JEWISH COMMUNITY FEDERATION OF SAN FRANCISCO, THE PENINSULA, MARIN AND SONOMA COUNTIES                                    ...
ASTUDY CONDUCTED BY:       THIS STUDY MADE POSSIBLE BY THE GENEROUS SUPPORT OF:                            WITH ADDITONAL ...
Who we areWhat we doWhat we knowHow we celebrateCONTENTSExecutive summary ...................................................
4h.Transgender Jews .........................................................................................................
Appendix B: Recruiting a Diverse Sample of LGBT Jewish Individuals ..........................................................
This study used one-on-one interviews and focus groups with a diverse sample of 100 LGBT Jews. For interviewsand focus gro...
Younger LGBT Jews:Younger LGBT Jews in this study are much more likely to be reading Jewish books, attendingLGBT or Jewish...
A majority of general Jewish organizations and congregations have LGBT people on staff.        A majority of Bay Area agen...
‘central address’ was located that offered comprehensive Jewish LGBT-related information, referrals, andresource materials...
1.INTRODUCTION“Over and over again for 350 years one finds that Jews in America rose to meet the challenges both internal ...
significant impact on the Jewish world in particular, by changing how Jews find each other to create community,how they mo...
EastBay or the SouthBay), the Jewish population had doubled to nearly 228,000 since 1986, making it the thirdlargest metro...
researchers, reflecting many decades of combined experience. Jewish Mosaic has the content and contextbackground to make w...
2. RESEARCH METHODSJewish Mosaic and the two Federations engaged in a six month planning process (from May to November 200...
community (see Appendices regarding how the diversity matrix was constructed from several existing population            1...
3. PROJECT DEMOGRAPHICS: LGBT PARTICIPANTS AND BAY AREA JEWISHORGANIZATIONS3A.DEMOGRAPHICS AND KEY CHARACTERISTICS OF LGBT...
Geographic Distribution of Respondents                                                4%                                  ...
among relatively unengaged Jews. Our targets were for a sample pool with 42% minimally engaged and 33%unengaged, and our a...
specific region. However, what is clear is that a majority of responding agencies serve the East Bay, and thenumber of age...
4. WHAT IS MEANINGFUL TO LGBT JEWS IN TERMS OF THEIR JEWISH IDENTITIES?4A. MULTIPLE IDENTITIES: LGBT AND JEWISHMy lesbian ...
[them] ... at Shabbat dinner [that week], my parents plunked me down and we had a special plate called the redplate, that ...
or recount any specific incidents of overt transphobia among Jewish communal professionals or leaders within theJewish com...
4D.PARTNERED IN INTERFAITH RELATIONSHIPSIt isn’t important and my partner isn’t Jewish. We’re married now. It’s not that i...
4E.PARTNERED WITH OTHER LGBT JEWSAs it happens, I’m now seeing someone who is at least culturally Jewish, and that’s nice....
4G.COMING TO JUDAISM BY CHOICE AS AN LGBT PERSONThere was a point where I heard this still small voice say, you are a Jew,...
overwhelmingly identify with the political left. Additionally, transgender respondents tend to work in the non-profit soci...
In this study, many of the LGBT Jews who identified as secular or cultural Jews said they are content with theirlives, and...
would be respectful and inclusive of their LGBT identities. Many LGBT Baby Boomers in our study have been outof the closet...
Sf bay area lgbt jewish 2010 community study
Sf bay area lgbt jewish 2010 community study
Sf bay area lgbt jewish 2010 community study
Sf bay area lgbt jewish 2010 community study
Sf bay area lgbt jewish 2010 community study
Sf bay area lgbt jewish 2010 community study
Sf bay area lgbt jewish 2010 community study
Sf bay area lgbt jewish 2010 community study
Sf bay area lgbt jewish 2010 community study
Sf bay area lgbt jewish 2010 community study
Sf bay area lgbt jewish 2010 community study
Sf bay area lgbt jewish 2010 community study
Sf bay area lgbt jewish 2010 community study
Sf bay area lgbt jewish 2010 community study
Sf bay area lgbt jewish 2010 community study
Sf bay area lgbt jewish 2010 community study
Sf bay area lgbt jewish 2010 community study
Sf bay area lgbt jewish 2010 community study
Sf bay area lgbt jewish 2010 community study
Sf bay area lgbt jewish 2010 community study
Sf bay area lgbt jewish 2010 community study
Sf bay area lgbt jewish 2010 community study
Sf bay area lgbt jewish 2010 community study
Sf bay area lgbt jewish 2010 community study
Sf bay area lgbt jewish 2010 community study
Sf bay area lgbt jewish 2010 community study
Sf bay area lgbt jewish 2010 community study
Sf bay area lgbt jewish 2010 community study
Sf bay area lgbt jewish 2010 community study
Sf bay area lgbt jewish 2010 community study
Sf bay area lgbt jewish 2010 community study
Sf bay area lgbt jewish 2010 community study
Sf bay area lgbt jewish 2010 community study
Sf bay area lgbt jewish 2010 community study
Sf bay area lgbt jewish 2010 community study
Sf bay area lgbt jewish 2010 community study
Sf bay area lgbt jewish 2010 community study
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  1. 1. JEWISH COMMUNITY FEDERATION OF SAN FRANCISCO, THE PENINSULA, MARIN AND SONOMA COUNTIES JEWISH COMMUNITY FEDERATION OF THE GREATER EAST BAY LGBT Alliance Study A NEEDS ASSESSMENT OF THESAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA LGBT JEWISH COMMUNITY DR. CARYN AVIV, DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH 2010A study conducted by Jewish Mosaic: The National Center for Sexual & Gender Diversity
  2. 2. ASTUDY CONDUCTED BY: THIS STUDY MADE POSSIBLE BY THE GENEROUS SUPPORT OF: WITH ADDITONAL SUPPORT FROM:Jewish Mosaic: The National Center for Gender & Sexual Diversity published this study in January 2010.The research for this study was conducted by Jewish Mosaic and overseen by the LGBT Alliance Planning andAdvisory Group (PAG) of the Jewish Community Federation of the Greater East Bay and the Jewish CommunityFederation of San Francisco, The Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties between 2008 and 2009.Acknowledgements: Gregg Drinkwater, Ruby Cymrot-Wu, Karen Erlichman, M.S.W., Stephanie Gunkel, WillieRecht, Dr. David Shneer, Dr. Wendy Rosov, Bonnie Feinberg, Lisa Finkelstein, Samuel Strauss, Julie Golde, KarenBluestone, Rabbi Jim Brandt, Al Baum, Arthur Slepian, Fran Simon, Dr. Bruce Phillips, Dr. Gary Gates, Prof.Steven M. Cohen, Dr. Ari Y. Kelman, Dr. Sherry Israel, Rachel Lanzerotti, Elana Reinin, Dr. Ed Mamary, Dr. KathySimon, Julie Frank, Magnet Health Clinic, SF LGBT Community Center, San Francisco AIDS Foundation,Progressive Jewish Alliance 2
  3. 3. Who we areWhat we doWhat we knowHow we celebrateCONTENTSExecutive summary ................................................................................................................................................................................................... 5 What Do Bay Area LGBT Jews Want and Need from the Jewish Community in Terms of Services, Programs, and Inclusion? ................. 71. INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................................................................................................................ 10 1a.Recent Changes in American Jewish Life .................................................................................................................................................... 10 1b.Who Are LGBT Jews? Patterns and Trends from Recent Studies ............................................................................................................. 11 1c. The Bay Area: A Bellwether of LGBT Jewish Identity and Community ....................................................................................................... 11 1d.Goals and Purpose of this Study .................................................................................................................................................................. 12 1e.Core Questions of this Study ........................................................................................................................................................................ 132. RESEARCH METHODS ..................................................................................................................................................................................... 14 2a.Recruiting participants .................................................................................................................................................................................. 14 2b.One-on-one Interviews and Focus groups with LGBT Jewish Individuals ................................................................................................... 14 2c. Environmental Scan of Bay Area Jewish Organizations ............................................................................................................................. 153. PROJECT DEMOGRAPHICS: LGBT PARTICIPANTS AND BAY AREA JEWISH ORGANIZATIONS ............................................................ 16 3a.Demographics and Key Characteristics of LGBT Jewish Respondents in this study .................................................................................. 16 3b. Demographics of the Organizational Survey ............................................................................................................................................... 18 3c. Limitations of the study: People and Organizations ................................................................................................................................... 194. What is meaningful to LGBT Jews in terms of their Jewish identities? .............................................................................................................. 20 4a. Multiple identities: LGBT and Jewish .......................................................................................................................................................... 20 4b. Homophobia and Transphobia .................................................................................................................................................................... 20 4c. Single and Jewish ........................................................................................................................................................................................ 22 4d.Partnered in Interfaith Relationships ............................................................................................................................................................ 23 4e.Partnered with Other LGBT Jews ................................................................................................................................................................. 24 4f. LGBT, Jewish, and Parenting ....................................................................................................................................................................... 24 4g.Coming to Judaism by choice as an LGBT person ...................................................................................................................................... 25 3
