I moved to North Carolina about eight months ago after living most of my life either above or well above the Mason-Dixon line. I remember distinctly a few weeks before I left, my parents sat me down and attempted to warn me about life in the South. Mind you, neither of them had ever lived in the South, but they were concerned that as a gay Jew, I would not be able to make a home for myself here in the way I would elsewhere. “Don’t be too loud or expressive about your Jewishness; maybe hide your Chai (the Hebrew symbol for life) necklace,” they both warned. Needless to say, I took their ostensibly dire warnings with many grains of salt, and reminded myself I was moving to Durham in 2016, and not Birmingham in 1955, or Jackson in 1860, which I think my parents were both expecting.
Last month, 76 teenagers, 9 college-aged CITs, and 18 adult educators from across the country joined together for our largest to date gathering at a Keshet LGBTQ & Ally Teen Shabbaton. The weekend was exhausting, but exhilarating, and I cannot wait to do it all again in just a few weeks!
This year, I will be spending most of Pesach (Passover) in a small town in southwestern Missouri. I will be with people I love dearly, but not a whole lot of Jews.
We are two women who for very similar (yet different) reasons are starting off envisioning and planning our wedding without the history of years and years of tradition to tell us what to do. We both have our relationships with the faiths that we grew up in, the ideas of God that we grew up with, and our family and friends, and all of them have loud and insistent voices. Whether we allow those voices that speak in shame and judgment in or not, they are all coming to this party.
Keshet recently sat down with Emma Canter, a 15 year-old from Chicago. Emma runs the Instagram account f.em.inist and recently attended her first Keshet LGBTQ & Ally Teen Shabbaton. Pictured above is Emma reacting to the news that her account hit 10,000 followers.
At Passover, we retell the story of the Israelites’ journey to freedom from mitzrayim, “a narrow place.” Telling the story of this journey, the very act of giving voice to our struggle and our redemption through the ritual of the seder, is at the center of the holiday. In the LGBTQ community, we know how powerful it can be to tell our stories—we know that storytelling, and the retelling of our journeys toward freedom, can be a sacred act.
We are approaching Passover, hag ha-matzot, “the festival of matzah.” For Jews who are observant, Passover requires a constant struggle to separate leavened from unleavened, inside from outside, permitted from forbidden.
Embedded in our communal and organizational DNA is the belief that all people come before the government with an equal right to justice, liberty and the freedom to live lives of dignity. The struggle for civil rights and equality under the law are not merely aspirational, but a daily motivation that guides our work in helping to shape public policy and create a just community.
In the times of the ancient Israelites, we were supposed to make sacrifices to God on many different occasions. When we sinned, we made sacrifices. When we celebrated, we made sacrifices. And at all other times, just living our lives, we made sacrifices in order to get closer to God.
In Pirkei Avot 2:10 we are taught that Rabbi Eliezer said, יהי כבוד חברך חביב עליך כשלך “Let your neighbor’s dignity be precious to you as your own.”