The World Congress of LGBT Jews featured an interview of Alain Levy, president of Beit Haverim, the French Jewish LGBT group.
World Congress: Hi Alain, it’s nice to begin our world tour with you. Could you introduce Beit Haverim to our audience? What is the history of the association? Its mission?
Alain Levy: Hi, i’m glad and grateful to have the opportunity to introduce our organization to the sympathizers of the World Congress.
Beit Haverim has a long history, as it’s one of the oldest LGBT associations in France. It was created in 1977 at a time when homosexuality was still a taboo in the Jewish community and among the general public. At that time, many LGBT Jews were or felt excluded from their family or from their community and Beit Haverim was a shelter for them.
From that time and up to now, the mission of Beit Haverim is to defend the rights of LGBT Jews within the French Jewish community and beyond. We also participate actively in the fight against anti-Semitism.
Alain, you told me and I know myself how rich the activities of the Beit Haverim are: Shabbat dinners, social meetings, tea dances, conferences, trips to Israel, etc. Could you tell us about an activity or a moment you are particularly proud of?
Alain Levy: Well, I’m lucky as there are a lot of moments that make me proud of Beit Haverim. If I had to choose one, it would be the event we organized just a few weeks after the terrorist attack in Paris against the French newspaper “Charlie Hebdo.” More than 100 LGBT Jews, Muslims, Catholics, and Protestants attended the shabbat dinner we organized in a Parisian synagogue. It was moving to see such fraternity after this devastating drama.
You have been president of Beit Haverim for two years; did you observe some new trends during your mandate within the association?
Alain Levy: Well, I would say the profile of our members has changed slightly and the association is adapting to these changes. In the beginning, most of our sympathizers were not religious, many of them were atheists. In the past few years, we noticed that the degree of religiosity of our members rose significantly. We also notice this trend in the Jewish community at large. As there is a rising demand, we began two years ago to organize shabbat services as well as Jewish thought workshops. It’s a very new trend for Beit Haverim, which had no religious activities before.
The American Jewish community as well as many other Jewish communities around the world tend to worry about the rise in anti-Semitism in France. Is it difficult to be a Jew in France in 2015? A gay Jew?
Alain Levy: Well, I’m not sure there are a lot of places where it’s easy to be Jewish. Anti-Semitism exists everywhere. I think the French government has taken measures to fight this phenomenon. It’s true that some Jews feel uncomfortable and that some have the temptation to leave. But, it’s not so difficult to be a Jew in France, we just have to be cautious.
The World Congress wants to promote networking between its members globally. Do you have a suggestion to strengthen the links between our different members? and with Beit Haverim specifically?
Alain Levy: Well, in order to strengthen our relationship with the World Congress, we would be very happy to hold an event in Paris and to welcome you at an individual or collective level. We also would like the World Congress to increase its presence in Europe. As a French association, we learned a lot of good practices from our American counterparts, but there are some specificities in Europe we would like to share with you.
For further information about Beit Haverim, you can follow the association on facebook at Beit Haverim.
You can also join Alain on his personal facebook: President Beit Haverim