Keeping Safe Spaces Safe

Jordan Daschow and Joanna Ware at Teen Shabbaton

Jordan Dashow, Tufts student and Keshet intern, and Joanna Ware, Keshet’s Lead Organizer and Training Coordinator, at Keshet’s LGBTQ Teen and Ally Shabbaton, January, 2013.

“If it doesn’t bring more love into the world, it probably isn’t religion.”

The date was October 13, 2010, and I was at Tufts University’s Coming Out Day Rally. At the rally, Tufts University’s Jewish Chaplain, Rabbi Jeffrey Summit, spoke about the importance of not just tolerating people’s differences but embracing them and told the crowd the statement quoted above. This message was so simple, yet so powerful — and so powerfully different from what I expected a religious leader speaking about LGBTQ issues to say.

Growing up, I attended a Conservative Jewish Day School from kindergarten until 12th grade. Throughout high school, I struggled to come to terms with my sexual orientation and my religious beliefs. I was forced to grapple with these issues alone, as my high school did not offer any support for queer students and in general ignored their existence. As far as I know, no one has ever come out in my high school (though one student who was already out transferred in) and homophobic comments, including the commonly repeated phrase “that’s so gay,” went unchallenged. Consequently, I never felt safe coming out in high school.

I decided to come out at the beginning of my time at Tufts University and within my first few days at Tufts Hillel, it was clear that my identity as a queer Jew would not be viewed as a contradiction but rather something to be embraced. The welcoming and accepting environment that I discovered at Hillel was the result of the amazing individuals who were involved, the welcoming staff, and the institutionalized inclusivity created by a permanent Hillel programming board position for Jewish Queer programming. Throughout my three years involved in the Tufts Hillel community, I have always felt that my Jewish and queer identities complement each other.

Posted on March 25, 2013

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