something more fundamental was needed, more foundational. I wanted to offer people something different, not an argument, but a relationship, a chance to engage with real Israelis, to see the human face of Israel, a chance to care, a chance, really, to fall in love with Israel. I sensed that this is what many other LGBTQ Jews and allies around the country wanted as well. And I also saw an enormous missed opportunity. Because in Israel there is this amazing and vibrant LGBT community that is transforming the country. It is a community that has made more progress over the past 25 years than just about any other LGBTQ community in the world. And it is a community whose stories and challenges need to be told, and deserve to be told, here in the U.S. There are too few LGBTQ Jews in the world that we can afford to have those in Israel and North America cut off from each other.

What was the biggest challenge you faced as a Jewish Innovator?

Most funders and donors rightfully want to see evidence of success and staying power in the organizations they fund, and very few want to be an organization’s first funder. So the challenge is finding ways to demonstrate results early on with limited resources, and to have the fortitude to stick with it. I learned that one needs more than a good idea, that you really need to be able to demonstrate the kind of change that can your idea can bring about, and I learned a great deal of patience.
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