This October, Cantor Juval Porat will join the staff of A Wider Bridge for the third consecutive year as clergy at the 2014 LGBTQ trip to Israel. According to Juval, the highlights of the trip are really different each year, but there’s always a lot of emotion.
“I recall a meeting with a representative of Aswat, an organization of Palestinian Gay Women, on my first trip,” Juval tells A Wider Bridge. “It was a meeting which triggered some very emotional responses from the participants on the trip. It wasn’t an easy meeting; yet dealing with some difficult issues in an environment that was safe and supportive made this experience just really rewarding and memorable. It’s something that I appreciate about both of the groups I’ve traveled with in previous years. Maybe it’s because all those who travel are part of the LGBTQ spectrum, that there’s a deep sense of empathy, openness and permissiveness among the group to allow each other to express who they are authentically.”
The thing Juval appreciates most about the Wider Bridge Israel Missions, is the combination of the site– seeing with the meetings and discussions with various Israeli LGBTQ groups. “There’s a mix that I really appreciate – of serious moments,” he says, “discussions with various representatives from Social Justice organizations, LGBT rights activists, Rabbis and tour-guides on the democratic nature of the state of Israel, the inevitable conversation about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, etc. and fun moments of meeting with LGBT movie-makers and musicians, going out, enjoying the food, the beach, the sites – it’s a lot to take in, but it’s truly an invigorating experience.”
“Some people who’ve traveled with me in the past I knew already, but I was lucky to get to know them much better during the trip. Some I only got to know through the trips. It’s really my job to try and connect the group to each other and to themselves by providing means besides a camera that can capture the moment or that can give some outlet to all the emotions that build up during those days of travelling through the country. I use music and meditations and sharing sessions to provide that outlet.”
What kind of people come to these trips?
“It’s a broad mix of people in terms of age, gender identity, political views and affiliation with Judaism. Watching the travelers bond with each other and form friendships as the trip progresses is a recurring process I love to watch and experience. Being together on the road for 10 days allows great opportunities for insights and growth and really getting to know all the participants.”
Besides serving as the Cantor of Congregation Beth Chayim Chadashim in Los Angeles, Juval has been working on his second album, which he hopes to release at the end of this year. “I’m more than halfway through and I look forward to be sharing some new music with the world,” he says.
Well… we can’t wait! See you soon in Israel!