THE Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) recently held its first LGBTI Community Engagement Symposium, focusing on the issues faced by Jewish LGBTI people.

The event saw a number of people share their personal experiences of discrimination and stigma, particularly in instances where they had issues with rabbis or were excluded from synagogues.

[showads ad=MREC]JCCV executive director David Marlow believes the night was an important way of telling the Jewish LGBTI community that they are supported.

“I think a lot of it was educational, to get everyone on the same page,” he told the Star Observer.

“It’s important for young people to see that you don’t have to make a choice between one or the other.

“You don’t have to choose to not be Jewish because of your sexual identity… it’s more than possible to be Jewish and gay, they’re not mutually exclusive.”

The JCCV has had an LGBTI reference group for five years, who helped the council to receive funding for greater community engagement.

Using these funds, the JCCV has hosted the symposium and established Jews All Diverse and Equal (JADE), an LGBTI advisory group.

JCCV president Jennifer Huppert said the symposium played an important part in promoting inclusion within the Jewish community.

“The really positive thing that came out of the evening was people coming up to me and saying that this was the first time they’d felt part of the Jewish community,” she told the Star Observer.

“It was really about the importance of understanding the impact that discrimination has.

“We aim to ensure that all Jews, whatever their background, feel at home within the Jewish community and this is one aspect of that.”

Academics also presented research at the event, highlighting the important role that support plays after a person has been abused or discriminated against.

The research also revealed that someone receiving little support from their family and community is far more likely to experience depression and thoughts of suicide than someone who is supported after being abused.

Marlow said the research will help the JCCV move forward in helping LGBTI people feel included.

“I wanted [the symposium] to have some personal stories, but to also have some academic underpinning, so that people couldn’t just say it was pulling at emotional heartstrings, but that it also had intellectual rigour to help work out what we can do going forward,” he said.

Marlow believes big changes have already started taking place, citing Keshet’s recent unanimous acceptance into the council as a profound moment.

“It doesn’t mean that it’s all perfect, there are still a lot of problems,” he said.

“When trans* people visit an Orthodox synagogue, where men and women sit separately, it becomes an immediate issue.”

However, Marlow believes through consultation with rabbis, as well as the work undertaken by JADE, the team can work to fix these issues.

JADE’s inaugural project is a youth-led video competition to help promote social inclusion and acceptance of LGBTI people in the Jewish community.

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