Israel-U.S. LGBT project wins $150,000 from UJA crowdsourcing campaign

Protestors shout slogans during a LGBT community members protest against discriminatory surrogate bill in Tel Aviv, Israel July 22, 2018. (photo credit: CORINNA KERN/REUTERS) A joint project between Israel Gay Youth and Jewish Queer Youth aimed at fostering connections between the LGBT communities in NY and Israel won $150,000 in the “ It’s All in the Family ” crowdsourcing campaign by the United Jewish Appeal (UJA) Federation of New York.

UJA’s campaign had visitors to the campaign’s site vote for one of five “big idea” social projects aiming to “deepen the connection between New Yorkers and Israelis around shared goals.” Voting ended on Sunday, May 19 at 12:00 a.m. EST.

The five projects that were up to the vote were: a joint project between Chochmat Nashim and the Orthodox Leadership Project, IsraAID’s New York Humanitarian Network, the Innovation Center & Xchange for Gen Y and Z initiative, an immigration assistance project by HIAS and a joint project between Israel Gay Youth (IGY) and Jewish Queer Youth (JQY).

“Being a LGBTQ+ teenager is an experience that often involves shame and concealment,” said IGY VP Liana Meirom Asif in a UJA press release. “Thanks to UJA and many friends we have now the opportunity not only to give our youth a safe place to grow in but also opportunity to empower themselves, their identity and to be a leading part in their communities and to lead the future generation of Israelis and Jewish New Yorkers for making a better world to live in.”

IGY and JQY aim to “strengthen and empower” LGBTQ+ youth and build “bridges between different parts of the Jewish community – and beyond – to fight violence, racism and homophobia,” according to the press release.

The joint project has a few goals, Meirom Asif told The Jerusalem Post . The project aims to create a connection between the LGBT community in Israel and the LGBT community in New York in order to learn more about the different communal identities in both places.

It also aims to start conversation between the LGBT communities in both places with the general communities in both places and to create connections between the various communities. The Jewish community in the US tends to be more liberal and accepting than the communities in Israel and IGY hopes to learn how to help the Israeli community be more liberal and accepting as well.

IGY is the only group in the world that works on a national scale to educate about and strengthen the LGBT community, Meirom Asif said. As such, they’ll use that unique perspective to help JQY branch out to work on a larger scale than they have until now.

IGY works with Jewish and non-Jewish communities in Israel, while JQY mainly focuses on the Jewish community in the US.

Another goal of the project is to talk about Israel within an education and social standpoint, instead of the political/security standpoint that the discussion usually revolves around.

“It means the world to us that the grant was decided by more than 10,000 voters, sending a clear message to LGBTQ Jewish youth that their chosen family is growing, loving, and committed to their futures,” wrote JQY in a Facebook post after their joint project was announced as the winner. "Thanks to you we can become stronger and build new communities and partnerships with our friends abroad, JQY," wrote IGY on Facebook after the announcement, addressing those who had voted for the project. "Thanks to you we can continue to fight and defeat homophobia and hatred." The project’s video on the UJA campaign website featured queer Jews responding to the question "Can you be gay and Jewish?"

"The Jews in the US are very progressive. I think we learn a lot from them," explained one of the teens from IGY in the video.

Israel and the US "are together in the same struggle or in the same circle. If we don’t feel like that, then we might have less hope than we should have," explained another teenager. IGY JQY Creating Inclusive Community from David Malka on Vimeo .

“We are grateful to the more than 10,000 voters who took time to learn about all the projects and cast their ballot for their favorite – especially since all five projects are doing such inspiring, important work,” said Hindy Poupko, Deputy Chief Planning Officer of UJA.

UJA is the world’s largest local philanthropy. The organizations has been raising and distributing funds to nonprofits in New York, in Israel and around the world for over 100 years.

The federation also gathers knowledge about "emerging or unmet needs" in the communities they serve and strives to meet those needs by leveraging "relationships, know-how, and financial resources to create solutions from the bottom up."

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