I was driving along Balaclava Road after lunch today and a billboard outside Leibler Yavneh College caught my attention, no doubt a testament to its effectiveness.
In particular I was drawn to the stylised rainbow, the word “keshet” (Hebrew for rainbow), the message underneath (“Show your true colours”) and that it was affixed to the fence of Yavneh College.
I parked my car so I could get a closer look at the billboard and I saw it was for the summer youth camp run by Bnei Akiva.
My initial reaction to seeing the billboard was that it was for the Keshet Australia program but I quickly realised that this wasn’t the case. The reason I thought it might have been for Keshet Australia is because they are “developing an array of engaging education campaigns and initiatives for, and in partnership with, Jewish communal organisations; especially schools, youth movements, aged care-homes and synagogues”.
Optimistically, it would be ideal if Keshet Australia was associated with Bnei Akiva Australia. The kids who participate in those programs definitely need the education about sexual orientation and gender identity that Keshet Australia intends to empower leaders in Jewish organisations with.
A collaboration between Bnei Akiva, Keshet Australia and Yavneh College would help safeguard the welfare of the most important assets in the Jewish community, the children. Intolerance of homosexuality contributes to poor mental health outcomes, self-harm and suicide. Ignoring the reality of this situation compounds the problem, only to the community’s detriment.
I actually had a quick look to see if there was any material online that Bnei Akiva had made available to help understand sexual orientation or homosexuality. I only found one page on Bnei Akiva UK’s web-site discussing “controversial topics” that had a rough scan of some questions about homosexuality from a religious perspective. Sadly, there were no answers, just questions.
I urge the educators in the Jewish community to work with organisations like Keshet Australia and Safe Schools Coalition Victoria and invest in the health and happiness of community that really does show its true colours.