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SHATIL Capacity Building Enables Bat Kol to give Voice to Orthodox Lesbian Women in Israel

Talya Lev grew up in the U.S. and Germany, made Aliyah to Israel at age 18, served in the Liaison unit of the Israeli Defense Force intelligence, and studied at Bar Ilan University.  During her studies she became more exposed to the religious world and decided to adopt an Orthodox lifestyle.  A few years later she came out to friends and family, and joined the Orthodox lesbian organization Bat Kol, whose goal is to enable women to fulfill both their religious and lesbian identities.  As part of SHATIL's religious pluralism project, Bat Kol has been a recipient of SHATIL consultation.

Talya Lev

Founded in 2005 by a group of friends, Bat Kol faced major hurdles in its early years in moving from a support group to an established and recognized organization capable of influencing public discourse, especially in the Orthodox community.  SHATIL guidance and capacity building helped Bat Kol to overcome internal divisions and to focus energies on determining the direction of the organization.  

Currently encompassing over 200 members, Bat Kol convened its second assembly on December 17th - the seventh night of Hanukah, under the title 'A small light expels much darkness.'  With over 75 women in attendance, the assembly accepted a set of operating rules and guidelines, an essential step on the path to becoming a registered non-profit organization.

SHATIL has worked to bring Bat Kol into the Orthodox public sphere.  In May 2009, SHATIL convened a forum of 15 female directors of Orthodox organizations for a three-day workshop.  The women met to work on problems facing their community, including dealing with the Rabbinate's monopoly on personal status issues such as marriage and divorce.  SHATIL invited a leader of Bat Kol, and the group members opened themselves up to and welcomed a member who until then had only experienced exclusion and discrimination in Orthodox forums.  The Bat Kol participant (who wishes to remain anonymous), expressed satisfaction not only with the leadership tools that she acquired at the workshop but also at the opportunity "to network with and meet fellow Orthodox women who accepted me into their group as I am."

Like other women touched by the organization, Talya credits Bat Kol with showing her that "it is an option to be religious and lesbian, living full lives without compromising on one's identity."  She found in Bat Kol an ideal community to belong to, a "role model for us on how we could potentially live."

 

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