(JTA) — Israel is the featured theme of the Equality Forum, a major annual gay gathering in the eastern United States.
The four-day event in Philadelphia ending Sunday is featuring an array of Israeli gay performers and activists, as well as an address by Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the United States.
The forum, which brings together a number of regional gay activist groups, features a country or region and its gay community as its theme each year. Israeli officials said the event will underscore Israel’s progressive record on gay rights.
"Israel serves as a lesson to others about respecting individual freedom and liberties in a land steeped in tradition," Daniel Kutner, Israel’s consul for the mid-Atlantic region, told Metro, a local newspaper.
Forum organizer and founder Malcolm Lazin told the paper that in some ways Israel is "ahead of the United States, but in many ways it’s to some degree held back by the influence of the ultra-religious community."