Jake Velleman, director of outreach for Milwaukee Jewish Federation and manager of J-Pride Milwaukee, attended a Chicago LBGTQ conference in January and says that the biggest trauma for him was the fact that the protest against A Wider Bridge’s event happened in what was supposed to be his community- LGBT people.
Much has been written about recent events that took place at this year’s Creating Change conference, the National LGBTQ Task Force’s annual confab and the nation’s largest gathering of LGBTQ activists, allies and community professionals.
Normally an inspiring and galvanizing event, this year’s conference – held in Chicago in late January – was marred by controversy over a planned reception to be hosted by A Wider Bridge, an organization which works to promote ties between LGBT Americans and Israel. After having been confirmed on the conference schedule, the reception was abruptly cancelled with just days to go before the start of the conference, leaving organizers little time to find an alternative venue and to respond.
But respond they did, and so did much of the Jewish community. Indeed, one of the most encouraging parts of this story was the outpouring of support for A Wider Bridge, Jerusalem Open House (an organization whose representatives were supposed to speak at the reception but were instead ushered out a fire exit to avoid the angry protestors), and LGBT Jews and allies in attendance, from all corners of the Jewish world. The statements, op-eds, and blog posts from Jewish communal and thought leaders made clear they were not merely condemning the ugly, hateful anti-Israel protest that ultimately shut down the reception, but were also standing firmly in support of the LGBT Jewish community.