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Jewish Agency setting up network for gay olim

    The Jewish Agency is setting up a network for new gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) olim at the initiative of a British immigrant.

    Roy Freeman, 40, who is originally from Luton, moved to Israel last year after spending 11 years in Australia, where he chaired an LGBT group Dayenu in Sydney.

    “I discovered that the Jewish Agency provides programming for new olim. There’s a group called ConnecTLV for singles who are under-35. They also have a group called Babait Beyahad, ‘At Home Together’, for young families. They team olim families with Israeli families, so they have somewhere to go for Yomtov or help them and settle in.”

    While there are established LGBT networks in Israel, they “do not cater for people who don’t know Ivrit”, he said, “and not everyone wants to go clubbing. I decided to set up a Facebook group, LBGT Olim. In a couple of months, it has attracted 340 people.”

    When he suggested the Jewish Agency organise programmes for LBGT olim, he confessed to being a “little bit concerned” about an adverse reaction. “That wasn’t the case at all.”

    A group like Babait Beyahad can help new immigrants with the challenges of absorption — finding a job or somewhere to live or creating a social life.

    The new LBGT group would play a similar role in fostering “integration between new olim and the Israeli people,” said Binyamin Levy, who runs the Bebait Bayahad. A first meeting is due to take place in August.

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