On April 26, 2023, CEJI’s Project Assistant, Daniel Heller, spoke at ENCATE’s second lunch talk on the intersectionality series. His presentation focused on the struggles faced by Queer Jewish individuals due to their identity in various contexts. The talk, titled “Queerphobia and Antisemitism,” generated significant interest among the audience. Heller provided definitions of queerness and Jewishness, engaged in discussions on each concept, and shared real-life examples from Italy.
How do Queerphobia and Antisemitism intersect, and why is it important to understand the dynamics?
According to Heller, many LGBTQIA+ Jews feel a pull between their identities. They experience tensions between their Jewish identity and their Queer in specific contexts. As a result, they do not feel entirely accepted as part of both communities. They are then pressured to prioritize between one of these identities, preventing them from fully living out their entire identity mosaic.
Based on different cases, Heller demonstrated how a Queer Jewish person might face challenges and attacks from both communities: i.e., antisemitism in Queer spaces and queerphobia in Jewish spaces. One typical example is that Jewish people in queer spaces are sometimes perceived as privileged and influential within the minoritized community. Another example is the comments sometimes made in Jewish spaces to exclude Queer content from the community’s events, digital and analog spaces.
Restricting people’s ability to express their identities in their respective communities is problematic, and fuels hate speech and polarization. Moreover, it further creates barriers between the different communities and makes it impossible to have a dialogue. Without communication, the different communities will keep relying on biases to form their expectations and opinions about each other.
As the difficulties for persons who experience multiple marginalizations in both spaces remain, raising awareness of the need for intersectionality in both communities is crucial. It is essential to recognize the dilemmas and ambiguities Jewish Queers face. Lack of support and allyship from both communities impacts the life of Jews to a great extent, and calling out hate speech triggers fear of losing their seat at the table, and so also their voice in specific discussions and spaces.