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Arthur Blankstein


By Arthur Blankstein, Special to the Winnipeg Jewish Review, August 11, 2010

I am going to Los Angeles to take part in the 20th World Conference of GBLT Jews August 12th – 15th 2010.  The conference in being held at the Hillel House on the UCLA Campus and is being presented by The World Congress of GBLT Jews.

For those of you that don’t know, the acronym GBLT stands for Gay, Bi-Sexual, Lesbian and Trans-sexual.

This will be my second conference as I was present in Los Angeles in the early 1970’s at the inaugural Conference.  Much has happened since then. 

In the 1970’s I was active in the Jewish Gay scene in Toronto, as I like many young Jewish men escaped the cloistered environment in Winnipeg for freedom of choice and anonymity that came from living in Toronto.

The group in Toronto was made up of men from all parts of Canada and even one person from Israel.  We met for in a social setting for Chanukah and for Friday night services and coffee house at Holy Trinity Church behind Eaton Centre.  Those times, the Jewish GBLT identity was just forming – there was a group in New York (Beth Simcha Torah), a group in Chicago, Montreal, Washington DC, Miami, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Since that time, many of these groups became Synagogues under the banner of Reform Movement.  And the struggle for equal rights and the right of Union and/or Marriage is an ongoing battle in the U.S.A.

That is not the case in Canada.

In 2003, persons of the same sex were granted the right of Marriage in Ontario. In 2004 I married my husband Ken Ure in Vancouver.  Same sex Marriage was affirmed by Parliament, the Senate and received Royal assent 20th July 2005.

We are part of the general community in Winnipeg, but we also participate and take an active role in Jewish GBLT Community through active participation in Anakhnu - the Rady JCC sponsored program.  This Program came into being with the initial grant support of The Jewish Foundation of Manitoba.  Our programs continue to grow and diversify.

In addition The Shaarey Zedek Synagogue under the leadership of Rabbi Green and Rabbi Pinsker has moved the Synagogue into an equality situation.  

Shaarey Zedek now offers to all GLBT Jewish people the following:

Full Single, Family, and Linked Memberships (dual faith couples would be restricted only by the current synagogue policies now in place);

Single or double funeral plots to members and non-members alike (providing that all interred must be Jewish as per current synagogue policies);

We will perform marriages for any gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered couple (providing that both participants are Jewish and the service is a Jewish one).

What a change!

I will continue this story upon my return from Los Angeles.

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