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JCC Association strengthens national partnership with Keshet

Leading Jewish LGBTQ group will assist JCCs with inclusion

The Asheville JCC has long prided itself on its practice of inclusion, and has strong relationships with several local LGBTQ organizations. When HB2, commonly known in the news as the “bathroom bill,” became law in North Carolina, the JCC thought it was important to reiterate its commitment to being a welcoming environment.

That bill requires transgender individuals to use public restrooms that align with their biological gender rather than the one with which they identify. The law also prohibits municipalities from making laws establishing a different standard.

“And since so many people seemed confused about the implications of HB2, we wanted to clarify for our board, staff and guests, exactly what our policy regarding use of locker rooms and restrooms is,” writes JCC Executive Director Lael Gray.

The JCC had previously worked with Keshet—a national Jewish organization that works for full LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning) in Jewish life—to develop its policies*. Now it turned to Keshet again.

“We knew that Keshet was our best resource for helping us to answer this question,” says Gray. Since then, the JCC was approached to co-host Asheville’s annual Stonewall commemoration. Organizers felt the JCC was the safest space for LGBTQ families at which to attend the program.

That kind of partnering is exactly what JCC Association and Keshet hope will be the norm for all JCCs in their recently announced national alliance. Their goal is to better support JCCs across the country in developing programming, facilities and policies that are more inclusive to LGBTQ families and individuals.

“In the wake of the tragic event that took place in Orlando, it is more important now than it ever has been to show that we are standing in support of the LGBTQ community,” says Catherine Bell, Keshet’s national program director. “JCCs have a powerful role to play in offering spaces that are both welcoming and safe for the LGBTQ community.”

The partnership marks a new, more intentional, and more formal phase in the relationship between the two Jewish organizations.

“JCCs are inclusive environments with broad reach in their communities,” says Joy Brand-Richardson, JCC Association vice president and director of training and professional development. “We can truly model b’tzelem elohim, that we are all created in God’s image, through the work we do welcoming the LGBTQ community.”

Keshet already has a track record working with JCC Association, Bell notes, having led numerous staff trainings and webinars for JCCs in recent years. Those offerings provide guidance to JCC professionals who serve a broad range of interests, including summer camps, fitness and wellness and marketing and communications, to name a few.

As an outgrowth of those trainings, Keshet has been able to work more closely with individual JCCs, providing guidance on developing practices and policies for inclusion of the LGBTQ community, as it did with the Asheville JCC.

“It was really powerful, that in a state at the center of this national conversation, they sought us out,” says Daniel Bahner, Keshet’s national manager of education and training.

In addition to webinars and policy development, Keshet can offer inclusion training, action planning and year-long coaching through the Keshet Leadership Project, and leadership development programming for LGBTQ and ally teens to take back to their own JCC teen programs and camps. In turn, JCC Association provides reach and networking by including Keshet in its professional conferences, and will ensure that JCCs know when a Keshet Leadership Project cohort is commencing in their area. As well JCC Association will provide program opportunities for engaging LGBTQ communities for local JCCs.

“By strengthening this partnership, JCC professionals will have access to training for both leadership and front-line staff, as well as a broad scope of service addressing LGBTQ inclusion,” said Brand-Richardson. “We feel that JCCs can only benefit from the relationship, and with their broad reach, be at the forefront of LGBTQ inclusion within their communities.”

*Asheville JCC’s locker room/restroom policy

Whereas there are appropriate instances when a member or guest may require usage of a locker room and/or restroom that is not labeled for their gender identity, the following policy is designed to both protect their rights, their safety, and to provide guidelines for staff response.

  • Young children are permitted to enter a locker room/restroom with their caregiver- regardless as to whether the child’s sex or gender is the same as the caregivers- in order to ensure appropriate personal care and supervision.
  • Individuals with physical, intellectual and/or developmental limitations who require a personal caregiver, are permitted to enter a locker room/restroom with their caregiver of the opposite sex or gender.
  • Transgender individuals should use the locker room/restroom of their choosing.

In all cases, locker room/restroom facilities will be maintained by the Asheville JCC in an effort to provide private areas for individuals to use and to maintain respect for others’ privacy.

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