Friends of A Wider Bridge: Stephen Friedman

Friends of A Wider Bridge, is a special video series in which American LGBT people reflect on their connection to Israel. Stephen Friedman shares his coming out story and his fears of traveling to Israel for the first time as part of A Wider Bridge’s 2014 Israel Mission in October 2014.

Stephen Friedman, 29, home-staging and interior design business owner from Los Angeles joined A Wider Bridge Israel Mission in 2014, and shared his coming out story in a short video shot in Tel Aviv. “I came out when I was 21 years old, in a phone call to my mother and my sister,” Stephen shares,”they weren’t very accepting at first but over time they grew to understand and I think my mother realized she already knew, so it became very easy for her.”

Stephen still hasn’t come out to his father. “It’s something that we don’t discuss,” he says, “also, under the direction of my mother, it’s something that she prefers me not to have a conversation with my dad about at all. I guess that I’ve accepted that and move on, and live my life the way that I choose to live it.”

In the video Stephen also shares why he decided to go to Israel. “I heard about A Wider Bridge through my boyfriend, Adam, and also a friend of ours Asher Gellis who’s the director of Jewish Queer International. He explained to us what a great program A Wider Bridge is, and how it can bring us closer together and closer to Israel.”

“Adam, who’s Jewish – I don’t I identify as Jewish – explained his desire to have a Jewish household if we decided to continue our relationship and to raise a family. I decided to go on the trip because I really wanted to connect with Adam here in Israel. I think it’s very important to us to kind of understand our upbringing and the motivations behind the decisions we make in life, and how we will decide to raise a family, if we decide to do that.”

In the video Stephen also shares fears that many tourists have before going to Israel for the first time. “The media in the States influenced me so much as to install fear in me in taking this trip,” Friedman says, “and I feel really grateful that I was afforded this opportunity to really break out of my shell, to just become more of a man and outside my comfort zone. There were times when I even had nightmares, or, I was telling Adam that I’m changing my mind and I don’t wanna go, and I’m really grateful that it was just completely opposite of everything I thought it was going to be, and that’s something I can bring back with me to the States and express with all of my friends. It’s not what they say that it is. It’s not as dangerous as they say it is. It’s a beautiful, beautiful country, with beautiful people who’re just living their lives.”