From 2000 to 2018, Kulanu Toronto was the primary Jewish LGBTQ+ organization in the city. For 18 years Kulanu actively represented and supported lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and transgender Jewish individuals and families.
Kulanu, meaning “all of us” in Hebrew, was founded by Hillel of Greater Toronto staff and students. The organization was created in response to the need for a safe space for LGBTQ+ Jews at the University of Toronto to meet, socialize and express themselves as both Jewish and part of the LGBTQ+ community.
A highly social group, they organized events like Shabbat dinners, Purim parties, Passover seders, film and speaker programs, seminars, and pub nights.
They fostered an inclusive environment for their members, families, friends and allies. Their work grew to focus on providing for the social, educational, cultural, political, and personal needs of Jewish LGBTQ people throughout Toronto.
Perhaps the most significant activity for the organization was their annual participation at Toronto’s Gay Pride Parade. Kulanu’s participation in the parades were not without controversy. Some members of the Jewish community opposed a Jewish presence at Pride, while others objected to the involvement of an unapologetically pro-Israel group.
Kulanu Toronto dissolved in 2018, with many of its functions absorbed by new, emerging groups. But the organization’s legacy lives on at the Ontario Jewish Archives.
Their collection includes hundreds of photos and documents, as well as flags and t-shirts — key artifacts showcasing the organization’s visibility and pride. The collection highlights the important role played by Kulanu in advocating for the rights of its members and its work to achieve greater representation in both the LGBTQ+ and Jewish communities.
Film Sponsored by Rochelle Rubinstein
Acquiring Kulanu Toronto’s records was a milestone for the Ontario Jewish Archives (OJA) for two reasons. The first is that it was the OJA’s first major LGBTQ+ collection. While LGBTQ+ issues were not completely absent from other collections at the OJA, Kulanu’s was the first that was created by an organization whose sole purpose was to support and represent the LGBTQ+ community. Acquiring this collection helped us address a silence that existed within our holdings.
The second was that it was the OJA’s first major hybrid collection. Established at the start of the millennium, Kulanu Toronto generated a significant number of born-digital materials, including documents, photos, and videos. But these born-digital materials did not entirely replace paper materials. Justine Apple, the organization’s first executive director, collected newspaper clippings, which she laminated and donated to the OJA. On top of which, she held onto more than a dozen T-shirts, which she felt were an important way Kulanu’s members expressed their identity. The Kulanu Toronto fonds serves as a reminder that even while individuals and organizations generate ever-increasing numbers of digital records, it is unlikely that paper records will ever disappear completely.