LGBT Mission to ‘Broaden The Tent’

In Israel, JFNA participants push hot-button marriage issues, stand with country’s gay community. A Wider Bridge is proud to be JFNA’s collaborative partner in developing the LGBT content for the trip.

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Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust memorial and museum, is a mandatory stop for every mission organized by the Jewish Federations of North America, but Nazi persecution of the Jews, not persecution of gays and lesbians, is the central focus of the center.

Yet this week — Tel Aviv Pride Week — at least three of the museum’s tours, two of them for members of JFNA’s second and largest LGBT mission, delved deeply into LGBT persecution.

JFNA’s first LGBT mission, which took place in 2005, was much more modest, organizers say.

During a tour of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem on Sunday, the mission’s 100 participants learned about the Nazis’ demonization of the Jews and the liquidation of Jewish ghettos, for example, but also that the Nazis sent nearly 50,000 gay men to regular prisons and up to 15,000 to concentration camps, where some were forced to undergo medical experimentation. They learned, too, that gay men (lesbians much less so) were persecuted not so much to keep the German race “pure” but to keep the race going. The Nazis assumed gay men did not have children.

Unlike the many other tour groups in the museum, the mission spent significant time exploring a small exhibit on Anna Trauman, who, in 1942, sent a letter to Stephanie, her lesbian partner, before taking her own life.

In that letter Trauman told Stephanie, “I am becoming drowsy and my pulse is fading away. I am happily falling into a slumber. My life, a beautiful one, is coming to an end. I feel no bitterness.”

Although the letter does not explicitly reveal the women’s relationship, Roi Hanani, the guide, said that when archivists read some of Trauman’s previous letters to Stephanie, “it was very obvious they were romantic partners.” The museum subsequently retranslated the letter’s text, replacing “Dear” to “Beloved.”

Continue reading in the New York Jewish Week