Task Force cancels Israel-focused event

The National LGBTQ Task Force has cancelled a Jan. 22 event planned by A Wider Bridge (AWB)—a San Francisco-based organization that fosters relations between Israel and the LGBT community—during the 2016 Creating Change conference.

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The cancellation came following objections from online and local activists who maintain that AWB is emblematic of “pinkwashing,” a public relations strategy whereby, in this case, Israel’s record on LGBT rights is used to fend off negative perceptions arising from its treatment of the Palestinians.

The event in question is a discussion with officials from the Jerusalem Open House community center in Israel. AWB has moved that discussion to the Renaissance Blackstone Chicago Hotel, 636 S. Michigan Ave., so it will no longer be taking place under the auspices of the Creating Change conference. A Shabbat service preceding the talk will still take place at the Chicago Hilton, 720 S. Michigan Ave., as originally planned, at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 22.

Task Force Deputy Executive Director Russell Roybal, in a Jan. 17 statement to Windy City Times, said, “We cancelled the event as we were concerned about the possibility of this reception becoming intensely divisive rather than a casual and fun social event.”

“The actions taken by the Task Force completely surprised me,” said Laurie Grauer, AWB Midwest manager of programs and operations. “I spoke with the organizers in the fall and A Wider Bridge submitted a program description which laid out the format and purpose of our gathering. Both times, our proposal was approved.

“They understood that this would be an opportunity for LGBTQ Jews and allies to gather in Chicago, meet one another, and learn more about the work that Jerusalem Open House does on behalf the members of Jerusalem’s LGBTQ community—no matter their color, creed, religion, or nationality. Over the last few days, I was informed by the organizers that there may be vocal opposition to our reception. However, I was assured, that just as those who would raise their voices in anger would have a place at the conference, so would we. I am disappointed by the actions taken by the Task Force.”

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