Randi Adler, LGBTQ program director for JCS in North Miami, leads a seminar on LGBTQ Sensitivity Training for JFS social workers in Boca Raton. Adler will moderate a panel at a Community Conversation in Boca Raton about LGBTQ issues. (Submitted photo)

By Randall P. Lieberman
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services will host a Community Conversation from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, June 25 at Temple Beth El of Boca Raton (333 S.W. 4th Ave.) to address the needs of the local LGBTQ community.

Jewish Family Services (JFS), the Boca Raton-based Jewish social-services agency, specifically chose to host this event in June to coincide with LGBT Pride Month.

JFS has established a task force comprised of a diverse group of representatives from the community to help identify the unmet needs of LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning) individuals and their families, and to develop an action plan that will create a more welcoming and inclusive environment for the LGBTQ community.

Task force members include Rabbi Greg Kanter, Cantor Stephanie Shore, Robin Eisenberg, Jerry Rubin, Alex Rosenberg, Louis Rosner and Rani Garfinkle — all of whom are connected in some way to the LGBTQ community.

The task force came about thanks to extra funds that were left over from two endowments — the Edward S. Gould Fund for Outreach for Elderly Lesbians and Gay Men, and the Edward S. Gould Fund for the Special Needs of Gay and Lesbian Clients — that were established by the late Shirley Gould several years ago.

These funds have helped supplement counseling services to the LGBTQ population for several years. However, additional funds were available for use and the JFS Board challenged the agency to come up with a better action plan to put the funds to work.

Judi Donoff, JFS board chair, commented: “It was very important to the Board that when this very generous gift was left to JFS for the purpose of assisting the LGBTQ community, that we made sure that Shirley Gould’s legacy was going to be utilized to its full and complete mission, as we do for every legacy gift.”

In May, more than 30 JFS clinical social workers and other staff attended a seminar on Sensitivity Training for LGBTQ Issues, led by clinical social worker Randi Adler, LGBTQ program director for the North Miami-based Jewish Community Services of South Florida.

Components of the three-hour workshop included information on how to create a safe zone at JFS, enabling the LGBTQ community to know that JFS is a secure place to openly discuss the issues they face.

Adler presented the unique factors affecting each age segment as LGBTQ, as youth face a different set of circumstances than older adults; addressed facts vs. myths; how to use correct language; and outlined an action plan that will assist in creating a safe zone and welcoming environment.

Stated Dianne Matthew, JFS vice president of clinical services: “This seminar was eye-opening. JFS does a terrific job in making all clients feel welcome and comfortable. However, Randi was able to point out areas that we can tweak to make the LGBTQ community feel even more secure at JFS.”

Added Danielle Hartman, JFS president and CEO: “We are looking forward to taking the information gathered at the Community Conversation and using it to help us develop a plan for the community. We are thankful to Shirley Gould who recognized the need for services for the LGBTQ population and for providing us with the funds to help.”

The Community Conversation came about because the task force felt so strongly that they also wanted the general community to help inform the process.

The format will include a panel, moderated by Adler, with questions to both the panel as well as the general audience. Lite refreshments will be served.

For additional information on the event, call JFS at 561-852-3333.