Speaker discusses being Jewish, gay

By Marc Larocque

Two student groups that don’t typically interact found a common bond at a recent event.

Matt Lebovic, a graduate student at Hebrew University in Israel and a gay rights activist, spoke to about 30 students from Students for Israel at Northeastern and the Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay, Transgendered, and Straight Alliance (NUBiLAGA), Thursday night at the Curry Student Center to discuss Zionism and gay rights in the Middle East.

“I wear two hats as an advocate,” he said.

Lebovic graduated from Boston University in 2000 and in addition to being a student he is also doing press relations for a Jerusalem Open House Organization, working with Israeli gay rights groups like Ortho-Dikes and writing opinion editorials for Ynet News, a daily news organization in Israel.

“The biggest misconception about Israel is that they don’t want peace and that the land wasn’t theirs to begin with,” Lebovic said. “Israel is like this island of tolerance and democracy in a sea that is mostly totalitarian and despotic. Several hundred Palestinians [have fled] from the West Bank to Tel Aviv to escape persecution for being gay.”

Lebovic said he does not feel much conflict between his religion and his sexual orientation.

“I’m not kosher or anything, but I do feel a spirituality within my religion,” he said.

Gay marriages are not administrated in Israel, but because the Israeli government recognizes gay marriages licensed in other countries, Lebovic said many gay couples marry in nearby Cyprus.

The Israeli military accepts openly gay citizens, unlike the U.S. military, he said. All male and female Israeli citizens are required to serve in the military for three and two years respectively once they turn 18.

“I don’t think that Israel thought they would be making homosexuality more acceptable when they decided that gays had to be in the army in 1993,” he said. “But it did. It contributes to a climate of more openness and tolerance.”

Some students felt Lebovic’s presentation was biased.

“He should have brought a Palestinian person for when he was talking about Zionism and the conflict in the Middle East in order to have an unbiased perspective,” said Georgia Dufresne, a junior organizational communications major.

Some members from Students for Israel at Northeastern who attended said they appreciated the unity of the groups at the event.

“We have a lot of the same battles – Jews and gays,” said Samantha Lemansky, a sophomore business major. “There are a lot of misconceptions about both of us.”

Members of NUBiLAGA said it was good to be able to relate to a group going through similar struggles.

“It’s really cool to be able to [do] this together with the NU Students for Israel,” said Robert Gable, a middler computer science major and member of NUBiLAGA. “Last year we felt kind of isolated.”

Hadar Duek, a middler psychology major and member of Students for Israel, said she thinks the younger generation will be influential in helping both groups overcome discrimination and the feelings of isolation.

“The fact that both of these groups were able to come together and fight for acceptance and the reality of both of our struggles is great,” Duek said. “There is definitely an overlap in the ways of our thinking. This younger generation is the key for these very similar battles.”

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