In first, Jewish Agency to march in Tel Aviv Pride Parade

Organization to represent its Tel Aviv LGBT group, ‘Coming Out Coming Home’

Debra writes for the JTA, and is a former features writer for The Times of Israel.

A rainbow gay pride flag.  (AFP/BEN STANSALL)
A rainbow gay pride flag. (AFP/BEN STANSALL)

At the Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade this Friday, the Jewish Agency will be coming out, too.

Spurred into action by a group of LGBT immigrants in Tel Aviv, the agency, which in March launched its LGBT group “Coming Out, Coming Home,” will join dozens of other gay-friendly organizations at the annual Gay Pride Happening in Gan Meir park before marching with their own branded banner in the day’s parade.

It marks the first time the Jewish Agency will hoist its own banner in Tel Aviv’s annual gay pride parade, which will draw thousands of rainbow-clad revelers and cap off the week of events, parties and scantily-clad encounters comprising the city’s annual pride week.

Yahm Reichart, a Los Angeles native who moved to Israel seven years ago and came out within six months of his arrival, is one of the volunteers behind the movement. “Coming Out, Coming Home,” she says, is more than a support group. It’s a networking portal and a slice of the familiar in a country were life can often feel strange.

“It’s hard to meet people and there’s always language barriers and cultural barriers,” she says. “It just helps to have people in the same situation.”

“Coming Out, Coming Home,” is run under the auspices of the Jewish Agency Babayit Beyachad program, which matches new olim with veteran olim and native-born Israelis for support and guidance. Its representatives will march in the parade alongside The TLVLGBT English-speakers group and LGBT Olim, a Facebook group founded by immigrant Roy Freeman for English-speaking gay and lesbian immigrants from across Israel.

The next step, says Yahm, is bringing similar groups to other cities around Israel so gay and lesbian immigrants across the country can link up.

“It’s really special this year to have the Jewish Agency logo on our stand [at the Happening]. It’s such a stamp of recognition that there are olim [immigrants to Israel] who are LGBT and we are here and present and we also need resources,” she says. “We’d love to have other branches open up in other cities. We are hoping that the Tel Aviv event will inspire people to get going and make something of their own.”

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