Married couple Suzanne Dreyfus and Sue Fimmen attended a happy hour hosted by the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix’s new LGBTQ initiative.
Both said that they were happy to see a new Jewish LGBTQ group for a younger generation.
“Our world today is not the one we grew up with,” Dreyfus said. “It would be great if there was more camaraderie and socialization. We want to see people get together outside of a synagogue to just relax and enjoy themselves.”
The Federation launched the new LGBTQ-friendly group earlier this year. Simply called “Pride,” the advocacy group works to provide programs and events to include LGBTQ individuals with the local Jewish LGBTQ community.
“Engaging LGBTQ individuals was a need identified in our community,” said Shayna Millman, a development associate for Federation. “Our hope is to create programming that empowers these individuals to become engaged with one another and the larger Greater Phoenix Jewish community.”
While the initiative is still developing, Federation has hosted a few events under the Pride name for LGBTQ individuals.
Last week, Pride held a happy hour social event at the Kobalt bar in downtown Phoenix. During the happy hour, younger LGBTQ Jewish individuals socialized with each other, and the new organization was visited by former members of AVIV, a defunct LGBTQ community group that held religious services at the Cutler-Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center. Pride shares similarities with the social, religious and social group AVIV, which was absorbed in 2017 by the nonprofit singles social group Schmooze, and was officially dissolved at the beginning of 2018.
Dreyfus said that AVIV was more for holidays and religious meetings. She felt that there needed to be more social events like the one Pride held at Kobalt. The couple hope that younger LGBTQ individuals would eventually feel more comfortable walking down the street holding hands without fear. They believe that more social events will help promote inclusivity.
Fimmen agreed and added that the bar scene didn’t have to be the only location for LGBTQ social events.
“Back then when you came out all they had were bars,” she said. “So we’d love to see more things outside of bars, that would be great.”
Even if it is just a room in the Valley of the Sun JCC for a monthly meeting, Dreyfus explained that would show a lot of inclusivity for the Jewish LGBTQ community.
However, the two were happy that Pride was reaching more diverse demographics for its social events. AVIV was generally for older participants, according to Dreyfus and Fimmen.
Dreyfus thought it was easy for her and Fimmen to come out because they were older when they did. The two are coming up on their ten-year wedding anniversary. They said that these groups survive by having as many people coming to them as possible.
“Don’t sit at home,” Dreyfus said. “You live in Phoenix, there’s no excuse not to go out and be involved. You don’t have to shovel sunshine.”
Fimmen agreed and said that the younger and older LGBTQ Jews should both be connecting with one another. “There’s a lot to learn from everyone and we should all be working together.”
Federation’s Pride will host one more happy hour event on Aug. 22 and will also host its first major event on Sept. 18. Pride will feature transgender educator Abby Stein. Stein, a direct descendant of the Baal Shem Tov, was raised in a Chasidic community and was ordained as a Chasidic rabbi. After leaving her community, she became a frequent speaker and writer about her experiences as a transwoman. Stein’s appearance in Phoenix will be followed by the publication of her memoir, “Becoming Eve.” JN