What a difference a year makes. One year after the ugly protest in Chicago that shut down our reception at Creating Change, A Wider Bridge returned to the conference, this year in Philadelphia, to educate LGBTQ leaders about our work.
On Friday, January 20, AWB held a well-attended lunch forum at a venue not far from the Conference location. (Action Wellness, the LGBTQIA nonprofit organization committed to helping people living with chronic diseases in the Greater Philadelphia area.) The event was successful, with a robust discussion and strong turnout, thanks to the support of Philadelphia LGBTQ leaders Malcolm Lazin, ED of the Equality Forum; Nurit Shein, ED of the Mazzoni Center; and her partner Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell.
Deputy Director Tyler Gregory and Northeast Manager Quentin Hill shared the Mission of AWB – to advance “Equality in Israel, and Equality for Israel,” and told the story of the Israeli LGBTQ community’s decades of advancements and ongoing challenges. In light of last year’s controversy, AWB staff also conducted an open dialogue about the distorted charge that our work engages in “pinkwashing,” the unfounded accusation that any discussion of or focus on Israel’s LGBTQ experience is just a cover up or distraction from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Four alumni from the AWB November 2016 Mission to Israel gave moving personal accounts of their recent visits to Israel – Kim Hunt, Chicago, Director of Pride Action Tank; Aaron Tax, Washington DC, Legislative Director of SAGE; Lynare Robbins, Miami, LGBTQ activist and journalist; and Hannah Simpson, New York City, trans activist and journalist.
Watch Kim’s moving speech about her experiences in Israel:
A Wider Bridge staff, mission alumni, and lay leaders also attended the Conference’s sessions and plenaries, contributing to conversations from our experience working with the Israeli LGBTQ community. While anti-Zionism remains a prevalent topic throughout the conference, more allies and supporters of A Wider Bridge were present and active this year in providing an alternative to the black-and-white depictions provided by BDS activists.
We look forward to building relationships with many of the LGBTQ and allied activists we met with at this year’s conference, and will continue to provide a pro-Israel perspective to LGBTQ spaces, including the Creating Change conference.