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Ga'Avah KC offers safe space for LGBTQ+ members of Jewish faith

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Posted at 5:00 AM, Jun 21, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-26 14:13:23-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Since 2020, Ga'Avah KC has worked to be a welcoming force for LGBTQ+ people who are also members of the Jewish faith.

Since its inception, Ga'Avah, which means pride in Hebrew, has continued to grow.

Just this month — Pride month — founder and community chairperson Brad Ordo was recognized as a "Hometown Hero" by the Kansas City Current at the club's June 14 home match.

Ga'Avah KC also had a booth at PrideFest in Theis Park.

"We want to be able to tell people that they're welcome in the Jewish community, that they're part of the larger whole," Isaac Freeman said at the event. "And so being explicit and saying that we have a space for LGBT Jews says that the Jewish community is welcoming you as part of a larger community."

The group's membership includes people who identify as gay, queer and transgender, spanning multiple generations.

"There's something in our faith that informs something greater than us," said Fanny Mandelberger, a member of the group who is in her 60s. "I guess I'm at a stage where I don't want to be out there — I'm out there in the protest, I was at Gay Pride. I kinda want to just be where it exists and just model that. I also learn a lot from the younger generation how important it is to have a representation and label."

Elie Voogt, 21, is a queer trans member of the group who grew up in Nebraska and converted from Christianity to Judaism. He said he learned about the group at PrideFest in 2022 when he approached the booth.

This year, Voogt sat on the other side of the table.

"I sat at the booth for Ga'Avah, and somebody came by, and they were Jewish, and they were like, 'I didn't even know something like this could exist,'" Voogt said. "And that's where I was last year."

Voogt sees a real benefit to what the group offers from both a gender-identity and faith-based perspective.

"I'm in groups that are just queer, not necessarily religious-affiliated, and although it's nice, I can't connect with people on the same level," Voogt said. "I'll say something about Judaism, and they just won't get it. A lot of them are Christian, and it's a different experience and a different way that I'm able to converse with the people."

To visit Ga'Avah's Facebook page, click here.