  4. 4. 4h.Transgender Jews ........................................................................................................................................................................................ 25 4i.Secular and Culturally Jewish........................................................................................................................................................................ 26 4j. Growing Older as an LGBT Jew ................................................................................................................................................................... 27 4k.The Intersection of Israel and LGBT Identities ............................................................................................................................................. 285. HOW DO LGBT Jews currently interact – or DO not – with the organized Jewish community? ........................................................................ 31 5a.Young and single .......................................................................................................................................................................................... 31 5b.Gender matters ............................................................................................................................................................................................. 32 5c. Synagogue engagement.............................................................................................................................................................................. 33 5D. Synagogue engagement: Congregation Shaar Zahav ............................................................................................................................... 34 5E. Geographic and transportation barriers ...................................................................................................................................................... 366. What DO Bay Area LGBT Jews want and need from the Jewish community in terms of services, programs, and inclusion?.......................... 37 6a.Regionally and demographically targeted programming .............................................................................................................................. 37 6b.More identifiable pathways to involvement and leadership .......................................................................................................................... 387. WHAT DO existing LGBT outreach and inclusion efforts in the Bay Area Jewish community LOOK LIKE? ..................................................... 39 7a. LGBT staff and board members .................................................................................................................................................................. 39 7b. LGBT People as Constituents and Members .............................................................................................................................................. 40 7c.Fully inclusive language?.............................................................................................................................................................................. 40 7d. LGBT-Targeted Programs ........................................................................................................................................................................... 41 7e.How LGBT-Inclusive are Bay Area Congregations? .................................................................................................................................... 44 7f. DISCUSSION: Where Are Bay Area Jewish Organizations On the Spectrum of Inclusion? ....................................................................... 458. WHAT ARE THE gaps in services and outreach to LGBT Jews and their families? .......................................................................................... 47 8a. Building Organizational Capacity ................................................................................................................................................................ 47 8b. What programs and services might be offered to LGBT Jews, based on their suggestions?..................................................................... 48 8c.More identifiable pathways to involvement and leadership .......................................................................................................................... 499. DISCUSSION: Safe Space and Transformative Integration AS Two POLICY Approaches ............................................................................. 5010. Policy Implications, Lessons learned, and directions for future research ......................................................................................................... 5111. Conclusions ...................................................................................................................................................................................................... 53Bibliography ............................................................................................................................................................................................................ 54Research Appendices ............................................................................................................................................................................................. 56 Appendix A: Where Respondents Heard About/Saw the Study ....................................................................................................................... 56 4
  5. 5. Appendix B: Recruiting a Diverse Sample of LGBT Jewish Individuals ........................................................................................................... 57 Appendix C: Interview Guide ............................................................................................................................................................................ 58 Appendix D: Focus group guiding questions ..................................................................................................................................................... 60 Appendix E: Online survey to Bay Area Jewish Organizations ........................................................................................................................ 61 Appendix F: Organizational Typology from Jewish Mosaic’s Study “We Are You: An Exploration of LGBT Issues in Colorado’s Jewish Community“ ....................................................................................................................................................................................................... 65EXECUTIVE SUMMARYThe Bay Area is home to one of the largest and most diverse Jewish communities in the United States. In themost recent Bay Area Jewish Community Study, the Jewish population had doubled to nearly 228,000 since 1986,making it the third largest metropolitan Jewish community in the US (Phillips 2005).In that study, LGBT households comprised 8% of the Bay Area study’s population and were dispersed over theFederation’s service area. In light of the changing demographics of their local Jewish communities, the JewishCommunity Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, and the Jewish CommunityFederation of the Greater East Bayrecognized the need for a better understanding of Bay Area LGBT Jews, inorder to most effectively meet the needs of this emerging and important population.This Bay Area Jewish LGBT Needs Assessment Executive Summary documents: the project’s research methods and planning process; LGBT Jewish participant demographics; major themes derived from the core questions of this study; an analysis of gaps in currently offered programs and services; policy implications that emerge from the research; some conclusions about the Bay Area LGBT Jewish community in relation to wider trends in Jewish communities across the United States.CORE RESEARCH QUESTIONSThe central research questions that informed this study were to gain a more nuanced understanding of: What is meaningful to LGBT Jews in terms of their Jewish identities; The ways in which LGBT Jews currently interact – or not – with the organized Jewish community; What LGBT Jews want and need from the Jewish community in terms of services, programs, and inclusion.Additionally, the study sought to gather information about Jewish organizations regarding LGBT-outreach andinclusion efforts, including LGBT-related programs, policies, and practices in the Bay Area Jewish community.RESEARCH METHODS 5
  6. 6. This study used one-on-one interviews and focus groups with a diverse sample of 100 LGBT Jews. For interviewsand focus groups, Jewish Mosaic developed a diversity matrix, using previous community studies and Censusdata, to select a broad and diverse sample of participants. Jewish Mosaic also developed an online survey, sent to221 Bay Area Jewish communal organizations, which gathered information about LGBT Jewish programs,policies, services, staff, and lay leadership. 125 agencies completed the survey. 79 of those agencies wereclassified as general Jewish organizations and 46 were synagogues. 45 general agencies and 51 congregations didnot respond to the survey.WHAT IS MEANINGFUL TO LGBT JEWS IN TERMS OF THEIR JEWISH IDENTITIES?LGBT and Jewish:There is no singular LGBT Jewish community in the Bay Area. LGBT Jews describe havingcomplex identities and a sense of allegiance to several communities. For some respondents, being LGBT isprimary, which influences their investment of time, energy, and money. Some LGBT Jews feel equally passionateabout being both LGBT and Jewish, and participate in the Bay Area Jewish community through cultural events,synagogue engagement, political activism, and lay leadership. For some LGBT Jews in this study, being Jewish isnot important, and they do not necessarily feel a strong need to participate in the organized Jewish community.Homophobia and Transphobia:LGBT Jews do not report significant levels of homophobia or transphobia in theJewish community. Homophobia and transphobia do not seem to pose significant barriers that prevent interestor involvement in the Jewish community. This is possibly a reflection the general openness of the Bay Area.Dating, partnering, and forming families:Single LGBT Jews cite the limitations of the Jewish LGBT dating pool asinfluencing their choices.Finding a partner is important, but the Jewishness of a potential partner is less importantfor younger LGBT Jews than compatible values and shared life goals. LGBT Jews who are coupled are 1/3 morelikely than their heterosexual counterparts to be in interfaith couples, and some non-Jewish partners participate inJewish activities, rituals, and community events. Interfaith couples workshops offered by Jewish organizations donot target the unique needs/issues of LGBT couples.Lesbians 40 and older are more likely to be partnered withother Jewish and cite that shared identity as very meaningful to them. Lesbian couples are far more likely to havechildren compared to gay men, and they invest in the organized Jewish community through synagogueengagement and their children’s Jewish education. Jewish LGBT parents raising children want moreopportunities to meet other Jewish LGBT parents.Secular and Cultural Jews:Many of the LGBT Jews who identify as secular or cultural Jews say they don’t need orwant anything from the organized Jewish community. While they might be interested in intellectual or culturalprogramming with LGBT-related content that brings LGBT Jews together, they are not interested in programsthat are connected to Judaism as a religion or Jewish ritual.The Intersection of Israel and LGBT Identities: The strongest support of and connection to Israel was expressedby LGBT Jews over 50 (especially those with memories/family links to the Holocaust), and by younger LGBT Jewswho had high levels of Jewish engagement growing up and/or had visited Israel on a teen trip. Few LGBT Jews inthis study reported participating in Israel-related programs, events or activities in the Bay Area Jewishcommunity. When asked about their feelings regarding Israel, the majority of respondents said they felt detachedfrom Israel and that it didn’t play a significant role in their lives.HOW DO LGBT JEWS CURRENTLY INTERACT – OR DO NOT – WITH THE ORGANIZEDJEWISH COMMUNITY? 6
