Twin Cities’ independent Jewish news website “TC Jewfolk” talked with Laurie Grauer, A Wider Bridge’s Midwest Manager of Programs and Operations, about her reactions to Creating Change’s protest and how staying engaged in current events can help the Jewish and Zionist people foster a strong community.
Chicago’s annual Creating Change Conference for LGBTQ activism turned sour last week after pro-Palestinian protesters shot down pro-Israel LGBTQ rights groups, A Wider Bridge and Jerusalem Open House, before and during the event.
This Saturday, Feb. 6, Temple of Aaron will host Laurie Grauer, A Wider Bridge’s Midwest Manager of Programs and Operations. She will speak during services and stay for Kiddush lunch questions and discussion.
How long have you been involved with work in the LGBTQ Jewish community?
Recognizing not all LGBTQ Jews wanted to find their community in a synagogue, I co-founded and became the Executive Director of Gesher Chicago. For five years we hosted potlucks, social outings and partnered with other Jewish organizations as a way to further LGBTQ inclusion in local, communal life. In doing this work, I first partnered with A Wider Bridge at the beginning of 2015. Upon learning more about their mission to offer opportunities for people to experience Israel first hand, I joined their 2015 Mission Trip to Israel and 40 years of Pride Celebration and Leadership conference in Tel Aviv. They brought me on as their Midwest Manager and integrated the work of Gesher into A Wider Bridge Chicago.
What was your initial reaction to hearing about the events in Chicago?
As A Wider Bridge’s local staffer and a volunteer on the Host Committee of the Conference, I was responsible for organizing both the LGBT Israel reception and the Shabbat service that preceded it. Though we had heard from various sources that there was to be a protest, we had no idea what it would look like. We clearly communicated to our attendees and volunteers not to engage with protestors, and to move from the service, located in the lobby, to the reception hall located on the third floor as quickly and peacefully as possible.