After being approved as part of the program well in advance, the organizers of the Creating Change conference in Chicago caved in to extremist anti-Israel demands and canceled a reception sponsored by A Wider Bridge that was to be held on Friday, January 22, the group said in a statement. The reception was going to feature two leaders of Jerusalem Open House, (JOH) Jerusalem’s flagship LGBTQ organization.
Arthur Slepian, Executive Director of A Wider Bridge, said “A Wider Bridge is one of the leading LGBTQ organizations in the country, an advocate for LGBTQ rights here in North America, in Israel and around the world, and it is both sad and disgraceful that the organizers of Creating Change decided that there is no place for us in this significant gathering of LGBT leaders from around the US and the world.”
“We work to promote honest dialogue and collaboration and to present Israel to our program participants in all of its complexity. Our trips include visits to the West Bank, and our participants engage with Palestinians, Israeli Ethiopians, transgender leaders, and LGBTQ leaders from Israel’s religious communities. Our programs explore issues involving homophobia, transphobia, sexism, racism, ultra-nationalism, and many other forms of bigotry — the very same issues being addressed at the Creating Change conference,” Slepian said, adding, “The Israeli LGBTQ community has something important to add to the global conversation about LGBTQ rights. We are saddened by what appears to be capitulation to the intimidation of a small number of anti-Israel extremists who want to shut down the voices of those who don’t adhere to their rigid and exclusive party line. As LGBTQ people, we are all too familiar with being oppressed through shaming, the closet, and imposed silence, and we see great danger in allowing this kind of censorship and blatant double standard to become the norm in our community.”
Slepian also stated, “It is especially sad that this action excludes from Creating Change the leaders of one of the most important LGBTQ organizations in the world. Jerusalem Open House (JOH) is an organization that works tirelessly to build an LGBTQ community in a city with a very diverse population and a challenging environment. JOH organizes the annual Jerusalem Pride March that was the scene of horrific violence last summer that led to the death of one teenage girl, and JOH has been leading the effort to help the community recover from the trauma of that tragedy. We hope that the leaders of the LGBTQ community, both Jewish and non-Jewish, will come to meet these leaders and stand in solidarity with us at our alternative event.”
A Wider Bridge has announced that the planned reception will go on, but at a new location outside the conference venue, at the Blackstone Hotel, English Room, 636 S. Michigan Ave, at 8:30 PM. On Friday night, January 22.