  7. 7. Younger LGBT Jews:Younger LGBT Jews in this study are much more likely to be reading Jewish books, attendingLGBT or Jewish films at film festivals, participating in a Passover seder, or getting involved in progressive politics.Having a strong Jewish identity does not necessarily translate into mainstream Jewish community engagement.Gender Matters:Overall, Jewish lesbians in this study tend to be more highly engaged Jewishly than gay men,across all age cohorts and in every Federation Service Area. Jewish lesbians participate through professionalcommitments and lay leadership. The few Jewish transgender respondents are engaged to some degree, butwant the Jewish community to move forward on transgender awareness and inclusion.Synagogue Engagement:44 LGBT Jews in this study belong to synagogues, but fewer in San Francisco comparedto other counties. Older LGBT Jews, particularly lesbians, are more likely to belong to synagogues than youngerLGBT Jews. Many younger LGBT Jews ‘shop around’ at various congregations or occasionally ‘drop in’ to services(particularly around the High Holidays) without committing to paying membership dues.Perceptions of Barriers and Challenges:Many LGBT Jews in the study perceive that Jewish organizations thatoffer LGBT programming lump everyone together regardless of demographic, geographic, or personal diversity.LGBT Jews outside of San Francisco are aware of SF-based programs but cite traffic, access, time, and distance askey barriers to participation. These LGBT Jews would consider participation in more programs, events, andactivities if they were local, affordable, fun, and relevant. Few Jewish organizations advertise their events insecular LGBT press, and sometimes LGBT Jews don’t know where to find information about LGBT-relatedprograms.WHAT DO BAY AREA LGBT JEWS WANT AND NEED FROM THE JEWISH COMMUNITY INTERMS OF SERVICES, PROGRAMS, AND INCLUSION?Regionally and Demographically Targeted Programming:LGBT programming based on a "one size fits all" modeldoes not meet some LGBT Jews’ needs. There is a preference for more demographically targeted programmingthat is local, convenient, and easily accessible. LGBT Jews want to see more specific marketing that identifieswhat kind of LGBT Jews the programs are aiming to attract.More Identifiable Pathways to Involvement and Leadership:Some LGBT Jews in the Bay Area want to beinvolved in LGBT Jewish communal leadership, but they don’t know where, how, or through what venues. ManyLGBT Jews (across the spectrum of Jewish engagement) cited their participation in this study as a way ofengaging with the Jewish community.Senior Options for LGBT Jews: OlderLGBT Jews are concerned about the ability of the Jewish community tomeet their needs, as aging Jews AND as LGBT people. They want affordable options for Jewish senior housingthat will be respectful and inclusive, and are worried about the stability of their financial futures.WHERE DO JEWISH ORGANIZATIONS STAND IN TERMS OF LGBT INCLUSION?The majority of the Bay Areas Jewish organizations are at least open to welcoming of LGBT people. But only aminority could be characterized as pro-actively and systematically inclusive in terms of the policies, practices, andprograms that signal greater LGBT participation. Those organizations that are not currently pro-activelywelcoming have little to lose and much to gain, in terms of potential constituents, visibility, and communitygoodwill, by making the transition to full inclusion.LGBT Staff, Board Members, Clients and Members in the Bay Area 7
  8. 8. A majority of general Jewish organizations and congregations have LGBT people on staff. A majority of Bay Area agencies have LGBT board members. 28 general Jewish organizations and 7 congregations have made specific efforts to recruit LGBT board members. 45 general Jewish organizations (not congregations) have more than 5% LGBT members. 4 agencies report more than 30% LGBT clients or members.LGBT-Inclusive Language 27 out of 125 agencies use the words "gay and lesbian" and 12 use the words "gender identity." Those agencies that DID report using inclusive language and inclusive non-discrimination statements also reported higher rates of LGBT members.LGBT Inclusion in Bay Area Congregations 51 out of 97 synagogues did not respond to the study. 11 out of 46 responding congregations offer programs or events targeting LGBT constituents. 22 out of 46 synagogues reported fewer than 5% LGBT members, and 8 synagogues reported more than 10% of their members were LGBT. LGBT Jews who seek out participation in synagogue life are most likely clustering in congregations that are already known for being relatively welcoming and diverse.WHAT DO JEWISH ORGANIZATIONS OFFER IN TERMS OF LGBT PROGRAMS? Thirty one general Jewish agencies across the Bay Area reported offering LGBT programs or events. Agencies in the East and West Bay tend to offer more LGBT-related programs compared to the North and South Bay, particularly in terms of cultural and educational programs. South Bay agencies reported offering the fewest programs in the areas of cultural events, family programs, social action, and lifecycle rituals. Cultural events related to LGBT issues or people are the most commonly reported types of programs, followed by educational programs. Lifecycle rituals are the least commonly reported type of programs. Agencies with more than 5% LGBT members are TWICE AS LIKELY to offer targeted programs. Five Jewish agencies have discontinued LGBT-related programs in the past 5 years, for various reasons, including: a lack of client interest/need; lack of funding; no staff with appropriate skill set or knowledge to plan/implement programs; and a shift in organizational mission or priorities.WHAT ARE THE GAPS IN SERVICES AND OUTREACH TO LGBT JEWS AND THEIR FAMILIES?Building Organizational Capacity:Respondents from Jewish organizations want and need help with resources(i.e., funding), training, marketing and outreach, and program development. They also want to ramp up theircapacity to signal to LGBT Jews (through a variety of channels) that they are welcoming, inclusive, and want LGBTJews to walk through their doors.What Might Be Offered? Regionally-based programming for targeted LGBT sub-populations, organizationally-based programming, and online resources. Regionally based programming might identify a specific group to offerprogramming where there is currently none. Organizationally-based programming could offer a range of LGBT-thematic programs and events to a wide variety of people. Several LGBT respondents didn’t know where a 8
  9. 9. ‘central address’ was located that offered comprehensive Jewish LGBT-related information, referrals, andresource materials online.More Identifiable Pathways to Involvement and Leadership:Some LGBT Jews in this study want to get involvedin the Jewish community, but are not sure where to turn, which organizations they might choose, and how theymight contribute.POLICY IMPLICATIONSThe following policy implications are elaborated on in the full report with several concrete suggestions for eachsubtopic. However, the key areas to consider for strategic policy planning are: Acknowledge the diversity of identities and needs among LGBT Jews Support community-wide programming that reaches every Federation Service Area Provide comprehensive support for Bay Area Jewish organizations to become fully LGBT-inclusiveCONCLUSIONSLGBT Jews are highly diverse in terms of age, gender, geography, identities, interests, social networks, andcommitments. Many study respondents are already deeply engaged in Bay Area Jewish life and have helped totransform Jewish organizations from within as staff, board members and clients or members. For other LGBTJews, a lack of engagement with Jewish community does not mean lack of deep Jewish identity. LGBT Jews wantto, and often do, incorporate aspects of their Jewish identities and Jewish culture into their lives, outside andbeyond synagogue life, and they want more identifiable pathways to involvement and leadership opportunities.The factors encouraging Jewish engagement (or not) mirror recent data about other subpopulations with theJewish world, but LGBT Jews express these factors to a more pronounced degree. The respondents in this studysuggest that some, but by no means all, LGBT Jews in the Bay Area have largely moved beyond the particulars oftheir sexual and gender identities as key ways to express being Jewish. Given how this population mirrors nationaltrends but at higher levels, the trends and issues surfaced by LGBT Jews might be considered the bellwether ofJewish life in the United States. 9
  10. 10. 1.INTRODUCTION“Over and over again for 350 years one finds that Jews in America rose to meet the challenges both internal andexternal that threaten Jewish continuity – sometimes, paradoxically, by promoting radical discontinuity. Castingaside old paradigms, they transformed their faith, reinventing American Judaism in an attempt to make it moreappealing, more meaningful, more sensitive to the concerns of the day.” Jonathan Sarna, 2004“Judaism is precious, but not fragile. As a group, Jews have survived…exile, destruction, persecution, and nearannihilation…..Torah (has) survived, Judaism (has) survived, and Jews were sustained. Innovation will continue.”Vanessa Ochs, 20071A.RECENT CHANGES IN AMERICAN JEWISH LIFEWithin a few short decades, American Jews have changed dramatically in how they identify and act as Jews.What it means to be Jewish in the 21st century looks vastly different than what it did even fifty years ago. In thepast, the perceived fear and actual experiences of anti-Semitism posed barriers to the full integration of AmericanJews in public life, and created strong group identity and cohesion in the Jewish community. Few AmericanJewish women held communal positions of leadership and power. Interfaith relationships were emerging as anissue, but were not as prevalent a trend among American Jews. The visibility of gay, lesbian, bisexual, andtransgender people was minimal in the organized Jewish community. The consensus about, and support forIsrael was broad, deep, and an important pillar of Jewish identity.Things look quite different now. Today, surveys suggest that approximately 15% of all Americans harbor anti-Semitic views (ADL 2007), which is a marked decrease from fifty years ago, although the important work ofconfronting anti-Semitism remains. Today, Jewish women aspire to and hold positions of power in almost everydomain of the Jewish communal world (Bronznick, Goldenhar and Linsky 2008). Today, interfaith relationshipsare increasingly one norm among several regarding relationship patterns among American Jews (Cohen 2005).LGBT Jewish people are visible in almost every corner of the Jewish world, including the rabbinate and in positionsof institutional and national leadership (Alpert, Elwell, and Idelson 2001). The perceptions, feelings, support for,and consensus around Israel have become complex and vary widely within and across Diaspora Jewishcommunities (Ben-Moshe and Segev 2007). Over the past two generations, American Jewish life has changed infundamental and profound ways.With these shifts and changes, American Jews increasingly choose whether, how, and why they want toparticipate in any organized Jewish life. The ‘traditional’ ways of identifying, measuring, and counting how Jewsparticipate in Jewish life (such as marrying other Jews, joining synagogues, and religious observance) aredeclining. Noted scholars of American Jewish life have observed a shift in ‘doing and being Jewish’ – away fromaffiliating with traditional Jewish institutions such as Jewish community centers, Jewish federations, andsynagogues, and more towards personal and spiritual expressions of Jewishness (Cohen and Eisen 2000, Cohenand Hoffman 2009).American Jews of all ages have gravitated towards and created their own unique forms of Jewish identity andcommunity, and a host of cutting-edge, innovative organizations have emerged in response to those trends (Ochs2007, Slingshot 2008). Loosely organized havurot, do-it-yourself Jewish intellectual salons, online journals ofJewish thought and culture, activist networks, and other forms of Jewish expression that would have beenunthinkable fifty years ago have sprung up in response to, an in conversation with, changes in American life. Newinternet media (email, social networking, blogs, and downloadable music sites) have blurred traditional bordersand democratized how people define, understand and negotiate the world at large. These changes have had a 10
