R.I.’s Israeli emissary to discuss growing up gay and religious in Israel


Elihay Skital will share his journey from religious gay man in Israel to acceptance and freedom, on Wednesday evening, June 7.

As Pride Month begins, Skital, the Israeli shaliach (emissary) to Rhode Island’s Jewish community, will share his personal journey, which started as an internal conflict and included conversion therapy. He will talk about the difficulties, his internal struggle with God, the struggle with himself and then the struggle with his close-knit family.

Skital grew up in a religious family in Ashkelon, along the southern Mediterranean coast of Israel.  He will discuss the difficulty and constant struggle to reconcile his own identity as a gay man with the expectations and norms of the community he grew up in.  He will also touch on the religious LGBTQ community and organizations in Israel that helped him, and many others, achieve acceptance and freedom.

Skital, 23, was a leader in the Israeli section of HaZamir, the international Jewish high school choir, which brought him to the U.S. for annual performances. He was also active in an organization for religious and formerly religious gay people in Israel.

In the Israeli army, Skital was a psychotechnic interviewer, helping to decide if army candidates should become combat soldiers or serve in other areas. During that time, he established a chapter of Havruta, a religious gay organization in Haifa.

As a shaliach in Rhode Island, Skital has been working for the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island, serving synagogues and a day school, meeting with college students (particularly at the University of Rhode Island Hillel), and presenting programs at the Alliance’s Dwares Jewish Community Center, in Providence. He is available for groups that are interested in learning about Israel, such as schools, college classes and Jewish organizations.

In a departure from the regular second Wednesday programs of the Israeli Culture Series, this last program of the season will take place on the first Wednesday of the month, June 7, at 7 p.m., in person at the Dwares JCC, 401 Elmgrove Ave., Providence.

To register for the free program, go to www.jewishallianceri.org/events/ics-june.  For more information, email Skital at eskital@jewishallianceri.org.

LARRY KATZ (lkatz@jewishallianceri.org) is the director of Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island.

Elihay Skital, ISC