Dave Shaw: We have to be honest about the homophobia, biphobia and transphobia that exists in some parts of the Jewish community

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Some counsel for the Council on diversity and inclusion

KeshetUK is delighted to have the opportunity to share some ideas and insights with JLC members during Pride month. Whilst this is a time of celebration and inclusion within and beyond the Jewish community, recent events remind us that there is a lot more that can be done to create safe, welcoming and inclusive communities. 

It is just over one year since 49 people were murdered at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. We’ve seen homophobic hate vandalising a Jewish community space.

KeshetUK is the charity striving to ensure that LGBT+ people and their families are present, safe and able to participate fully in Jewish life. We our work with synagogues, schools, youth movements, university campuses and other community organisations across the religious and political spectrum.

Machloket l'shem shamayim not vilification

The current community conversation on many issues, including recent press surrounding Rabbi Dweck, is all too often vitriolic and vilifying. I anticipate that there is healthy debate and discussion within the JLC on a range of topics, and I hope the JLC staff and lay leaders can play a more vocal role in modelling how we can communicate and cooperate, even when we have distinct differences.

Of course KeshetUK has a particular interest in how the JLC and its members address matters of sexuality and gender, however the broader point is that our diverse community needs to be led by people who can combine the passionate positions with sensitivity and sophistication. I am encouraged by much of what the JLC has already done on women in Jewish leadership and hope similar determination will be given to a broader diversity agenda for our community.

No one size fits all approach

KeshetUK is cross-communal and is grateful to have engagement with Liberal, Masorti, Orthodox, Reform movements, cultural and secular leaders and organisations. Our training and projects with youth and schools work is adapted to the context of the community and/or organisation with which we are working. Whilst it’s beyond KeshetUK’s role to determine Halacha or dictate Jewish expression, we certainly encourage debating their nuances and seeking ways to navigate such deeply personal issues when they present challenges between modernity and tradition.

Consistency on fighting prejudice

KeshetUK trustees are supportive of the hugely important work the JLC and others do to promote community cohesion and combat antisemitism. Nevertheless, if we are to expect zero tolerance to hatred of Jews by political parties and others within society, we have to have the same standards for our community on other types of prejudice.

We have to be honest about the homophobia, biphobia and transphobia that exists in some parts of the Jewish community and tackle these head on.

We must make sure that we are clear about addressing all forms of hate speech and exclusion. We have a special duty to do this when it comes from within the Jewish community. We share a communal responsibility to build a better Britain where all, regardless of race, religion, gender or sexuality are safe and welcome.

Dave Shaw is a trustee of Keshet UK, the organisation that works across the Jewish community to deliver training to promote the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and questioning people in all areas of Jewish life in the United Kingdom.

More information on Keshet UK can be found on their website at www.keshetuk.org.