Traditional values in the practice of gender equality
Havruta is the Talmudic Aramaic word for fellowship, alliance, companionship. There could not be a more appropriate moniker for an organization that aims to promote tolerance and acceptance of Orthodox gay, lesbian and transgender people in Israel.
Founded in 2007, one of Havruta’s goals is to create a broad community of volunteers and participants who will offer social support and a sense of communal belonging and empowerment for religious gays in Israel. Another of its goals is to further a real acceptance of LGBT individuals and LGBT families in religious communities.
On a day-to-day basis, the organization actively works to inform and educate the religious public about LGBT issues in their communities. Havruta serves as a community for religious and formerly religious gays and helps bridge the wide gaps that exist between religious and gay life. Havruta hosts monthly social meetings in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa and organizes annual hikes and weekend retreats that attract many members. These meetings provide a space where religious gays can socialize in an accepting environment.
The list of other activities run by Havruta is endless: Encounters with religious leaders and educators furthering dialogue on LGBT issues; the creation of smaller groups within Havruta to meet the specific needs of the community, such as an English-speaking group and a group for religious gay parents; prayer services, Shabbat meals and Shabbat retreats; an updated website and a widely-distributed pamphlet; online and hotline services; and participation in Pride Marches and other pride activities.
Havruta’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. In December 2011, Havruta and Bat0Kol (an organization for Orthodox lesbians) were awarded a special mention by the French Commission on Human Rights, for their joint effort to advocate for tolerance and acceptance among educators and religious authorities and to raise their awareness of homophobic discrimination and its impact on adolescents.