American LGBT leaders arrive for weeklong trip

Program, organized by Project Interchange, an institute of the American Jewish Committee, is the first trip run by the project specifically for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender advocates from the United States.

By HENRY ROME
October 28, 2013 22:47
1 minute read.
Gay pride and American flags.

Gay pride and American flags 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Stephen Lam)

 
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Leaders from the American LGBT community arrived in the country on Monday for a week of discussions about social and political issues in the Middle East.

The program, organized by Project Interchange, an institute of the American Jewish Committee, is the first trip run by the project specifically for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender advocates from the United States.

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Nine LGBT American executives – from academia, the media, local government and nonprofit organizations – will meet with their counterparts in the LGBT community in Israel and will visit an LGBT community center in Tel Aviv.

They will also meet with city councilman Yaniv Weizman, a prominent figure in the Tel Aviv’s LGBT community.

In addition, they will meet with members of the Agudah – the national LGBT organization in Israel – and the co-founder of the Israeli Gay Youth Association.

The trip comes a year after the US-based Equality Forum hosted a major summit in Philadelphia highlighting Israel as the “featured nation” because of its gay-friendly policies, the group said. Malcolm Lazin, the executive director of the Equality Forum, is the trip’s chairman.

Sam Witkin, the executive director of Project Interchange, said on Monday that the trip has been in the works for at least two years.



“We look at this leadership group as we do other very, very senior leadership groups from around the world as very important influencers, opinion leaders in their communities and nationally,” he said. “This is a group made up of national LGBT leaders and we think it’s very important.”

Beyond specifically discussing LGBT issues, the group will visit Ramallah to meet with Palestinian officials.

Witkin said the trip aims to expose the LGBT leaders to various political issues faced by Israel so that, “at the end of the week, these are very, very intelligent folks and they will make up their own minds.”

In addition to being leaders in the LGBT community in the US, the executives also carry political clout.

During confirmation hearings for US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, a gay rights group called Log Cabin Republicans paid for a full-page advertisement in The Washington Post criticizing comments Hagel had made about gays. The executive director of the group, Gregory Angelo, is one of the nine participants.

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