  11. 11. significant impact on the Jewish world in particular, by changing how Jews find each other to create community,how they mobilize for Jewish issues, events, and ideas, and how they communicate their ideas about Jewishnessto the wider world (Reboot 2007).With this turn towards new and innovative expressions of Jewish identities, the academic study of Jewishidentities has borrowed theoretical frameworks and methods from cultural anthropology and social psychology tobetter understand not just what Jews do, but how American Jews make meaning in their lives (Barack Fishman2004, Sales and Saxe 2003). What it means to be Jewish varies widely across a diverse spectrum of practice,politics, levels of observance, and meaning – from cultural and secular Jewish affinities with little connection toJewish organizations, to deeply religious convictions and professional lives devoted to Jewish communal service.1B.WHO ARE LGBT JEWS? PATTERNS AND TRENDS FROM RECENT STUDIESGiven these rapid changes and shifts in American Jewish life, the analysis of lesbian, gay, bisexual andtransgender (LGBT) Jewish identities and needs has emerged as a new focus in the field of Jewish communalresearch and policy planning. Three recent studies, two national (Cohen, Aviv and Kelman 2009, Aviv and Cohen2009) and one local (Phillips: conducted in 2004, published in 2005), help to shed light on some basic informationabout LGBT Jews. Some of those demographic trends dovetail and reinforce important demographics, patterns,and policy implications discussed in this report. Two important caveats: one national study (Cohen, Aviv andKelman 2009) only included lesbian, gay, and bisexual respondents (no transgender respondents). The local BayArea study (which did not include the East or SouthBay) simply collected information among all LGBTrespondents. It did not break out any demographic data by gender among participants within that LGBT sample.Here is what we do know about LGBT Jews based on recent research: Nationally, among lesbian, gay, and bisexual Jews, 31% are coupled with a partner, but only 11% of LGB Jews live with a Jewish spouse or partner. Among LGB Jews in coupled relationships, non-Jewish partners outnumber Jewish partners by a three-to-one ratio. In other words, LGB Jews are much more likely to create long-term partnerships with spouses who are not Jewish. Nationally, only 9% of LGB Jews report that they have children living with them in the home, and in the Bay Area, 11% of LGBT households have children living in the home. Most important, there are more single parents with children than couples with children among these households. These figures do not reflect adult children of LGBT Jews who have moved away from home. Nationally, LGB Jews are less likely to be members of congregations (39% for straight Jews versus 16% LGB Jews); attend JCC programs during the previous year (30% versus 18%); contribute to a UJA/federation campaign (37 versus 16%); or volunteer for a Jewish organization (27% versus 10%). Nationally, only 6% of LGB Jews report that most of their friends are Jewish. Nationally, LGB Jews feel less attached and more alienated from Israel compared to heterosexual Jews, and 37% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual Jews in the national sample have visited Israel, compared to 42% of heterosexual Jews. In the Bay Area, two-thirds of the LGBT households are headed by a single person, split evenly between young (under age 40) singles and older (age 40+) singles.1C. THE BAY AREA: A BELLWETHER OF LGBT JEWISH IDENTITY AND COMMUNITYThe Bay Area is home to one of the largest, most diverse, and innovative Jewish communities in the UnitedStates. What happens in the Bay Area often serves as a window into trends and issues that will face other Jewishcommunities across the country. In the most recent Bay Area Jewish Community Study (which did not include the 11
  12. 12. EastBay or the SouthBay), the Jewish population had doubled to nearly 228,000 since 1986, making it the thirdlargest metropolitan Jewish community in the US (Phillips 2005).What emerged from that important study was the recognition that two populations – Russian-speaking Jews fromthe former Soviet Union and LGBT Jews - had emerged as underserved and significant Jewish communities withinthe larger Bay Area region. In that study, LGBT households comprised 8% of the study’s population and weredispersed over the Federation’s service area. Émigrés from the former Soviet Union also accounted for 8% of allJewish households, and were particularly concentrated in San Francisco and the Peninsula. However, manyquestions particular to the LGBT population were raised in that study, but not addressed because of the study’sdesign and methods. This LGBT Needs Assessment study builds on the 2005 study’s foundation, and deepens ourunderstanding about the particular needs, issues, and concerns of the LGBT population that emerged from those2005 study results.In light of the changing demographics of their local Jewish communities, the Jewish Community Federation ofSan Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, and the Jewish Community Federation of the GreaterEast Bayrecognized the need for a better understanding of Bay Area LGBT Jews, in order to most effectively meetthe needs of this emerging and important population.1D.GOALS AND PURPOSE OF THIS STUDYThe LGBT Alliance began in 1996 as the Gay and Lesbian Task Force of the JewishCommunity Federation of SanFrancisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties. Over the next decade LGBT Jewish lay leaders workedwith the Alliance on leadership development, raising donations and hosting events. In 2007, in alignment withJCF’s adoption of a new Strategic Funding Initiative, the LGBT Alliance transitioned from the CampaignDepartment into the Federation’s Planning and Agency Support Department. Today, the Alliance’s focus is onorganizing and building a visible, vocal, and vibrant LGBT Jewish community.The LGBT Alliance is now a partnership between the two Federations. To approach planning and grant advocacy,leadership development and community outreach, the Jewish Community Federation’s LGBT Alliance of SanFrancisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties (SFJCF) formed the LGBT Planning and Advisory Group indirect partnership with the Jewish Community Federation of the Greater East Bay (JFED).The LGBT Alliance opted to pursue a strategic planning process at this point in time because the LGBT Alliance’scurrent strategic plan preceded the 2005 study and was developed when the Alliance resided within the SanFrancisco Federation’s Campaign Department. Now positioned within the Planning and Agency Supportdepartment, the LGBT Alliance must develop a plan that is data driven and that sets clear priorities for allocationof community resources. In addition, when combining the 2005 study’s 8% of LGBT Jews with estimates from theEastBay, we approximate that the Jewish LGBT population represents over 36,000 individuals. Although the 2004Jewish Community Study shed light on the basic demographics of the LGBT Jewish community, it was notdesigned to delve deeper into the needs of LGBT Jews and the current provision of services. Any good planningprocess ought to start with an assessment of the needs of the population for whom the planning is being done. The LGBT Alliance selected Jewish Mosaic: The National Center for Sexual & Gender Diversity to conduct thestudy because Jewish Mosaic is the premier national organization devoted to visibility, advocacy, education andresearch for the Jewish community regarding LGBT issues, concerns and needs. To date, Jewish Mosaic hascompleted five local and national community assessments. They are currently involved with several othercommunity-based research projects and have plans for others within the coming year. The roster of expertsJewish Mosaic brought to the table for this study includes a “Who’s Who” of Jewish communal and LGBT 12
  13. 13. researchers, reflecting many decades of combined experience. Jewish Mosaic has the content and contextbackground to make well-informed action-based recommendations based on the data gathered.In May 2008, the Bay Area Jewish LGBT Needs Assessment was commissioned by the two Federations to assistthe LGBT Alliance in strategic planning and recommendations for allocation of resources. Jewish Mosaic wastasked with conducting the research in collaboration with the executive and lay leadership of both Federations,including the LGBT Alliance’s Planning and Advisory Group (PAG). The PAG is a group of Jewish lay leaders fromacross the Bay Area bringing a wide range of perspectives and experiences within LGBT communities. Groupmembers represent: All of the geographic regions or counties of the Bay Area Volunteer and professional leadership from Jewish Community Federations on both sides of the bay A wide range of Jewish LGBT constituencies Rabbinic Leaders in our communityDr. Wendy Rosov has served as the community liaison during this research project, and is facilitating the strategicplanning process of the LGBT Alliance. This report documents: the project’s research methods and planning process; LGBT Jewish participant demographics; major themes derived from the core questions of this study; an analysis of gaps in currently offered programs and services; policy implications that emerge from the research; significant conclusions about the Bay Area LGBT Jewish community in relation to wider trends in Jewish communities across the United States.1E.CORE QUESTIONS OF THIS STUDYThe Jewish Federations developed some core questions of this study to assist with strategic planning efforts. Thecentral research questions that informed this study were to gain a more nuanced understanding of: What is meaningful to LGBT Jews in terms of their Jewish identities; The ways in which LGBT Jews currently interact – or not – with the organized Jewish community; What LGBT Jews want and need from the Jewish community in terms of services, programs, and inclusion.Additionally, the study sought to gather information about Jewish organizations regarding LGBT-outreach andinclusion efforts, including LGBT-related programs, policies, and practices in the Bay Area Jewish community.The core goal of collecting this information was to provide a portrait of what currently exists, where there mightbe gaps in services, and to identify possible opportunities for organizational outreach to LGBT Jews and theirfamilies. 13
