For gay Zionists, making Aliyah is an opportunity to link both identities together
Magazine: For the first time ever, the Israel Mega Event—an annual Aliyah fair taking place in New York City—included a stand catering to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Jews; Scott Piro, who was behind the initiative, speaks about marketing the Israeli gay community to American LGBT Jews.
Scott Piro had decided to set up a stand at this year's Israel Mega Event—an Aliyah fair that took place in New York City on February 26. The stand was a first in the history of the event, as it catered specifically to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Jews interested in making Aliyah.
This year, over 1,500 participants took part in the fair—the largest crowd the annual event has yet to draw. The fair is a joint effort of Nefesh B'Nefesh, the Ministry of Immigration Absorption, the Jewish Agency and the Jewish National Fund.
Among those surrounding the stand was the lead singer of the Jewish a capella group the Y Studs, which performed at the fair. He identified as both "a proud Jew" and "a proud gay man," and said that he was personally interested in making Aliyah.
As for Piro, he is a Reform Jew from New York who made Aliyah in 2009 and lived in Tel Aviv, until his homesickness caused him to move back to the states. After finding that he nevertheless missed Israel, he decided to reach out to his fellow NYC gay Zionists by by tooting Tel Aviv as the most gay-friendly city in the world and through paraphernalia such as t-shirts with "Zionists do it better" written on the front.
Piro eagerly states that the gay olim community in Israel and particularly Tel Aviv is well-organized and growing, with its own activities and institutions. Among them he mentions a queer ulpan, with a gay Hebrew teacher to boot. He also claims that gay Israeli men know how to both have fun and stay in a committed relationship.
Despite the developing gay olim culture in Israel, Piro stresses that it isn't all pride flags and kikis. While the gay community in the US offers a rich culture life, including gay bowling, gay baseball and other LGBT-geared recreational activities, in Israel gay life revolves mainly around the bar and club scenes, which do not necessarily appeal to every one of its members. Here's hoping for a more layered gay scene in the Holyland.
Itamar Eichner was a guest of Nefesh B'Nefesh at the annual Israel Mega Event.