Ma’avarim, an organization that helps Israeli trans men and women and one of this year's Pride Fund grantees, marching in the Tel Aviv pride parade
Ma’avarim, an organization that helps Israeli trans men and women and one of this year's Pride Fund grantees, marching in the Tel Aviv pride parade

Pride Fund ‘moves the needle’ with grants to Jewish LGBTQ causes

For the members of the Jewish Pride Fund, this is the best time of the year. Time to donate nearly $30,000 to five handpicked organizations that aid Jewish LGBTQ communities locally, nationally and in Israel.

Now in its second year, the Pride Fund is made up of 15 Bay Area Jews, all gay men (though they are recruiting from lesbian, trans and other communities), and all keen on using philanthropy as a tool to help their community.

“As a gay man and as a Jewish man, these are two of the most significant aspects of my identity,” said David Rak, chair of the Pride Fund. “To come together with like-minded individuals is very fulfilling.”

Helping with the effort is Danielle Meshorer, manager of venture philanthropy and giving circles at the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, who has served as a kind of philanthropy sherpa for the group. A giving circle is a group of individuals brought together by a common cause who pledge to donate their own philanthropic dollars.

This year, the Pride Fund members selected five organizations as grantees: Ma’avarim, which provides aid to trans men and women in Israel; Beit Dror, an Israeli shelter for at-risk LGBTQ youth; the local chapter of Keshet, a national Jewish LGBTQ nonprofit; Nice Jewish Boys, an S.F. social network for gay, bisexual and trans Jewish men sponsored by Congregation Sha’ar Zahav; and Eshel, which serves LGBTQ youth among the Orthodox.

All received grants ranging from $5,000 to $6,000. Pride Fund members each contributed no less than $1,800 of their own money (some also secured matching grants through their employers to add to the total).

They are pleased to work with the Federation, which has a long history of support for the LGBTQ community, beginning in 1996 with the formation of the Gay and Lesbian Task Force. A year later the Federation approved a proposal calling for LGBT inclusion in all Federation planning and activities. In 2001, the Federation formed the LGBT Alliance, the first such entity of any Jewish federation in the country.

“Back in the 1990s, we were one of the first federations to have an LGBT alliance as part of the structure of organization,” said Pride Fund member Arthur Slepian, who also sits on the Federation board. “We had LGBT people at the table, ensuring Federation policy was non-discriminatory. One thing [the Jewish Pride Fund] does is empower LGBT Jews to be the decision-makers in how Federation money is being allocated.”

Rak and Slepian credit Meshorer for helping them professionalize their giving circle.

“The goal of the Jewish Pride Fund and any giving circle the Federation runs is threefold,” Meshorer said. “To get assets into the community, to educate the philanthropists and to build community. Those are goals of the Federation, so it’s really strategically aligned.”

She also helped the membership build community from within. The group met several times a year to discuss grantees, celebrate Shabbat together and do volunteer work in the community.

Despite the progress the LGBTQ community here and abroad has experienced — from legal same-sex marriage to the first openly gay man, Pete Buttigieg, running for president in a major party primary — recent years have brought setbacks.

President Donald Trump recently banned trans men and women from the military. Legislatures in some states have sought to bar gay couples from adoption. Murders of trans men and women have increased.

The bad news serves as backdrop for Pride Fund members, who see their work as more critical now.

“More than ever we need to come together as a community and use our dollars as part of our voice,” Rak said. “It’s important to ensure that we, as members of this particular community, are speaking as loudly as we can, moving in the direction we think is right. It may not be billions we give, but in many ways, we can move the needle.”

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a J. staff writer. He retired as news editor in 2020. Dan can be reached at dan@jweekly.com.