Israel Featured Nation at Equality Forum


Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren

Israel was the featured nation at the Equality Forum, a worldwide LGBT rights conference based in Philadelphia, in May 3-6, 2012.

The forum began with a VIP kickoff reception held at the Gershman Y, Broad and Pine streets. In the lobby of the Gershman, the works of Israeli photographer David Adika were displayed, as part of the 13th Annual Gay and Lesbian Art Exhibit. Titled Equator, Adika’s photographs were displayed on the north, east south, and west sides of the lobby, representing similar regions in Israel.

More after the jump.


Left to right: Equality Forum Executive Director Malcolm Lazin, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, and Houston Mayor Annise Parker

Of his photography, Adika said, “It’s about the place I come from, and I wanted to give a record from Israel.” Asked whether his sexuality affects his work, Adika says, “Yes, but it’s not my agenda. My sexuality is not my agenda, it’s part of my identity. Of course it reflects (in his works), but it’s not very particular, it’s in it, but it’s not talking about it.”    

Explaining the exhibit on the walls of the lobby, Adika said, “Here there are four walls, the south wall, the north wall, the east wall, and the west wall. Each wall are related to their (equivalents) in Israel.” The south wall, he said, shows the Dead Sea, which is in the south of Israel; “I want to show in this work,” he added, “two (opposing) forces, the one that sinks, like this, it’s a sinkhole, and the one that floats, when you’re in the Dead Sea, you float.” The opposite forces at work, added Adika, were “sinking and floating, with all the metaphor you can think of.”

Debra Blair, Chair of the Board of the Equality Forum, said of Israel as a featured nation, “We’ve had several key countries from around the world, that are in stages of Gay liberation. I think to look at Israel, amongst the number of countries we’ve looked at, it’s just timely. There’s quite a bit of controversy around  having Israel, and that’s all the better for us, because that means we’re pushing the envelope for folks to be seen in terms of what they’re trying to do to get in a better place for equality for LGBT citizens.”

Elaborating on the controversy around Israel, Blair added, “With any particular country that has extenuating issues, that may or may not even deal with the LGBT movement, there will always be folks that, when you decide to honor or feature a particular country, they look for things to say, ‘Oh, they’re doing this, they’re doing that wrong.’ We’re simply focusing on the issues of LGBT civil rights around the world. When you have folks coming in to talk about what Israel may or may not be doing in terms of their political positions, or things of that nature, that’s where we put the stops on.” The focus, said Blair is “what (Israel is) doing to move the LGBT citizen to a different place of visibility.”

What has Israel done towards LGBT equality? “They have a number of initiatives,” replied Blair, who is an Assistant Professor in the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management of Temple University. “One of things we look at are those countries that are looking at (the LGBT) market as a potential tourism market. They, like many other countries around the world, are looking at the LGBT market and saying, ‘Come to Israel, we are a great destination.'” Israel, said Blair, has “challenges like every other place around the world around freedoms, but (Israel is) trying to be pro-active, to be welcoming.”

At the start of the kickoff, Malcolm Lazin, Executive Director of Equality Forum, spoke of the history of the Forum, stating that the organizers called it “a civil rights summit,” adding, “People in our own community really didn’t believe us, they thought we were engaging in hyperbola. Back when we said (the Forum) has an international focus, there was a moment in time when people were not focusing internationally, in terms of our national organizations…

“We’re (of Equality Forum) proud of our history,” added Lazin, “As you know, we co-produced (the documentary) Gay Pioneers, at a moment in time when very few in this community knew who Barbara Gittings was.” Gittings, along with Frank Kameny, were, as Lazin put it, “the father and mother of our organized (LGBT) civil-rights movement. We make the film Gay Pioneers with PBS and went out across PBS (stations) and schools across the country.”

Daniel Kuttner, Counsel-General of Israel to Philadelphia, said, “Israel resides in a rough neighborhood…but in spite of the hardship we sometimes bear, Israel is a state (with a) thriving cultural life-music, dance, theater, literature, I could go on,” as Kuttner commended David Adika, “whose photographic art is critically acclaimed throughout the world.” Kuttner gave his thanks to the University of the Arts, the Gershman Y, and Equality Forum for their work in putting together the events of the Forum.

Malcolm Lazin presented the Forum’s Distinguished Service Award to local philanthropist Mel Heifetz. “Many of you know Mel,” added Lazin, “because of his really remarkable philanthropy, there is certainly in the Philadelphia region who has been more philanthropic across the board to the LGBT community.” Heifets, said Lazin, helped to pay off the mortgage for the William Way LGBT Center, located at 13th and Spruce streets, and has donated generously to the AIDS community and to gay-friendly political candidates.  

Israel is Featured Nation for Equality Forum

Israel will be the featured nation in the 20th Annual Equality Forum, a worldwide summit for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) issues, held in Philadelphia on May 3-6, 2012.

On Tuesday, May 1 through Sunday, May 6, the 13th Annual Gay and Lesbian Art Exhibit will feature the works of Israeli photographer David Adika in the lobby of the Gershman Y, Broad and Pine streets; Adika will also give a lecture at the University of the Arts and meet with the artistic community of Philadelphia.

More after the jump.

On Wednesday May 2, a VIP kickoff event will take place at the Gershman Y, with Daniel Kutner, Consul-General of Israel for Philadelphia.

