Taglit-Birthright Israel Connects Americans and Israeli LGBTQ Community

The UJA Federation of New York profiled the IsraelExperts LGBTQ Taglit-Birthright Israel trip from this past winter 2011-2012. The article discusses details of the trip's itinerary and also talks about Joey Kuhn, one of the trip's participants who has previously not applied to Taglit-Birthright Israel because he was "concerned about how his sexual orientation would be recieved." However, the trip turned out to be an incredible, open minded experience that "exceeded every expectation that [Kuhn] had."

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Birthright Connects American and Israeli LGBTQ Community

Many of Joey Kuhn’s friends had been on Birthright and had come back with rave reviews. They’d fallen for the country’s natural beauty, the chance to meet and bond with Israeli soldiers, and a thousand other details of the trip.

So why had Kuhn never been on Birthright? Kuhn, who is gay, was concerned about how his sexual orientation would be received. But despite his initial hesitation, he finally booked his El Al ticket and started packing his bags.

“I’m a little nervous about what the reaction will be,” Kuhn, who lives in Manhattan, said before the trip. “I’m not sure how accepting people are of the LGBT community. In any unfamiliar place, you never know how open you can be about your sexual identity.” From January 4th through the 15th, 40 Americans, including Kuhn who chaired the trip, participated in the first federation-supported LGBT Birthright bus, funded by UJA-Federation and the Jewish Community Center (JCC) in Manhattan, and organized in part by UJA-Federation’s Emerging Leaders & Philanthropists.

 

When he returned, it was clear that Kuhn’s initial anxieties had melted away. “The trip was so spectacular, it exceeded every expectation I had,” he says. “I never thought that I would want to live in the Middle East, but I could tell you that after going to Tel Aviv I would love to live in Tel Aviv.”

What transpired on his 10-day whirlwind trip that changed Kuhn’s mind? Part of it was the experiences that most Birthright participants have: sojourning in a Bedouin tent, floating in the Dead Sea, exploring Tel Aviv nightlife, and of course the emotional journey to Yad Vashem.

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