  14. 14. 2. RESEARCH METHODSJewish Mosaic and the two Federations engaged in a six month planning process (from May to November 2008) toidentify the core foci and methods of this study. Key stakeholders who participated in this framing and planningprocess included: Federation executive leadership, LGBT Alliance staff and lay leaders (including the members ofthe Planning and Advisory Group), Jewish Mosaic staff, strategic planning consultant Dr. Wendy Rosov, andrespected Jewish community researchers across the United States. The purpose of this planning process was toidentify the most important goals and emphases of the study, the results of which would inform the critical stageof strategic planning and asset allocation for the LGBT Alliance. Additionally, Jewish Mosaic worked closely withDr. Rosov on the development of interview and focus group protocols, and the online survey of Jewishorganizations, to efficaciously hone in on key questions and information requested by the two participatingFederations.This needs assessment used three methods to meet the study’s goals: one-on-one interviews with a diversesample of LGBT Jews, facilitated focus groups with LGBT Jews, and an online survey, aimed at Bay Area Jewishcommunal organizations that gathered information about LGBT Jewish programs, policies, services, staff, and layleadership.2A.RECRUITING PARTICIPANTSThis study strategically employed social networks, internet technology, and printed posters/flyers to recruit adiverse and broad respondent pool. Additionally, members of the LGBT Alliance’s Planning and Advisory Groupplayed a critical role by serving as the study’s ambassadors in the wider LGBT community. A graphically engagingPDF flyer advertising the study was distributed in print as well as to 23 email listservs in the greater Bay Area.These listservs included those ‘owned’ by Jewish LGBT organizations, mainstream Jewish agencies, secular LGBTgroups, university-based student groups, synagogues, professional networking associations, social justice activistnetworks, and informal Jewish and LGBT activity and event groups. Additionally, Jewish Mosaic directly sentemail requests to over 100 LGBT individuals (Jewish and non-Jewish), to ask that they forward the PDF flyerwidely to their friends through online social-networking sites such as Facebook. Initial study respondents wereencouraged to forward information about the study within their personal social networks, allowing for"respondent driven sampling" to bring in new respondents, thus ensuring that a significant percentage of theoverall respondents were derived through "viral" social networks and not through usual channels of Jewishorganizations or mailing lists. (See Appendix A for breakdown of where respondents heard about the study.)2B.ONE-ON-ONE INTERVIEWS AND FOCUS GROUPS WITH LGBT JEWISH INDIVIDUALSFive Jewish Mosaic researchers conducted one-on-one interviews with 79 LGBT Jewish individuals in all of theFederation Service Areas (FSA) of San Francisco and the Greater East Bay: San Francisco, San Mateo, ContraCosta, Sonoma, Marin, and Alameda counties, as well as LGBT Jews living in both the northern and southernhalves of Santa Clara County, some of whom straddle the FSA boundary between the San Francisco Federationand the Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley (per a request from the LGBT Alliance’s Planning and Advisory Groupto focus closely on LGBT Jews in the Peninsula). Jewish Mosaic used a diversity matrix of key demographicvariables (including age, gender, geography, and level of Jewish engagement, among others) to selectparticipants from the overall pool of respondents who expressed interest in the study. The goal was to create asdiverse a respondent pool as possible that would adequately reflect the diversity of the Bay Area LGBT Jewish 14
  15. 15. community (see Appendices regarding how the diversity matrix was constructed from several existing population 1databases).The one-on-one interviews consisted of three key topical domains (Jewish background experiences, coming outand identity, engagement with the Bay Area Jewish Community and Israel). Interviews generally lasted between45-60 minutes, were tape-recorded, transcribed, and coded by themes for analysis. (See Appendices for interviewguide.)Jewish Mosaic also conducted four focus groups with a total of 21 participants from December 2008 throughMarch 2009. Three focus groups were conducted in San Francisco, one in the East Bay, and all focus groups metin ‘Jewishly neutral’ spaces (i.e., not in synagogues or Federation buildings), in order to ensure maximum comfortlevels for those LGBT Jewish individuals who might not have (or want) any engagement with the organized Jewishcommunity, as well as to protect confidentiality. The focus group format echoed the one-on-one interviewprotocol, asking participants to describe their ways of connecting to Jews and Jewish community, theirrelationships to and feelings about Israel, and their ideas for how the Bay Area Jewish community might betterserve their needs. (See Appendices for focus group guiding questions.)2C. ENVIRONMENTAL SCAN OF BAY AREA JEWISH ORGANIZATIONSIn January 2009, an online survey was sent to the executive leadership of 221 Bay Area Jewish communalorganizations. The goals of the online survey were two-fold: first, to provide a comprehensive understanding ofwhat Jewish organizations currently provide in terms of LGBT-related programs services, staffing, and layleadership; and second, to identify any potential gaps in currently offered services, programs, staffing, and layleadership that might be addressed by Federation strategic planning and allocation processes. This short survey,consisting of 15 questions, asked respondents to identify and describe their organization’s ‘profile’ regardingLGBT-related practices, policies, programs, staff, and boards, as well as opportunities for follow-up commentsabout their organizations. Per guidance from the Planning and Advisory Group, the survey did not include anyfollow-up contact or interviews with participating respondents to collect further detailed information aboutLGBT-related program provision or organizational policies. The invitation to participate in the online survey wasfollowed up with several reminder emails and phone calls by Jewish Mosaic and Federation staff, to insure thehighest possible rate of organizational participation. Ultimately, 125 agencies - 57% of the regions Jewishorganizations - responded to the survey. (See Appendices for online survey questions.)1 We received 147 inquiriesfrom individuals who expressed interest in the study, from which our 100 participantswere chosen. 15
  16. 16. 3. PROJECT DEMOGRAPHICS: LGBT PARTICIPANTS AND BAY AREA JEWISHORGANIZATIONS3A.DEMOGRAPHICS AND KEY CHARACTERISTICS OF LGBT JEWISH RESPONDENTS INTHIS STUDY The majority of respondents (56%) are between the ages of 40-64. The majority of respondents live in San Francisco (45%), followed by Alameda County (22%) and the Peninsula (19%). The vast majority of respondents do not have children in their homes (only 22 reported having children of any age, including adult children living outside the home), and lesbians are much more likely to have children in the home compared to gay men. Many respondents do not belong to synagogues, but synagogue membership rates were much higher than for LGBT Jews nationally. Of the 44 respondents that reported belonging to synagogues, those LGBT Jews identify primarily as Reform, Renewal or Conservative (in that order). Only one respondent in the study identified denominationally as Modern Orthodox Half the respondents are partnered or married, with interfaith relationships the norm among partnered respondents. Age Distribution of Respondents 7%5% 18-24 25-39 33% 55% 40-64 65+ Gender Distribution of Respondents gay, bisexual or 9% queer man 34% lesbian, bisexu 57% al or queer woman 16
  17. 17. Geographic Distribution of Respondents 4% 4% San Francisco 6% Alameda 19% Peninsula 45% Sonoma 22% Marin Contra Costa Levels of Jewish Engagement of Respondents heavily engaged 22% 31% moderately engaged minimally 24% 23% engaged unengagedThe study’s key variables, as requested by the LGBT Alliance’s Planning and Advisory Group, were gender, age,geography and level of Jewish engagement.For the breakdown by gender, the research team purposely over-represented transgender and genderqueer Jews,responding to the interest of the PAG for attention to this particular sub-population. Of note: along thegenderqueer spectrum, the majority of participants who identified as transgender were female-to-male (FTM).The gender breakdown of respondents was 34% men, 57% women and 9% transgender/genderqueer, almostexactly mirroring the target distributions for the region’s LGBT Jewish population, based on our analysis ofexisting demographic data.For the variable of age, our target goals were to have 5% of the sample aged 18-24, 44% aged 25-39, 49% aged40-64 and 2% aged 65 and up. Our actual respondent pool was precisely 5% in the 18-24 category, but slightlyoversampled the 40-64 and 65+ cohorts, thus causing a slight undercount for the 25-39 cohort.Our geographic targets were for 48% from San Francisco, 31% from the East Bay, 10% North Bay, and 11%Peninsula. We came quite close on all geographic targets, but purposely over-represented the Peninsula inresponse to requests from the Planning and Advisory Group who hoped to gain as much insight as possible fromthis relatively underserved and little understood sub-population within the region’s Jewish and LGBTcommunities.We broke Jewish engagement down into four categories: unengaged, minimally engaged, moderately engagedand highly engaged. We knew that finding minimally-engaged and unengaged Jews willing to be part of a studyon Jewish identity would be challenging. The research team was able to draw nearly half the sample pool from 17
  18. 18. among relatively unengaged Jews. Our targets were for a sample pool with 42% minimally engaged and 33%unengaged, and our actual pool was 24% minimally engaged and 22% unengaged, thus over-representing themoderately- and highly-engaged.Other variables of note were an expectation of roughly 1 in 10 Jews by Choice (reflective of the 12% found in the2005 Federation study). Our sample pool contained eight Jews by Choice. In household income, we expectedrelatively even distribution across all categories, from those earning under $25,000 per year to those earning$100,000 and up. Our actual respondent pool was heavily weighted toward the range of $25,000-74,999 incomebracket, with 42 respondents in that cohort.3B.DEMOGRAPHICS OF THE ORGANIZATIONAL SURVEYTo gauge the extent and types of LGBT inclusion in Bay Area Jewish organizations, Jewish Mosaic sent an onlinesurvey to 221 Bay Area Jewish organizations. 57% (n=125) of those agencies completed the survey. Of those 125Jewish agencies, 79 were classified as general Jewish organizations, providing a range of programs and services todiverse constituencies. The remaining 46 responding organizations were synagogues, congregations, andspiritual communities. We did not ask for denominational affiliation, but the mailing list of 97 congregations wascomprehensive and included nearly every congregation in the region, across all Jewish movements, includingunaffiliated and independent communities. As can be seen in the table below, just under half of the region’scongregations responded, and participation rates wavered between 40-100% for all but four categories.Type of Agency (Self-Reported) Number who responded Total in regionSynagogue/religious/spiritual community 46 97Day school education 10 11Jewish Community Center 10 10Supplemental and congregational Jewish education (including congregational pre- 8 23schools)Hillel or campus-based education 8 8Health and human services (including family and parenting services, senior services,counseling, spiritual care, hospice, immigrant assistance/acculturation, vocational or 8 14employment services)Culture and arts (including theaters, museums, film festivals) 6 11Community relations/political advocacy 4 7Youth engagement 3 7Jewish camping (including day camps) 2 8Interfaith outreach 2 4Israel-related programming and/or advocacy 2 8Jewish adult education 1 4Other (including Federations)2 15 9Total 125 221Organizational survey respondents by Federation Service Area: the chart below identifies where theorganizational survey respondents are located and which areas they report to serve their members/clients. Pleasenote that respondents could check off as many regions as applied, many Jewish agencies serve more than one2 Jewish Mosaic coded organizations according to the schema in the table prior to emailing the survey. Respondents were asked to label theirorganizations as they saw fit. We surmise that some of the respondents of organizations we coded as specific types (community relations, orsupplemental Jewish education for example) coded themselves as “Other,” thus creating a slight discrepancy between types labeled, andtypes reported, in this table. 18
