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July 18 , 2010

Pride Guide

Brynna Fish named to LGBT Jewish leadership panel

Cleveland--In 1983, as a founding member of Chevrei Tikva, Cleveland�s LGBT Synagogue (now part of Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple), Brynna Fish did not hesitate to add �out Jewish lesbian� as another feather in her community activist hat.

Twenty-seven years later, being named one of 17 national Jewish LGBT leaders to the advisory board of an historic Jewish movement convening at the end of the month in California, is more than just another feather in Brynna Fish�s hat.�

�Being named to this board of national Jewish LGBT leaders is like getting an honorary doctoral degree,� Fish said. �It both acknowledges my three decades of grassroots work and provides the license I need to grow this work deeper on the local, statewide and national level.�

Active in the Jewish Federation of Cleveland�s LGBT task force, established in 2004, Fish learned about Keshet (�rainbow� in Hebrew), a Jewish LGBT organization in Boston, when they produced the documentary Hineini: Coming Out in a Jewish High School. In 2008, Fish was instrumental in bringing both the movie and Keshet�s executive director Idit Klein to Cleveland.

Impressed with Fish�s strong Jewish background, Jewish lifestyle, and her LGBT community organizing skills and connections, Keshet invited Fish to participate in its first national Hineini Education Project Training Institute held in Atlanta, Georgia the spring of 2008. Fish was then hired to coordinate their second training, which was held here in Cleveland later that summer. In February 2009, Fish was invited to participate in Keshet�s National Training Institute for Master Trainers. Fish is now certified by Keshet as a master trainer to lead programs for Jewish youth, educators, youth directors and clergy addressing issues of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and allies inclusion using the Hineini Education Project materials.

Fish�s work in the Jewish community on LGBT issues caught the attention of those working statewide on faith-based LGBT issues for Equality Ohio. She represented the Jewish faith at Equality Ohio�s November 2008 �Ohio, Progress and Faith� luncheon in the Ohio State House. There she shared how her Jewish faith has provided her both a rich foundation of ethics to guide her life and activism, and has also betrayed her through discrimination. In the early 1980�s she was relieved of her responsibilities as the Central Region United Synagogue Youth Director due to �budget reasons� just a few weeks after her supervisor asked her outright if she was a lesbian.�

While Fish continues her involvement in Equality Ohio�s faith-based initiatives, her true passion is working directly in local schools and synagogues. This past April, through her work with the Gay Straight Alliance at Hawken Upper School, Fish debuted her coming out journey to the entire student body through a multi-media presentation entitled �My Life in Queer PowerPoint.�

Fish also presented two workshops at the National Conference of Jewish Secular Organizations held over Memorial Day weekend in Cleveland. A dozen adults from around the country attended Fish�s �LGBTQQIA: What Does Judaism Have to Do with It?� The highlight of her participation in the conference was being invited by the kids to address their contingent. While no Cleveland teens participated in this event, the over 80 high school students attending �were transfixed,� according to conference coordinator Hans Leander. During the 90-minute session Fish taught the alphabet of gay identities and the differences between gender identity and sexual identity.

�These kids reminded me that there is a generation of youth who understand the inequality and discrimination that exists in our country and who will turn that understanding into votes that will help transform legislation so that we can all be free citizens.�

The three-day conference, held at the Pacific School of Religion and organized by Jewish Mosaic, Keshet and Nehirim, will take place June 2729, and will feature a June 28 reception and talk with Stuart Milk, the nephew of Harvey Milk.

For more information about the conference, go to www.jewishinclusion.com.

To have Brynna Fish present to your group, school or synagogue, call 216-4075543 or e-mail bfish6557@aol.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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