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The Jerusalem Post - Israel News
 
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Gay-religious group now official non-profit
By JEREMY SHARON
09/25/2011
“We’re aiming for social integration and social change, we’re not trying to change halacha," says 'Havruta' chairman Eyal Liebermann.
 
Havruta, an independent organization representing religious gay men, held its first plenary session in Tel Aviv Thursday night as an officially-registered non-profit association.

The organization was founded four years ago and registered as a non-profit in recent months.

“We’re going to become the first gay, religious organization to establish a representative leadership, befitting an organization owned by its members,” said Havruta chairman Eyal Liebermann. “Only in this way can we make a difference to the attitude of the religious community as well as the general public, in that an organized, well-anchored group simply cannot be ignored.”

Dozens of the group’s members turned up to the plenary session to elect a five-man board, change the group’s bylaws and decide on other procedural matters.

“This is a historic and exciting event,” said Daniel Jonas, a spokesman for Havruta. “After years of both self-denial and the denial of others, we have institutionalized our existence. Today we can no longer argue that we have no voice, leadership or community.”

The meeting itself was lively, energetic and accompanied by a seasonal serving of apples and honey. The seven candidates for board positions elaborated and expounded on their particular agendas, goals and priorities, with time being devoted to several rounds of a question and answer session before a vote was taken.

“We’re trying to create a safe place for people coming from Orthodox society who are dealing with their sexual identity,” Liebermann told The Jerusalem Post. Being gay and religious entails all the issues usually confronted by homosexuals, as well as an identity crisis borne of a struggle between your sexual identity and the beliefs you were brought up with and the much more conservative society in which you were raised.

“Internally, we are trying to help people in this complex period of their lives and especially to create a community for people who feel they can no longer be part of the community they grew up in, or at the very least feel very estranged from it.”

Havruta’s membership is, according to Liebermann, comprised overwhelmingly of people from the religious-Zionist sector but also include those from haredi communities as well as a number of converts.

More broadly, he says, Havruta is seeking, through advocacy and education, to promote tolerance within religious society for gay people living within it.

“As such, we don’t employ any theological or scientific arguments but instead rely on the personal narratives of our members.

“We’re aiming for social integration and social change, we’re not trying to change halacha. Many religious communities are becoming increasingly accepting of gays, albeit mainly in dati leumi [national religious] society, and the goal of Havruta is to advance this process.”
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