  19. 19. specific region. However, what is clear is that a majority of responding agencies serve the East Bay, and thenumber of agencies serving the South Bay was smaller, compared to all other regions. Number of Respondents by Location 80 70 60 50 40 72 30 56 49 20 35 10 0 East Bay West Bay North Bay South Bay3C. LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY: PEOPLE AND ORGANIZATIONSThis study was not designed to generate a statistically representative study of all LGBT Jews in the greater Bay Area. Thereis no definitive way to do so, as there is no single source on how large that population actually might be, nor how it isconstituted. Because the research design could not reach every LGBT Jew and/or every Jewish organization, the conclusionswe draw in this study are limited in scope. However, we do believe that this report has surfaced the important trends, issues,opportunities, and challenges facing this community. The analysis and recommendations of this report aim to illuminate, inbroad brushstrokes, some of the key trends, ideas and needs among a much larger group of LGBT Jews.While we strove to develop a diversity matrix that attempted to select participants based on broad identity and engagementconsiderations, the findings in this report are limited and we do not claim to represent the experiences, perspectives, orpatterns of all LGBT Jews. One striking limitation of this study is the noticeable absence of LGBT Jews who self-identifydenominationally as Orthodox. Because only one participant identified as Modern Orthodox, our analysis is limited and it isdifficult to draw conclusions about overall needs among this particular demographic population. Jewish Mosaic researchersknow that there is a small community of LGBT Jews involved in Orthodox organizations in the Bay Area, and we haveanecdotal and professional experience with a wide range of Orthodox community leaders who are either publicly ordiscreetly open to LGBT inclusion.Jewish Mosaic tried to reach a significant number of Jewish organizations to develop a portrait of existing LGBT-relatedprograms and services. 125 Jewish organizations, or 57% responded. However, we did not hear from 96 organizations (justover 40% of all) that were contacted, despite repeated attempts and invitations. The analysis of LGBT inclusion in Jewishagencies regarding programs, practice, and patterns relies solely on a self-selected and self-reporting data set ofprofessionals working in the Jewish communal agencies they represent. Additionally, the research design did not includefollow-up contact or interviews with participating Jewish agencies to collect more detailed qualitative information aboutLGBT-related program provision. Therefore, the analysis presented here does not represent every single Jewish agency inthe Bay Area, and there are limitations to the generalizations we can make about patterns and trends. 19
  20. 20. 4. WHAT IS MEANINGFUL TO LGBT JEWS IN TERMS OF THEIR JEWISH IDENTITIES?4A. MULTIPLE IDENTITIES: LGBT AND JEWISHMy lesbian identity was much stronger and much more important to me in my 20s, 30s, and 40s really, than beingJewish, and later on, when I was involved in the Jewish community, I really enjoyed it, and felt like it was safe to beout as a lesbian, and I could acknowledge both parts of who I am.North Bay lesbian (50s)I feel like my Jewish identity and my gay identity are separate, I haven’t crossed the path yet. I worked at a Jewishday school in [another city] before taking this job in the Bay Area. I was totally closeted, it was not affiliated with anymovement but it was on the Conservative side – so I had these 2 sides, one was Jewish, and when I play rugby, I hadmy gay identity. I would share my Jewish identity with my gay friends, but not the other way around. East Baylesbian (20s)I see myself as an American first, last, and always, and kind of resent when other people think that I hold certainviews just because I’m Jewish. San Francisco gay man (20s)For the past several decades, American Jews have experienced unprecedented integration into all aspects ofAmerican life. For most Jews, being Jewish is no longer considered or experienced as a stigma, barrier, or a sourceof marginalization in American society. In this milieu, Jewish has become a largely descriptive and willinglychosen identity category, rather than ascriptive and externally imposed. In the United States, an ideology of‘freedom of choice” about identities and communities includes whether and how American Jews definethemselves as Jewish, in relation to many other interests, groups, or activities to which they might gravitate.Being Jewish is one of many potential identity markers in an increasingly broad menu of choices (Greenberg andBerktold 2009).The respondents in this study describe having complex identities and a sense of allegiance or belonging to morethan just one community. They are not “just” or “only” Jewish Americans; nor are they “just LGBT.” They are alsospouses and partners, parents, mentors, activists on a range of political issues, workers and retirees, athletes,music-lovers, foodies, and many other identity categories. They belong to an eclectic array of groups, looselydefined communities, and networks. Like other American Jews, LGBT Jews often feel a sense of belonging inmultiple communities, to varying degrees, and their commitments to those identities and communities oftenchange over time. At a particular juncture or developmental stage in their lives, they may choose to privilege oneidentity over another. Over time, one particular identity might emerge as more important in response to changesin the social/political landscape, or might be sparked by a particular life event that prompts reflection and a shift inneed.Given their multiple identities and potentially competing priorities, LGBT Jews face complex choices about whereand how they want to spend their time, money, and energy and in which community (Cohen, Aviv and Kelman2009). For some LGBT Jews, their primary identity revolves around being LGBT, and that commitment shapestheir investment of time, energy, and money. For other LGBT Jews, being Jewish is far more salient andimportant, and their lives reflect such priorities and choices. Some LGBT Jews feel equally passionate about beingboth LGBT and Jewish. And for some LGBT Jews in this study, neither identity categories are particularly salient.4B. HOMOPHOBIA AND TRANSPHOBIAMy coming out was an affirmation of my parents’ love for me, but also the acceptance that I would find in the Jewishcommunity. My parents [came across] Rebecca Alpert’s book, Like Bread on a Seder Plate. When I came out to 20
  21. 21. [them] ... at Shabbat dinner [that week], my parents plunked me down and we had a special plate called the redplate, that you would get for a good report card, or on your birthday, or for other special times, and so they put the redplate in front of me and they read some coming out prayer that they had found in the Alpert book, and it was verysweet and moving. Peninsula lesbian (30s)My transitioning has been fairly well-received by the East Bay Reform Jewish community. East Bay transman (30s)I had never thought too much about Leviticus, as a Reform Jew. When I think back to when I studied with DebbieFriedman, I knew that my soul was pure, and more than anything, coming out reinforced that, that we’re all createdin the image of God. Peninsula lesbian (60s)Just as anti-Semitism created a ‘survival ethic’ amongst Jews for many generations, and created a strong sense ofsolidarity, homophobia and transphobia have played similar cohesion-building roles among LGBT communitiessince the emergence of the modern LGBT-rights movement in the late 1960s. LGBT people often becomegalvanized and mobilized in the face of violent threats to physical and personal safety, and combating hate crimesagainst LGBT people is an enduring issue on the movement’s civil rights agenda.We recognize that homophobia and transphobia continue to permeate American culture. However, one of themost striking ‘silences’ that we found in interviews with LGBT Jews in the Bay Area was the absence of overthomophobia and transphobia in the Jewish community as a constraining factor weighing heavily on participants’lives. In individual interviews, participants were asked to share when and how they came out as LGBT, andwhether their coming out had any impact on their connection to Jewish identity and community. We alsoexplicitly asked about both positive and negative experiences with the Jewish community in regards to being anLGBT person, in the hopes of better eliciting and understanding whether and how homophobia and/ortransphobia manifests in the Jewish community.Some participants (across a wide age spectrum) talked about how, when they came out, their parents alreadysuspected they were LGBT, so it was no surprise. Others shared that their family members initially had a difficulttime, but have now accepted them and provide a good source of emotional support. Only one person weinterviewed is still ‘in the closet’ with their family. Few people recounted ‘horror stories’ of homophobia as a partof their coming out narratives, nor did the majority of participants describe shaming or hurtful experiences fromJewish organizations or members of the Jewish community that might have otherwise alienated them fromengaging in Jewish communal life. The transgender participants in this study thoughtfully described their genderevolution, with varying degrees of support from family members, and three transgender participants cited thestrong support and encouragement of friends and acquaintances in their Jewish networks as very important tothem.This is a marked contrast to the initial wave of scholarly and popular literature about LGBT people, and specificresearch on LGBT Jews, in three ways. First, among general scholarship and popular literatures of the past 25years, a long-ingrained assumption has posited that homophobia and transphobia have played virulent andsignificant roles in LGBT people’s lives.In this study, only three respondents (all Jewish lesbians in the East Bay, ranging in age from early twenties tomid-forties) reported specific homophobic incidents within the Jewish community that involved their sexualorientation. Not a single gay man, bisexual person, or transgender person offered any specific accounts ofhomophobia in the Bay Area Jewish community. Transgender participants said they experienced transphobia inthe wider world on a regular basis, and they perceived a need for more work to provide basic transgendereducation and raise transgender awareness in the Jewish community. But transgender participants did not report 21
  22. 22. or recount any specific incidents of overt transphobia among Jewish communal professionals or leaders within theJewish community.We are not suggesting that homophobia and/or transphobia no longer exists in society in general or in the BayArea Jewish community. We are also not denying that some Bay Area LGBT Jews still experience homophobiaand/or transphobia within Jewish contexts. What the data from LGBT respondents in this study suggest is thathomophobia and transphobia are not generalized or widespread in the region’s Jewish community and are notsignificant barriers that preclude or prevent interest or involvement in the Jewish community at this point inhistory – a reflection of the general openness of the Bay Area and the Jewish community that lives here. If thisstudy had been conducted 15 or even 10 years ago, or in a different community, our findings would likely havebeen markedly different. We know from studies Jewish Mosaic conducted in Colorado (2006), Tucson (2007) andNew York City (2008) that reports of overt homophobia and transphobia within the Jewish world did surface withsome respondents and impacted patterns of engagement with Jewish organizations in those communities.The lack of reports of overt homophobia as an element of everyday life in this Bay Area study is perhapscounterintuitive, given that California recently passed Proposition 8. Many LGBT respondents talked about thegalvanizing aspects of various Proposition 8 campaigns (both within and outside the Jewish community). Butmore often than not, they lauded Jewish communal efforts to persuade Jews to vote ‘no.’ The LGBT Jews in thisstudy did not link the explicit homophobia of that ballot initiative with any palpable effects of homophobia in theirexperience of the Jewish community.4C. SINGLE AND JEWISHI’d say [a partner] being Jewish is a plus, but I play what I call the numbers game, which is, okay, if three percent of allpeople are Jewish and ten percent of all people are gay and 50 percent of all people are men, and I want someone,say, in the top half in intelligence, and you start multiplying all those percentages together and you get 0.003.Peninsula gay man (40s)[A partner being Jewish is] not a requirement, but I view it as a major bonus. So I tend to find myself gravitatingtowards Jewish men, but it’s not a requirement for me to date someone, that they have to be Jewish. It’s just acomfort and a familiarity that’s very important, but it doesn’t rise to the level of like I wouldn’t marry this person or bewith him if they weren’t Jewish. San Francisco gay man (20s)Many participants said the goal of finding a partner in general was important to them. However, if the choice wasbetween a partner in general or specifically searching for a Jewish partner, the Jewish component of a potentialpartner was reported to be less important than other aspects of relationships, such as compatible values,chemistry, and shared life goals. Single LGBT Jews (across all FSA regions) expressed an interest in meeting otherLGBT Jews for potential dating. While LGBT single Jews recognized that while they might prefer dating otherJews, they are pragmatic about the chances of finding compatible Jewish partners. Some respondents(particularly gay men across all age groups, whether currently partnered or not) recognized that if they limitedtheir dating choices to only Jewish men, they might wind up single for most of their adult lives.Those individuals for whom finding a Jewish partner is crucial are weighted more toward the highly-engaged endof the Jewish engagement spectrum, and are thus over-represented among the LGBT Jews who are regularlyinvolved with Jewish communal organizations, particularly those events, organizations and programs targetingLGBT Jews directly (the desire to meet another single Jew being one of the factors that draws such individuals tothose programs in the first place). The respondents for this study, widely drawn from a diverse pool of LGBTJews, differ in many ways from those respondents who might have participated in a study that only interviewedregular participants in the region’s wide range of LGBT Jewish outreach activities. 22
  23. 23. 4D.PARTNERED IN INTERFAITH RELATIONSHIPSIt isn’t important and my partner isn’t Jewish. We’re married now. It’s not that important to me, because she’s theperson I fell in love with. You can’t really control who you fall in love with. Peninsula lesbian (40s)I think that too many groups are trying to walk this weird line where they try and say it’s really better if you partner upwith somebody who’s Jewish, but we want to welcome you in if you don’t -- but really that’s not as good. And we’regoing to encourage these people over there to do something different, and try and pretend like you can still beaccepting when you’re telling people that they’re doing something wrong.Marin bisexual woman (20s)I’m with a partner for 15 years and he’s not Jewish, but its important that he share with me my holidays. We gotmarried recently, and had a somewhat traditional wedding, including a ketubah, and a rabbi married us. SanFrancisco gay man (40s)The majority of LGBT Jews in our sample reflect trends in the wider Bay Area Jewish community, and the recentnational study of lesbian, gay, and bisexual American Jews. The most recent Bay Area communal study foundthat the rate of interfaith heterosexual marriage has more than doubled in the region over the past two decades,from 27% to 56% (Phillips 2005). Many scholars and communal policymakers are deeply concerned about howinterfaith relationships affect family decisions to participate in formal and informal Jewish activities, education,events and institutions (Erie 2009).For the majority of respondents in this study, having a non-Jewish partner was not reported as a source of conflict,and respondents reported that some non-Jewish partners participate in Jewish activities, rituals, and communityevents. Regardless of whether a participant has partnered with another LGBT Jew, many respondents eagerlyrecalled how they incorporated Jewish elements into their commitment and wedding ceremonies, includingketubot (marriage contracts), traditional blessings (often modified to reflect queer and feminist sensibilities),chuppah (wedding canopy), breaking the glass, and working with a local rabbi on the text of their ceremony.The fact that a majority of LGBT Jews partner with non-Jews has significant policy implications, in terms ofoutreach, inclusion and welcoming of interfaith LGBT couples in the wider Jewish community. A core insight ofJewish communal research suggests that finding a partner, and especially partnering with another Jew, acts as acritical gateway to engaging in the organized Jewish community. Finding a partner often involves shareddecision-making around key lifecycle events that trigger the desire to engage the Jewish community: weddingsand commitment ceremonies, hanging mezuzot in a house-warming celebration, and whether to have children ornot.National and local interfaith outreach efforts have been primarily designed to invite interfaith couples to haveJewish weddings, create Jewish homes and raise Jewish children. Although LGBT couples are not openly orexplicitly excluded from participation, most of the curriculum content, marketing strategies, materials andprogramming reflect assumptions of participants’ heterosexuality. Indeed, a recent article in the Journal of JewishCommunal Service detailed the difficulties encountered by gay and lesbian couples in the Reform Movement’sattempt to provide pre-marital education and counseling to couples intending to be married by Reform rabbis(Levy 2008). We know of only two interfaith couples’ workshops in the Bay Area that have been offeredspecifically targeting the needs and issues of LGBT couples (at Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, through a grantfunded by the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties). 23
  24. 24. 4E.PARTNERED WITH OTHER LGBT JEWSAs it happens, I’m now seeing someone who is at least culturally Jewish, and that’s nice. So I can schlep her to shuland Seders and stuff like that. I don’t have to translate Yiddish. She gets minority status within the culture. In termsof having company at synagogue…that just makes me all warm and fuzzy. San Francisco lesbian (50s)It’s very important. I certainly was not looking for a Jewish partner, and it has never been a factor to me at all. Hetruly happens to be Jewish. I mean, it was just by chance, but retrospectively, it’s really been nice, because it’s veryfamiliar. We have a lot of similar cultural references, memories, our families are very similar. We celebrate Hanukkah,we celebrate Passover, so it has definitely given me much more of a sense of living in a Jewish household.SanFrancisco gay man (50s)Sharing that with her is very important, to both of us. We got married last fall. We had a ketubah, which wecustomized with a text that we drew on including language from the Bible and from other ketubot. We modified theseven wedding blessings for our situation, and the cantor sang for us. We had the chair dance. That’s more of acultural connection. We were married at our synagogue by our rabbi, and there’s something about being recognized asa married couple in a religious community that’s very powerful and meaningful. That binds me and creates a tightertie to that community. Peninsula lesbian (50s)This study found a wide gap in terms of who cited the Jewishness of their partner as an important element ofrelationship. Overall, younger respondents were less likely to care whether their partner (current or potential)was Jewish, compared to older respondents who cited Jewishness as an important component of a relationship.Gender matters in this regard too. Only two gay men (both in their fifties) and two transgender men (both in theirearly thirties) in our study reported having Jewish partners. Indeed, the respondents who cited the Jewishness oftheir partner as important social glue in their intimate relationships were most likely to be lesbians 40 and older.Lesbians who are partnered with other Jewish lesbians also recounted being more likely to: belong to and activelyparticipate in synagogue life; be open about their identities and partners in synagogue; and cite their synagoguesas welcoming and affirming of LGBT people. This finding suggests that older, partnered Jewish women are morelikely to reflect patterns of engagement and coupling that dovetail with recent findings about relationships,partnering, and marriage among heterosexual Jews in the wider American Jewish community.4F. LGBT, JEWISH, AND PARENTINGWe know a bunch of Jewish or Jewishly connected gay families, but there isn’t anything that brings everybodytogether. I would really like a parents’ group ... and more programming things, oriented toward parents, but alsotoward adults, in terms of movies and speakers and history and I think that there’s just not that much going on downhere. Peninsula lesbian, 30sFew study respondents had children in their homes, with only 22% reporting children of any age, including adultchildren living outside the home. Lesbian couples are far more likely to have children compared to gay men, andthey report more Jewish engagement through synagogues and children’s education. A few lesbian mothers citedmulticultural sensitivity and programming as a concern for families with adopted and biracial children. RaisingJewish children was cited as important to LGBT parents regardless of whether their partner is Jewish or not, butinterfaith LGBT families struggle to negotiate with layers of multiple identities. The key here is that the vastmajority of LGBT Jews are in interfaith families, whereas interfaith families are still seen as a "minority" in themainstream Jewish world. In fact, LGBT Jews reflect the emerging majority of Jews coupled with non-Jewishpartners and raising children while facing a range of complex choices of how to do so. 24
  25. 25. 4G.COMING TO JUDAISM BY CHOICE AS AN LGBT PERSONThere was a point where I heard this still small voice say, you are a Jew, and so I’ve followed that since then. I wantedto make sure I was on the right track, so I basically lived my life as if I was already a Jew. I took my time because Ireally wanted to make sure that this was the right place for me. I feel like it’s a part of me, so it’s as if I feel Judaism islike my right hand. I belong to this tribe now, and even though I may not be ethnically Jewish, I’m still a member ofthe tribe. San Francisco gay man (40s)A really key part of my coming to Judaism is that my lesbian Jewish friends all went up to this family camp atTawonga called Camp Keshet, which is a weekend camp that’s specifically for and supportive of lesbian and gay headof families. And you had like, you know, 30 families ... and 50 little kids running around, mostly lesbian moms, a fewgay dads. I think some of the seeds of my conversion were sown in that experience, because it became so obvious tome that there was this very rich set of practices that I had never been exposed to in my home life that were availableto me. East Bay bisexual woman (40s)I came upon Judaism through my partner, who is herself a Jew by choice and stayed in the background. She convertedto Judaism; religion wasn’t part of my background at all. Starting out for the sake of family unity, I decided to alsoconvert. And it took on, over the course of the process more meaning for me personally. To me, I came upon it throughmy partner, but had she been a man I might have done the same thing.Peninsula lesbian (50s)LGBT Jews by choice in the Bay Area are a sizable sub-population of the overall LGBT Jewish community, andreport high levels of engagement in Jewish organizations, particularly in congregations. In the 2004 Jewishcommunity study, while only 3% of the overall Jewish population in San Francisco, SonomaCounty and thePeninsula identified as converts, or Jews by Choice, 12% of that surveys LGBT respondents identified as Jews byChoice. This research echoes our findings, in which we interviewed eight respondents who identified themselvesas Jews by Choice, all of whom were eager to talk about conversion experiences and LGBT identities. These Jewsdiscussed at length how they found meaning, solace, and community in becoming Jewish, whether on their ownor through relationships with Jewish partners. Our findings mirror strong anecdotal evidence from communitiesthroughout the United States. Rabbis and other Jewish communal leaders have repeatedly reported high rates ofLGBT interest in conversion and disproportionately high rates of LGBT Jews by Choice.4H.TRANSGENDER JEWS I’m not hurting anyone, and we should all love everybody…we love our family, and it extends to me, beyond that, toour Jewish family. It’s a commandment, to love all Jews, and love everyone as you love yourself. San Franciscotransgender man (20s)I feel whenever I go anywhere else [besides the Bay Area], my quality of life is just so much better here. I’m notunintelligible in the way that I am when I’m walking around in [an East Coast city], you think everybody’s seeneverything. I am something that’s worth staring at and making comments about, in a way that I just don’t have tohave that kind of attention here. San Francisco transgender man (30s) Few Jewish communal studies have included transgender Jews. For this needs assessment, nine transgender andgenderqueer Jews participated to represent an important and emerging sub-population of the wider LGBT Jewishcommunity. There were several clearly identifiable demographic and thematic trends among the transgenderJews who participated. First of all, transgender Jews in this study are overwhelmingly under forty, are more likelyto embrace FTM (female-to-male) than MTF (male-to-female) in their own gender expression, and 25
