Intersectionality and its impact on the Jewish and LGBTQ communities were explored at a panel hosted by JUF's Young Leadership Division Pride Committee and JUF's Jewish Community Relations Council in December at JUF. Stephanie Goldfarb, JUF's Youth Philanthropy and Leadership program director, Emily Briskman, the Israel Education Center's executive director, and Emily Sweet, JCRC's executive director, spoke on the panel.
Intersectionality, a term coined by civil rights advocate Kimberle Crenshaw in 1989, is the theory that every form of oppression is connected.
"Intersectionality is the process of untangling your multiple identities and understanding the way those identities intersect in order to position you in power and oppression," Goldfarb said. "Everyone has intersectionality and everyone has multiple identities. When we talk about intersectionality, oppression, and privilege, we are talking about the systems that exist to privilege some people over others."
Briskman explained how intersectionality can be manipulated and weaponized on campus to alienate Jewish students.
"Campus is a microcosm of what is happening in the world," Briskman said. "We're seeing a silencing of political Jewish opinions, mostly but not exclusively around Israel, more under the guise of being told to check our white privilege. That becomes complicated because it's a fundamental misunderstanding of who the Jewish community is and where we come from, which is a significant problem on campus."
Briskman showed a video from a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign event where Hen Mazzig, an LGBTQ activist and writer, was shouted down by anti-Israel students. Those students often have coalitions with other social justice groups on campus, making it difficult for Jewish and pro-Israel organizations to form relationships with those student groups.
Intersectional social justice movements believe that one group's liberation can only be achieved when every social movement achieves its objectives. For example, gender equality cannot be achieved until classism and ableism are also defeated.
Intersectionality was weaponized against the Jewish LGBTQ community in July when Chicago Dyke March organizers ejected Jewish participants for carrying Pride flags embossed with the Star of David. Because the Dyke March officially stands in solidarity with Palestinian liberation movements, Zionists cannot be welcome in their community, according to the Dyke March's interpretation of intersectionality.
"This event was created in a response to the feeling that there is a shrinking space for Jews [and] Zionists in progressive movements and spaces, in which the LGBTQ community has always found itself," said Elaine Ross, YLD Pride chair. "I believe the Chicago Dyke March was a major push for the YLD Pride community to facilitate such dialogue; it is our hope that these such dialogues will continue."