David Davidi-Brown from UJS running a session with York J-Soc and York LGBT+ Society. The signs the group are holding say 'Some people are gay. So what?' in Hebrew - part of a Stonewall campaign. See the English poster here. Photo credit: Emmett Stone
February is LGBT+ History Month. With cross-communalism as one of our core values, we’re dedicated to being a fully inclusive union; a welcoming place for all our Jewish student members, regardless of their background. Moreover, with the passing of motion CO6 at UJS Conference 2017 we are proudly committed to celebrating and commemorating LGBT+ History Month (as well as the relevant months for other marginalised groups – see the full list in the motion text linked above.)
So how did we mark LGBT+ History Month at UJS this year?
At the start of the month we changed our profile pictures to a pride flag version of our logo across social media. This seemingly straightforward step made a strong and highly visible statement to the Jewish community, the student movement and the wider community. Many of you showed your support, giving our logo almost 100 likes, retweets and shares across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
We also distributed a resource guide to J-Soc committees on the different types of events that the societies could run this month, with ideas ranging from screenings of Jewish LGBT+ films to speakers that could be brought to address J-Soc gatherings. These included different ways to celebrate LGBT+ identities alongside various ways to educate J-Soc members about the history of the LGBT+ liberation movement and the struggles faced by the LGBT+ community, and specifically the LGBT+ Jewish community.
We are proud to have supported a range of J-Soc events, from Priday Night Dinners in Leeds, Lancaster and London to York’s education session, which took place in partnership with the local LGBT+ Society. The J-Soc welcomed LGBT+ students from various faiths, beliefs and backgrounds for a discussion on ‘Torah Queeries’ in the weekly Torah portion, facilitated by David Davidi-Brown from UJS.
Petra Varhegyi, co-President of Royal Holloway J-Soc - who hosted a music and film night - said: ‘Our event was really successful. While having a meal together, we spoke about why it is important to be inclusive of LGBT+ people in our Jewish community. Meanwhile, we listened to music by LGBT+ Jewish artists; we realised that we already know most of these songs because these artists already play a big role in our community. We then watched the film Who's Gonna Love Me Now? We think that it is important to be inclusive no matter what one’s gender, sexuality or religious belief is. We are really happy that we got to talk about these issues as a J-Soc and have a great conversation about these topics.’
LGBT+ History Month is drawing to a close, but the resource guide is always available on the UJS website and we strongly encourage J-Socs to make use of it throughout the year. Additionally, Keshet, who have run our LGBT+ Inclusivity training for J-Soc committees at Summit for the past several years, are available to come and run sessions for the whole J-Soc at your campus – you can get in touch with them directly or contact your J-Soc officer who can connect you.
It is vital that we continue raising awareness of LGBT+ history as well as the challenges currently faced by Jewish LGBT+ students and the LGBT+ community as a whole, and working towards making UJS and our J-Socs as inclusive as possible.