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Jewish groups are on the front lines of LGBTQ issues

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Tel Aviv Annual Pride Parade. (Wikimedia Commons)

I couldn’t help but disagree with the conclusion of Bernie Farber’s July 7 column in The CJN (“We must show support for the LGBTQ community”), which failed to appreciate the tremendous warmth, solidarity, and concrete support the organized Jewish community has shown for LGBTQ Canadians.

As an LGBTQ Canadian, as an ally of the Jewish community and as the volunteer president of Montreal’s Ga’ava, the Jewish community’s LGBTQ Advisory Committee (Quebec), I was particularly affected by last month’s massacre at Orlando’s Pulse gay night club. From the safety of my home in downtown Montreal, I felt, for the first time in my life, like a potential target – that someone would want me dead simply because I am different, a reality that Jews around the world know only too well.

In this unspeakable tragedy, I am extremely proud to say that my Jewish community swiftly stepped up to express its grave concern and sympathy for an act of pure evil and madness against the LGBTQ community in the United States and worldwide. Ga’ava reacted within hours in both official languages on our Facebook page to express our collective shock and grief.

Meanwhile, representatives from the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC) reached out to me personally to express solidarity. Deborah Corber, the CEO of Federation CJA, together with CIJA Quebec staff and Rabbi Michael Whitman, stood with me at the Montreal vigil held in the Gay Village a few days after the tragedy.

But the truth is, this show of support and solidarity is nothing new. CIJA, like its predecessor organizations, has stood along- side LGBTQ Jews and LGBTQ Canadians for the better part of the last decade. They have been present and relentlessly pro- active at Pride community fairs, festivities and parades across the country. They have offered steadfast support and resources to local LGBTQ Jewish groups, including Kulanu in Toronto, Ga’ava in Montreal, and Yad b’ Yad in Vancouver. They have nurtured and facilitated meetings between Canadian and Israeli activists, such as in 2015 when CIJA-Quebec sent a mission of 14 Quebec non-Jewish LGBTQ community leaders to Israel to meet their counterpart leaders and organizations in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and walk in Tel Aviv Pride. They have fought to change Canada’s laws to better counter hate crimes against the LGBTQ community, with CIJA serving as one of only a handful of organizations on the steering commit- tee of Trans Equality Canada, a coalition pushing to amend the Criminal Code and Canadian Human Rights Act to protect transgender Canadians.

In both word and deed, the organized Jewish community has demonstrated that it cares about and is prepared to invest in the LGBTQ Jewish community, our youth, and our future leaders. I am proud, for example, that CIJA helped send a delegation of Canadian representatives to the Schusterman Foundation-funded “Eighteen: 22” founding conference for global LGBTQ Jewish leaders and allies in Austria in 2015.

I am equally proud that CIJA-Quebec was recently honoured by the Quebec

LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce with the very first Society award at its prestigious Phoenicia Gala of Business Excellence, in recognition of CIJA’s efforts to nurture relationships between Israeli, Jewish and Quebec LGBTQ stakeholders.

This is not to say our society – the Jewish community included – is entirely free of misunderstanding or ignorance when it comes to LGBTQ issues. But, across Can- ada, the organized Jewish community de- serves credit for its leadership in standing with the LGBTQ community – Jewish and non-Jewish alike – against hatred and discrimination. They may not always make headlines in doing so, but the impact of their work is felt and deeply appreciated by many in the LGBTQ community.

The Orlando attack reminds us what history has already proven. Hatred begins with invisible minorities, and gays, like Jews, are the proverbial canary in the mineshaft. That is why we must continue to fight together.

Carlos A. Godoy L. is the volunteer president of Ga’ava, the Jewish Community’s LGBTQ Advisory Committee (Quebec).