by Susan Cohen
Despite its religious roots, the Charleston Jewish Community Center prides itself on being an inclusive facility. "The idea of fitting in and how one fits in, I think that we all have to wrestle with that in some way," Sandra Brett, the JCC's cultural arts programmer, says.
So recently, when several JCC parents with LGBT children came to Brett to find a way to show that there's LGBT support within the Jewish community, the center acted. As a result, the JCC will host a free monthly series called Growing Up LGBT and Jewish in Charleston.
The program starts Wed. April 10 with a screening of Hineini: Coming Out in a Jewish High School. The film, which follows a teen as she starts a gay-straight alliance at her Jewish school in Boston, was produced by Keshet, an organization for Jewish LGBT youth. Alliance for Full Acceptance Executive Director Warren Redman-Gress will lead a discussion after the screening. On May 8, the JCC will host a panel discussion with parents of LGBT children. The series concludes on June 12 with another panel, this time made up of LGBT Jews who will recount their experiences growing up in Charleston.
One of the recurring themes in the program deals with what issues LGBT Jews face versus their LGBT peers in other denominations — whatever they may be. "If you're Jewish, you're in the minority. I think that you're in a double minority if you're LGBT and Jewish," Brett says. "And it might not be an issue at all. We don't really know. Part of the series is to find that out."
Brett is also eager to hear suggestions for what kind of LGBT events the JCC should plan for the future, and if there's a need for them. "We're certainly open to any ideas," Brett says. "Maybe the need for a Jewish group per se is not as great as bigger issues of people getting together from any religion. We're waiting to see."
And although these programs are geared toward LGBT youth and their families, Brett hopes that the series will show that the JCC is a resource open to anybody.
"As Jews, we do try to be inclusive ... from a social sense," she says. "We just want to make sure that everyone realizes that there is a place where you can be included, and that place is the JCC."