Federation LGBTQ program provides ‘Pathways’ to leadership

Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund started the LGBTQ Pathways to Leadership Program, in order to see more LGBTQ Jews getting involved in leadership positions in Bay Area organizations

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First Pathways to Leadership Program cohort in 2013 photo/courtesy s.f.-based jcf

Bay Area social worker Dara Papo had long felt strongly connected to her political and civic work as an out lesbian in the LGBTQ community.

Yet when many in her LGBTQ circles learned she was Jewish, conversations often turned “awkward and uncomfortable,” she said, because friends and associates would want to talk about Israel. They assumed that she, as a progressive individual, fell into the anti-Israel camp, aligning herself with the notion that “Israel is bad.”

But they were wrong. Papo supports Israel, and though her feelings are often nuanced, she rejects the “Israel is bad” position as too black-and-white.

These episodes left Papo feeling alienated and disconnected and reinforced in her a sense that she needed to find ways to bridge her LGBTQ and Jewish identities, because she was beginning to experience a fissure between the two. Several years ago, when she turned 40, she had an opportunity to do so.

That’s when the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund started the LGBTQ Pathways to Leadership Program.
It would bring together Papo and other early- to mid-career LGBTQ Jews who wanted to serve their various communities through a lens filtered and informed by both Jewish tradition and queer sensibility.

Meanwhile, the program wanted to see more LGBTQ Jews getting involved in leadership positions in Bay Area organizations. “Not only in Federation,” said Arthur Slepian, a mover and shaker in the LGBTQ Jewish community and one of the program’s organizers, “but across the whole spectrum of Jewish organizations.”

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