Riding a wave of popular support for LGBTQ human rights worldwide, and in the shadow of the recent murder of Jerusalem Pride Parade marcher Shira Benki, more than 60 international Jewish gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and ally community builders and LGBTQ-rights activists will gather in Salzburg, Austria today for the inaugural launch of the groundbreaking global forum Eighteen:22 – An International Think Tank for Jewish LGBTQ and Ally Changemakers.
Taking its name in an act of reclamation and defiance from Leviticus 18:22 – a verse which has been used against LGBTQ people for centuries – and with the theme “the next chapter in LGTBQ Jewish life,” Eighteen:22 seeks to build a global network for today’s emerging and established Jewish LGBTQ and ally visionaries who have demonstrated a profound commitment to pursuing positive change for LGBTQ Jews and their communities.
“Our convening arrives at a remarkable moment in history,” Eighteen:22 Founder Robert J. (Bobby) Saferstein tells eJP. “LGBTQ human rights inhabits the zeitgeist in a way that has helped catalyze the passage of laws and rights thought impossible only a few years ago. We have even seen moves towards acceptance and inclusion in the most unexpected corners of traditional observance and Jewish life.”
“Yet, we know all too well that increased global attention does not necessarily guarantee progress – it sometimes leads to the exact opposite – and intolerance, discrimination, and violence continue to be promoted and accepted in far too many places worldwide.”
Through a combination of inspirational speakers, leadership and practical skills-building workshops, and peer-led case-studies, Eighteen:22 will cultivate a global network of visionaries who are actively pursuing positive change in a variety of disciplines – across the public and private sectors – and have demonstrated a profound commitment to LGBTQ issues in Jewish life and beyond.
Applicants to Eighteen:22 spanned a diverse array of professions and concentrations, and represented nearly 30 countries from around the globe. Each applicant was vetted by a panel of established thought leaders in the LGBTQ and Jewish worlds. Finalists were selected based on a number of criteria including:
- Demonstrated commitment to and impact in some area of LGBTQ Jewish life and/or beyond.
- Established in a decision-making position, or a position that consults with or counsels the decision-makers.
- A stand-out as an expert, leading talent, or other general star of their community or initiative.
- Currently active in work that targets the intersectionality of LGBTQ and Jewish life, in any field, through their paid profession or through dedicated service/unpaid activities.
The recruitment and selection process additionally considered the following areas of representation: Jews of color, Jews by choice, person with a mobility issue, person with accessibility issues/special needs/invisible illness, non-Ashkenazi background, interfaith family, other identity.
Part of the Schusterman Connection Points program, and organized by Saferstein and Halley Cohen, Eighteen:22 takes place at the historic and symbolic Schloss Leopoldskron Hotel. Originally owned by famed Jewish impresario and Salzburg Music Festival Founder Max Reinhardt, “the Schloss” was confiscated by the Nazis during World War II. Following the war, the Schloss was later reclaimed and turned into the Salzburg Global Seminar – a forum to challenge current and future leaders to solve issues of global concern.
“We see how vital the cultivation of a global network such as Eighteen:22 is in order to learn from each other, to reflect upon the new challenges we face today, and to discuss the steps needed to advance positive change. I am encouraged by the potential of what we can build together,” added Saferstein.