  26. 26. overwhelmingly identify with the political left. Additionally, transgender respondents tend to work in the non-profit social justice sector, and report incomes of less than $50,000 per year.All the transgender Jews in this study discussed an evolutionary and two-fold process in terms of their multipleidentities: coming out as queer first (usually during their late teens and/or early adulthood) and then a slowgrappling with coming out as transgender to family and friends. Every transgender Jew in the study identifiedimportant mentors, friends, and family members who provided positive support during this process. A fewparticipants described some painful experiences of disclosure to family members that have required patience andbasic education about transgender issues. What is striking and noteworthy about almost all the transgender participants’ narratives is the extent to whichtransgender queer Jews are either already engaged in the Jewish community, or want to be more involved, butare unclear about the pathways to more involvement. Eight of the nine participants in this group mentionedseveral synagogues by name that they have visited, and two participate regularly in LGBT-inclusive congregationsin San Francisco and the EastBay. Other transgender participants are looking for alternative ways to becomemore involved in the Jewish community. These young transgender Jews also cite barriers to participating moreextensively in the Jewish community, which are related to financial hardship, such as membership dues and ticketfees for events. Finally, there is a widespread perception and concern among this group of LGBT Jews thatsignificant generational differences and tensions exist among older lesbian, gay, and bisexual Jews and youngertransgender Jews. A few participants identified a need for comprehensive transgender education and awarenessin the Jewish community, and opportunities to engage in intergenerational dialogue regarding gender identityissues.4I.SECULAR AND CULTURALLY JEWISHI definitely identify strongly as Jewish, and I’m kind of involved in rituals and cultural stuff, but I don’t belong to asynagogue, and I don’t go to services now. Certainly if I’m asked I say that I’m Jewish, and I was raised Jewish. That’show I identify. It’s definitely my ethical frame of reference...It’s my family, who I am. San Francisco gay man (20s)I don’t have any desire to be religious. I have a desire to be cultural, historical – I like Bible stories, Israeli currentevents. My American family is agnostic and not the least bit interested in Judaism.San Francisco lesbian (60s)I’m not strongly religious. I feel a stronger cultural identity and don’t feel a need [to belong to a synagogue]. I thinkthat there’s probably a much stronger Jewish lesbian community, or gay and lesbian community, in San Francisco, butI don’t want to be commuting down to the city necessarily, and in Sonoma County, most of it is affiliated withsynagogue life, which I’m not choosing to participate in.Sonoma County lesbian (50s)My life is busy, my partner and I have jobs where we work six days a week sometimes. So that leaves us little time forfamily time, and what one does with that – sitting somewhere in synagogue isn’t really appealing. Spending timewith [some gay Jewish friends] in San Francisco, I went [with them] to an LGBT synagogue and other synagogues,which were interesting, but not something I decided to incorporate into my life. Peninsula gay man (30s)An increasing number of American Jews identify as ‘just Jewish,’ ‘secular,’ or ‘culturally Jewish,’ and express littleneed or desire to participate in the organized Jewish community. We targeted LGBT Jews who identify as secularand minimally or unengaged in Jewish life as an important demographic category for participation in this study.There is no consensus about what the categories ‘secular’ and ‘culturally Jewish’ mean, but we take our lead fromprevious studies that suggest a connection to Jewish life through literature, art, dance, music, food, family, orholiday celebrations, but not through religious ritual or affiliation with religious institutions (AJIS 2001). 26
  27. 27. In this study, many of the LGBT Jews who identified as secular or cultural Jews said they are content with theirlives, and don’t feel like they need or want anything from the organized Jewish community. They mayoccasionally participate in Passover seders, see a Jewish film at a festival or in theaters, or read books, websites,or other media with Jewish themes and content. But they do not report feeling any gravitational pull towardsJewish organizations, and some have found other meaningful spiritual communities within Buddhism, Quakertraditions, or Pagan communities.Many of the gay male respondents (particularly in San Francisco) fall into this category of not feeling like theyneed anything from the Jewish community because they say they are happy in their lives and aren’t seeking outJewish connection. Gay Jewish men in this study, several of whom work in large, bureaucratic organizations orwork long hours, expressed a desire to spend their free time socializing with friends rather than sitting onorganizational committees, going to services, or attending community events.The secular LGBT Jews in this study reported that they are indifferent to, or uninterested in, anything religious ortheological. While they might be interested in intellectual or cultural programming with LGBT-related contentthat brings LGBT Jews (as well as other interested Jews) together, they are not interested in programs that areconnected to Judaism as a religion or Jewish ritual. They associate involvement in the Jewish community withreligious ritual, congregational membership, paying dues or membership fees, and/or participation in synagogueactivities. For them, affiliating with synagogues is not appealing, and they do not see those institutions as anykind of route for Jewish engagement.4J. GROWING OLDER AS AN LGBT JEWThey’re building this humungous Jewish Life Campus down in Palo Alto. And some of it is senior housing. I have seennothing that says, “we’re going to serve the gay/lesbian senior community,” and I think they should say that. I don’tsee anywhere in the Jewish community that that’s being addressed, and here’s an incredible opportunity to do that,because it’s just being put together, and they’re not doing any kind of outreach in that way that I’m aware of.Peninsula lesbian (50s)I don’t feel comfortable as a Jew in my retirement community. During the (2008) election, there were lots of Yes on 8and McCain stickers, and so I’m not as comfortable here. I don’t think it’s an unsafe place as a Jew. I think it’s lesscomfortable as a lesbian. North Bay lesbian (70s)Because of my age, Jewish aging in this city, it’s a huge issue to me. I mean, it’s a huge issue in the gay community,too. How are gay people going to be handled at the Jewish Home? What about the Rhoda Goldman housing? Whatabout Menorah Park? What sensitivity training is being done -- what outreach is being done to gay seniors to be partof this? How is the Jewish community going to help gay seniors grow old with dignity and feel part of the community,and not still be in the closet? If I felt the Jewish Federation, that they were in the forefront of this question, I would beengaged, because that’s very important work that affects our community.Marin gay man (50s)According to recent studies, the percentage of the Jewish community that is growing older is greater than thegeneral non-Jewish American population. Approximately 13 percent of Americans are over the age of 65, basedon recent Census data. The 2000-2001 National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS) found that 19 percent ofAmerican Jews were over 65 years of age, and 23 percent were over 60 (Rieger 2004). Both the aging of the BabyBoomers and continuing increases in life expectancy point to a sharp increase in these numbers in the decadeahead.The aging concerns of respondents in this study focused around two core issues. The first, and perhaps mostpressing issue voiced by aging Baby Boomers concerned the range of affordable options for senior housing that 27
  28. 28. would be respectful and inclusive of their LGBT identities. Many LGBT Baby Boomers in our study have been outof the closet for several decades, and expressed little to no interest in ‘going back in’ to the closet when facingretirement and assisted living decisions. In a recent study (MetLife and SAGE 2006), more than a quarter (27%) ofLGBT boomers reported great concern about discrimination as they age, and less than half expressed strongconfidence that healthcare professionals will treat them “with dignity and respect.” Fears of insensitive anddiscriminatory treatment by healthcare professionals are particularly strong among lesbians, of whom 12% saidthey have absolutely no confidence that they will be treated respectfully (MetLife and SAGE 2006).Second, LGBT Jewish individuals in this study are deeply worried about the stability of their financial futures,living off fixed (and possibly shrinking) income. The MetLife/SAGE 2006 study found that lesbian and bisexualwomen appear to be less financially prepared for the end of life, have smaller nest eggs, and are less likely thantheir male counterparts to have purchased long-term care insurance or to have written wills. Some respondentsworried out loud whether they would be able to sell their houses in a down housing market, or be able to navigatethe complexities of moving from ‘aging in place’ to a more structured assisted living environment.LGBT Jews in this study expressed deep concern about the ability of the Jewish community to meet their needs,as aging Jews AND as LGBT people. They reported wanting the option of living within Jewish aging settings, butare worried about, and reluctant to compromise their integrity as LGBT people. They want to see the Jewishcommunity pro-actively responding to their needs and concerns as LGBT Jews, by providing respectful, culturallysensitive care, advertising LGBT inclusion in Jewish aging facilities, and encouraging a critical mass of LGBTpeople to consider Jewish aging options, so that LGBT Jewish seniors who do make that choice will not experienceisolation in those settings.4K.THE INTERSECTION OF ISRAEL AND LGBT IDENTITIESI actually think that’s the area where I struggle the most. Because politically I’m inclined to be really suspect of Israel’spolicies as a western-supported power 

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