Name: Michelle Janes
Position: Executive Director
Organisation: Lead, a division of the Jewish Leadership Council
As an organisation we understand and appreciate that leaders advancing their cause often need courageous followers and allies. This courage can come in many forms and sometimes even small acts can make a difference to the culture of an organisation or community. Although we may articulate and celebrate our communities and organisations as being ‘inclusive’ or ‘diverse’, our actions, even small ones, can often demonstrate this more powerfully than any strapline or policy.
Our work across the community developing and empowering leadership seeks to strengthen and support JLC member and wider communal organisations and at Lead we are constantly striving to understand and continually learn how best we can ensure we are authentically inclusive.
As part of LGBT History month we’re delighted that the JLC has showcased the diverse people contributing to communal life and protecting and providing for everyone within our communities.
At Lead we have actively taken a few steps in order to ensure that our cohorts of leaders are encouraged and welcomed from across the community. We have been conscious not just to say we are inclusive but develop a culture and create spaces that really demonstrate and live these inclusive values. Small initiatives we have introduced include Gender Neutral toilet options at our events, self gender identification on sign up forms for events, pronoun badges and introductions when facilitating sessions and preferred pronouns included in our email footers. For LGBT people we hope this shows that we are an open organisation that moves beyond tolerant and into the welcoming space. We know from participants and community leaders that this has created a more open environment for all taking part to express themselves and request what they need to be fully included during our sessions and programmes.
At the JLC we have welcomed KeshetUK to deliver valuable training to staff and lay leaders. This created a welcoming space to ask questions and appreciate the experiences of LGBT+ members of our community. KeshetUK have been highlighted by a range of organisations participating in this JLC LGBT History Month initiative. Claudia Mendoza, JLC Director of Policy expressed what many have found useful in working with them: “Speaking to LGBT+ people about their experiences and undergoing KeshetUK training has been hugely beneficial in helping me to become an LGBT+ ally”.
Learning through our members about the initiatives they have created to drive change within and across their organisations is a wonderful way for us to appreciate and strengthen our community as a whole. At Lead, we’ve taken the chance to ‘listen and learn’ this month about how we can enable and support real change in this sphere. We know our learning will continue and we hope this will be just the start of supporting more opportunities for our community. We’re proud to have so many communal organisations who are willing and able to share their stories and wanted to reflect on some leadership aspects of their work.
Leaders who listen:
Listening to LGBT colleagues and members of the community helps us become better allies. The sentiment expressed in the profiles from LGBT student leaders at UJS, Joe at JW3 and JLC Regional Manager Miki was captured in how Paul Anticoni, CEO at World Jewish Relief expressed “We are proud of the values we espouse and how we put them into action”. Philippa Thomas from Jewish Care articulated a similar sentiment when sharing how following initial work on LGBT inclusion, they “launched an internal Equality Diversity and Inclusion programme, “Feel Free to Be You”, with a Workplace forum to engage staff across our workforce in its development”. Being able to bring our full selves to work is something many of our communal organisations feel passionate about and this inititive provides a real example of how we can enable this to become reality for all our LGBTQI+ employees and volunteers.
Leaders who support:
Creating an environment that is honestly supportive takes purposeful action. At Kisharon, through training across the organisation they are working to create an “inclusive and welcoming work environment and build a trusting environment where everyone feels safe and supported and encouraged to bring up any concerns”. Lay leader at Liberal Judaism Robert Freudenthal, illustrated the opportunities that inclusion provides for all to participate and for organisations to benefit from the talents and dedication of a much wider pool of participants: “LGBTQI members are involved at all levels of leadership in the community. This means that no one feels that they are the ‘token’ queer person and that LGBTQI+ individuals are fully involved in communal life”.
Leaders who maximize opportunity: There are amazing, innovative and empowering things happening across the JLC membership and our community. At JW3, Joe described the upcoming launch of “an LGBT+ café for 18-26 year olds … hosting PRIDE’ay night dinner to celebrate Pride and showcase LGBT+ performers and artists.” Through their madrichim training, UJIA are developing “meaningful and trustful relationships with LGBT+ young people which can aid us as in being good allies to LGBT+ people”. Jewish Care are “[developing] more ways to support our clients, colleagues and volunteers to celebrate all aspects of their diversity.” CST have an “especially strong relationship with the LGBT+ charity Galop that monitors violence directed at LGBT+ communities … we have partnered with Galop, and other organisations … in the CATCH initiative which provides advocacy, support and signposting for victims of all forms of hate crime.”
The people and work celebrated during this LGBT History Month initiative demonstrate how as leaders, listening to more diverse voices within our community, supporting initiatives and maximizing opportunities can develop organisations and communities that are fairer and more fulfilling for all. We believe as with JAMI’s work providing mental health first aid training or Jewish Women’s Aid tackling sexual harassment, this vital work moves us towards organisations and communities being safe, supportive and inclusive spaces.