First Ever JCC-affiliated LGBT Group Visits Israel

Delegation of 21, whose visit coincides with Tel Aviv Pride Week, will cover 'basic Israel 101' and LGBT-themed activities.

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Israeli dancers kiss each other during the annual Gay Pride parade on the streets of Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, June 7, 2013.Credit: Reuters / Haaretz archive

The Jewish Community Center Association of North America is sponsoring its first ever LGBT delegation to Israel.

The 21-person delegation, which began its 10-day trip on Sunday, planned its visit purposely to coincide with Tel Aviv’s Pride Week.

Headquartered in New York, the JCC Association is the umbrella organization of more than 350 JCCs, YM-YWHAs and camps in the United States and Canada. The nondenominational organization epitomizes mainstream Jewish life in North America.

“I was really encouraged by the support we got from the executive offices in New York when I first brought up this idea,” said Aliza Orent, the driving force behind the initiative and the person who will be leading the group to Israel. “There were no questions or judgment.”

Orent, who is the director of Jewish Life and Learning at the JCC in Austin, Texas, and has been affiliated with the JCC Association for more than 25 years, spent six years living in Israel as a child. “For me, this trip is really exciting, because I grew up in Israel in the ’70s when things were behind closed doors,” she said. “There’s been so much transition and development in Israeli society since then. And, in some senses, Israel is even more cutting edge than the United States when it comes to the LGBT community.”

Besides covering what she described as “basic Israel 101” on the trip, the group’s itinerary includes various LGBT-themed activities, among them a meeting with the founders of Chavruta, an Orthodox gay organization, and a visit to the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance.

The delegation includes participants from Vancouver, San Jose, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, New York, Houston, Austin and Dallas.

Aliza OrentCredit: Courtesy