On Thursday May 3, there will be a Featured Nation panel discussion on Israel. On Friday May 4 there will be a drag show at Tabu nightclub, 200 South 12th Street, with a performance by Tel Aviv drag performer and signer Osher Sabag.

Malcolm Lazin, Executive Director of the Equality Forum, says, “Every year, we have an international focus,” which means  it examines “the conditions and challenges of that particular (nation) in terms of the LGBT community of that particular nation. It also gives us an opportunity to measure the United States against what has been achieved or what hasn’t been achieved in that nation or region.”

About the religious extremism in Israel, with rabbis condemning “sodomy”, Lazin says, “Everybody’s entitled to their viewpoint. Israel is, I would call it, a ‘semi-secular’ country. Certainly the religious community has much more of an influence than it would in most first-world nations. But it is a democracy, and the LGBT community (in Israel) is treated with dignity and respect.”        

Equality Forum 2012 Philadelphia with Israel as Featured Nation

— by Chip Alfred

The twentieth annual Equality Forum is being held in Philadelphia. This year this global LGBT summit is highlighting the achievements of the State of Israel in giving equal opportunities to all sexual orientations.

According to the Equality Forum‘s Executive Director Malcolm Lazin:  

Our 20th anniversary celebrates the transformation from a groundbreaking conference that focused on an emerging civil rights movement into the annual Equality Forum recognized as the premier annual national and international LGBT summit.

Israel as the featured nation will be represented by the Ambassador to the U.S., major Israeli LGBT leaders, and Tel Aviv DJs and entertainers.”

The annual Equality Forum includes 25 panels, International Equality Dinner, SundayOUT! at The Piazza, six parties, 13th Annual Gay and Lesbian Art Exhibit, theater, and special events. There is no registration fee and all panels are free.

Details of the Featured Nation Israel Programs follow the jump.
Michael Oren
Equality Forum Featured Nation Israel Programs

  • Ambassador of Israel to the U.S. Dr. Michael B. Oren as Keynote Speaker at International Equality Dinner
  • David AdikaIsraeli photographer David Adika featured at 13th annual Gay and Lesbian Art Exhibit
  • Israeli delegation including elected officials, leaders, drag queen, and entertainers
  • Tel Aviv Drag Queen Osher Sabag performs at Drag Party
  • Israeli Pop Star Shorty performs at SundayOUT! at The Piazza
  • Tel Aviv DJs spin at Equality Forum parties

International Equality Dinner
At the National Museum of American Jewish History – Saturday, May 5th, 7 to 10 p.m.

  • Houston Mayor Annise Parker  – Recipient of the 17th annual International Role Model Award
  • NBCUniversal  – Recipient of the 10th annual International Business Leadership Award
  • Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren – Keynote Speaker
  • MSNBC Anchor Thomas Roberts  – Master of Ceremonies


25 Major Panels including:

  • Featured Nation: Israel – Moderated by Israel native Nurit Shein, Executive Director, Mazzoni LGBT Health Center, with four leading Israeli panelists, including openly gay Tel Aviv City Council Member Yaniv Weizman,  Thursday, May 3rd at 8:30 p.m.
  • National Military Panel – Members of OutServe, a network of out service members, on obstacles LGBT military personnel face after “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Saturday, May 5th at 1:00 p.m.
  • National Sports Panel – A panel of sports experts discusses the challenges facing openly LGBT amateur, college and professional athletes, Saturday, May 5th at 1:00 p.m.
  • National Religious Colloquy – Moderated by Rabbi Rebecca Alpert, Professor of Religion, Temple University, a panel of Catholics discusses LGBT inclusion in the Roman Catholic Church, Thursday, May 3rd at 7:00 p.m.  
  • National Youth Panel – Facilitated by Katherine Miller, discharged West Point cadet under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” is a discussion with gay former University of Michigan Student Body President Chris Armstrong, and Iowa activist and son of lesbian parents Zach Wahls, Saturday, May 5th at 2:30 p.m.
  • National  Same-Sex Marriage Panel – Moderated by Rebecca Isaacs, Executive Director, Equality Federation, the panel surveys the status of marriage equality, Saturday, May 5th at 2:30 p.m.


SundayOUT!
At The Piazza – Sunday, May 6th, Noon to 7 p.m.

Over 150 vendors, artisans, galleries, bars, boutiques, cafés and restaurants in an Italian inspired open-air plaza. SundayOUT! includes music, recording artists, drag queens, and Israeli DJs and performers.

Special Theatre Performance

The Twentieth-Century Way – Set in L.A. in 1914, two actors are hired by police to entrap homosexuals in public restrooms for social vagrancy, at Play and Players, Thursday, May 3rd to Saturday, May 5th

Six Parties including:

  • NBCUniversal Welcome Party at Vedge – Thursday, May 3rd
  • Drag Show & Party at Tabu – Friday, May 4th
  • Stimulus Party – Friday, May 4th
  • Girl Fever at Sisters – Saturday, May 5th
  • Men’s Party at Voyeur – Saturday, May 5th
  • SundayOUT! Tea Dance at Tendenza – Sunday, May 6th

For a complete schedule of events, visit The Equality Forum Website.

Equality Forum is a national and international LGBT civil rights organization with an educational focus. Equality Forum coordinates LGBT History Month, produces documentary films, undertakes high-impact initiatives and presents the premier annual national and international LGBT civil rights summit.