Monday, July 4

A National LGBTQ+ Jewish org is mobilizing in Ohio to raise up Jewish voices for LGBTQ+ equality

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Tzedek, tzedek tirdof. Justice, justice, shall you pursue.

So says the Torah to Jews all around the world. But those words don’t always translate into knowing exactly what to do to make a difference.

Enter: Keshet.

The national organization will be holding “Buckeyes For Equality,” a virtual event on December 7 at 6:30pm aimed at raising up Jewish voices in Ohio to fight for national legislation like the Equality Act and state legislation like the Fairness Act, which would grant Ohioans protections in housing, employment and public accommodations.

The Buckeye Flame spoke with Jon Cohen, Keshet’s Director of Community Mobilization, to find out more about the event and why fighting for LGBTQ+ rights is an inherently Jewish thing to do.

Jon Cohen

For folks who do not know Keshet, what do we need to know?
We usually start by explaining to people that Keshet is the United States’ leading LGBTQ Jewish organization.

How does social justice work fit into the mission of Keshet?
At this point in time, because Keshet has changed so much over the last 20 years, we are focusing on three things: youth programming, education & training, and community mobilization, which is all of our organizing and advocacy work.

What does it mean to do community mobilization from a LGBTQ+ Jewish perspective?
We’re definitely motivated by Jewish values: B’tzelem elohim (“in God’ image”), community responsibility, so many different values. But I think that we’ve really found a sweet spot in our advocacy work in bringing together secular LGBTQ+ rights organizations and progressive Jewish communities to take action for LGBTQ rights in ways that they may not know is possible, or they might not know how necessarily to do it.

That’s what we’re planning on doing in Ohio. We’re working very closely with Equality Ohio to learn what state-based legislation is looking like for LGBTQ rights. I know there’s a conversion therapy ban that has been proposed, which is happening in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida. So the big thing that we’re doing is coming into Jewish communities and showing them that there are ways they can take action for LGBTQ rights. It’s the next step after learning about LGBTQ identity and Jewish values that support LGBTQ inclusion, which is a big piece of Keshet’s work. A step past that understanding is to take action.

What can folks expect at Buckeyes For Equality?
The kick-off event is about hearing about the Equality Act and local LGBTQ Ohio legislation. It will be informational. Folks will learn what is scheduled to be heard or what is the potential to be heard. Equality Ohio does this work all the time and have deep roots in Ohio. Oftentimes what we hear from Equality Ohio or other secular LGBTQ rights groups is that they don’t have an “in” with the Jewish community. That’s where we’re lending our organizing work: to bring the Jewish community together to learn from the folks who have been doing the work on the ground.

What do you say to our fellow Jews who are not involved right now but who need to get involved?
I would say that it’s never too late to decide that you’re going to learn more and take action. It’s a lot easier than a lot of folks think. In our national work for the Equality Act, we have a box to check if its folks first time taking action for LGBTQ rights. 45% of thousands of people have shared that it was their first time taking action. This shows us that there is this demand and this desire to take action, especially if it’s in a way that feels accessible and easy.

We are bringing you everything that you need. All you have to do is show up. You can know nothing or know some things, and we will take you through what LGBTQ rights are in Ohio and in the country, and show you what you can do about it right then and there to get your voice heard. 🔥

Ignite Action:

  • Buckeyes for Equality: Ohio Launch Event will take place virtually on Tuesday, December 7 at 6:30pm. Registration is free. RSVP here to get on the list.
  • Contact your Ohio State Representatives to make your voice heard. You can go here and enter in your info to find out “Who represents me?” 
  • Dial 472472 to be connected to your U.S. Senator to make your voice heard about the Equality Act.

About Author

Ken Schneck is the Editor of The Buckeye Flame. He is the author of "Seriously, What Am I Doing Here? The Adventures of a Wondering and Wandering Gay Jew" (2017), "LGBTQ Cleveland" (2018), "LGBTQ Columbus" (2019), and "LGBTQ Cincinnati" (2020). In his spare time, he is a professor of education at Baldwin Wallace University.

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