LGBTQ South Florida

Group offers wider bridge to Israeli transgender teens visiting South Florida

Members of A Wider Bridge and Ma’avarim, an Israeli transgender youth group, visit Fort Lauderdale on Monday, Aug. 15, 2016. Clockwise from left: adult group leader Elisha Alexander; A Wider Bridge Executive Director Arthur Slepian; hosts Aaron Taber and Cantor Mark Goldman; Amy Auerbach, 17; Alan Walker, 19; A Wider Bridge Deputy Director Tyler Harris Gregory; and Adi Ben Barak, 19.
Members of A Wider Bridge and Ma’avarim, an Israeli transgender youth group, visit Fort Lauderdale on Monday, Aug. 15, 2016. Clockwise from left: adult group leader Elisha Alexander; A Wider Bridge Executive Director Arthur Slepian; hosts Aaron Taber and Cantor Mark Goldman; Amy Auerbach, 17; Alan Walker, 19; A Wider Bridge Deputy Director Tyler Harris Gregory; and Adi Ben Barak, 19. srothaus@miamiherald.com

Ma’avarim is a Hebrew word for “transitions,” and a fitting name for an Israeli organization that facilitates both personal and social transition for its teenage transgender clients.

A Wider Bridge, an American organization that fosters cultural understanding and connection to Israel for LGBT Jews and non-Jews, last week hosted four members of the group Ma’avarim for a visit to South Florida, the beginning of a two-week American tour with stops also in New York, Los Angeles and San Diego.

Ma’avarim youth leader Amy Auerbach, 17, adores music and transgender American writer and media personality Janet Mock.

“Before I started this trip, I was really hoping to get to know some really important people who cares about their communities and who help make changes,” Auerbach said. “This is what I want to do in my community in Israel. I want to help create collaborations between Ma’avarim and other organizations all over the world and especially in the USA. There is such a great LGBTPAQ community in South Florida, because their activists really do care about them and about their future.

“The lessons I’ll take back to Israel with me are the lessons about how we can take our organization to new places and how to earn some new achievements,” she said. “I would like to tell the readers about a little quote that took my activism to a new level for me. It is a quote from the group, My Chemical Romance: ‘The future is bulletproof. The aftermath is secondary. It’s time to do it now and do it loud. Killjoys make some noise.’”

Arthur Slepian, founder and executive director of A Wider Bridge in San Francisco, designed the U.S. city tour so that Ma’avarim members could meet LGBT leaders in different U.S. cities. The Israeli Consulate’s office in Miami helped arrange meetings with LGBT leaders in South Florida.

On Aug. 14, the visitors met at The Betsy South Beach hotel with members of Hispanic LGBT-rights goup Unity Coalition/Coalicion Unida. Attendees included Unity Coalition Executive Director Herb Sosa and State Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, the only out gay person in Florida’s Legislature. Afterward, the group toured Ocean Drive and took in a drag show at The Palace bar.

The next day, the Ma’avarim delegation visited Survivors’ Pathway in Miami, a nonprofit for LGBT people who have survived domestic violence, sexual abuse and other kinds of victimization. They met with Executive Director Francesco Duberli; OUT Miami Foundation Director Jaime Bayo; and legal assistance and social-work providers and volunteers from the Trans Latina Project. Later, they visited Pridelines, an LGBT service group, at its new headquarters in Northeast Miami. On Monday, they drove to Fort Lauderdale for a reception at the home of Aaron Taber and Cantor Mark Goldman of Temple Kol Ami Emanu-El in Plantation.

At Taber and Goldman’s home, the trans teens talked to a crowd of about 50.

Alan Walker, 19, who lives on a Kibbutz in northern Israel, now laughs when he says the first time he heard the term “transgender” was when he read it in a National Geographic article about “bizarre lifestyles.” Now he works with Ma’avarim as a youth leader. “I am a theater enthusiast, I like reading, writing, learning foreign languages and painting. I also happen to be transgender,” he said.

Adi Ben Barak, 19, teaches other transgender youths and helps them obtain high school diplomas. As in the United States, many transgender teens in Israel drop out of high school, become estranged with their families and end up homeless. “My dream is to study education and social work to help the trans community,” he said.

Elisha Alexander, the adult leader at Ma’avarim, said the biggest problem with tran activism in Israel, as in the United States and elsewhere, is lack of funding and making sure the “T” in LGBT doesn’t get left behind politically.

“Ma’avarim, as well as other trans organizations around the world, must work together to change this, tell our stories, explain the importance of our work, and find people who are willing to become our partners in change,” he said. “Our partnership with A Wider Bridge has given us the opportunity to meet with trans activists in the United States and see how we can learn and help each other. Our visit was very short, but it looks like the organizations in South Florida are doing inspiring work.”

More online

▪ To support Ma’avarim or A Wider Bridge, visit the Ma’avarim website at www.maavarim.org/copy-of-english and A Wider Bridge at awiderbridge.org/donate-to-a-wider-bridge.

▪ Additional photos can be viewed at Steve Rothaus LGBTQ South Florida page on Facebook, www.facebook.com/LGBTQsouthflorida.

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