KESHET Australia, a rights group recently formed to protect Jewish children who may be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex (GLBTI), is forming a parents’ support network.
Jonathan Barnett, Keshet’s president, said parents are a critical factor in the wellbeing of children, not least when the children are becoming aware of their sexuality.
“Parents are a big issue. How parents respond to their kids coming out, whether it’s a 14-year-old or a 24-year-old, really can make a big difference to how the kid feels and how they feel connected to family and the community. It’s part of our bigger mission,” he told The AJN.
“It’s not just the child that has to come out, but the parent, and they come out to their friends and family.”
Barnett said the three sets of parents founding the network have all gone to Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays (PFLAG), a mainstream support group. “But what they all observed was that nobody else was Jewish and they wanted to be with other Jews, who understand the Jewish community.”
The group is being formed as an addition or alternative to PFLAG. “We’ll have kosher cake, for example, and that’s one of the little differences,” he said.
Barnett reflected that perhaps Orthodox families may need the service more than Progressive families, “but everybody needs it”, he said.
In a letter to The AJN, Barnett stated: “In our community, where success is often defined in terms of heterosexual relationships, marriage and grandchildren, there are many parents of GLBTI children who experience feelings of despair and even isolation. Keshet parents believe that there is a need to reach out and talk about these common concerns.”
Keshet Australia was formed earlier this year as an advocacy group for the Jewish GLBTI community, based on the Keshet organisation in the United States. The local group has strong informal ties to Progressive Judaism Victoria.