A Monday panel will focus on building a welcoming and inclusive community, a press release said. The discussion will be hosted by Women’s Interfaith Dialogue, and the panel will meet at 11 a.m. Monday, March 5, at the Jewish Congregation of Oak Ridge.
The Jewish Congregation of Oak Ridge is at 101 West Madison Avenue.
“The meeting will feature a panel discussion of issues impacting LGBTQ members of our community and efforts to make our community more welcoming and inclusive,” the press release said.
The panel will include three Oak Ridgers: John Jaruzel, Anne Backus, and Jessica Ammendolia.
Here is more information from the press release:
John Jaruzel has been a resident in Oak Ridge for the past year-and-a-half and an active participant in the Oak Ridge chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Family, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) since his arrival. He brings to the table a long history as a gay man involved in the gay rights movement as well as HIV research. First connected with PFLAG in Anchorage, Alaska, in the late 1980s, he became a volunteer for the Alaska AIDS Assistance Association. Diagnosed with HIV in 1986, he moved to Denver, Colorado, in the mid 1990s and volunteered in the AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG) at the University of Colorado Hospital, where he gained early access to life-saving drugs. He continued his work with the ACTG until his move to Tennessee in 2016. He currently serves as vice chair of Oak Ridge PFLAG and is a delegate to the Tennessee State Planning Council, which oversees government funds spent on HIV care and prevention.
Anne Backus has been an ally of the LGBTQ community for most of her life. In her own words, she “was raised by parents who believed in equal rights for everyone. With a sister, niece, and daughter who are part of the LBGTQ community, I feel that being an ally is something I am called to do.” For the past five years she has played a critical role in the formation and work of Oak Ridge PFLAG, which is hosted by five of Oak Ridge’s faith communities: First Presbyterian Church, First Methodist Church, the Unitarian Universalist Church, Grace Covenant Church, and the Jewish Congregation of Oak Ridge. She currently serves as the chapter’s president. “One of the blessings of this work,” she said, is her interaction with the Oak Ridge and Clinton High Schools’ Gay, Straight, Transgender Alliances—“a group of amazing young people who don’t always have support at home and school.”
Jessica Ammendolia, the third and final member of the panel, is a senior at Oak Ridge High School. She is an active member of the school’s Gay, Straight, Transgender Alliance, which participates in a national network of more than 6,500 local school chapters working with student allies to create safe and LGBTQ-inclusive schools.
“The public is invited to hear the voices of these three members of our community to learn more about efforts toward building a more welcoming, inclusive community,” the press release said.
Women’s Interfaith Dialogue brings together women of diverse faith, color, and culture to explore, understand, and learn from one another for the purpose of advancing justice, compassion, friendship, and human rights with a focus on women and children. All are welcome.
This press release and photos were submitted by Rebecca Bowman and Women’s Interfaith Dialogue.