Keshet is a national organization that works for LGBTQ equality in Jewish life. The organization equips Jewish leaders with tools to build LGBTQ-affirming communities, creates spaces for queer Jewish teens to feel valued and develop their own leadership skills, and mobilizes the Jewish community to fight for LGBTQ justice. Keshet’s blog spotlights this work, as well as the voices of LGBTQ Jews, our families, and allies.
On Passover, we are taught every generation must see themselves as if they had personally been liberated from Egypt. For queer individuals, who too often have to struggle to come to terms with their own identity, on top of the daily struggle of living in a heteronormative world, the idea of liberation is all too real.
When I was still in the closet, I dreamed of the liberation that would come with being out. Ironically, I pictured myself advocating for LGBT rights even though at the time, I was too nervous and uncomfortable to proudly declare my own sexuality. Fortunately, since coming out, I have had the opportunity to realize that dream.
When I entered college, I came out, and had the opportunity to intern for Keshet. Working for Keshet, an organization that advocates for the full inclusion of LGBTQ Jews in Jewish life by working with rabbis, Jewish professionals, and Jewish institutions throughout the country, was especially meaningful; not only did it allow me to fulfill my dream of advocating for LGBT equality, it also allowed me to do so in a context that was especially personal. One of the major reasons I did not come out in high school was because of the homophobic environment in my Jewish day school, and I was delighted to learn that Keshet was working with my high school, among others, during my time there.
The past eight months, I have had the pleasure to continue my advocacy work on the federal level as a legislative assistant at the Religious Action Center, where I handle our LGBT rights portfolio, among others. Beyond advocating for legislation that would further LGBT equality, teaching students about the current state of LGBT rights, and blogging about the intersection of current events, LGBT equality and Jewish values, I recently had the opportunity to work on a resolution on the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, which was adopted by the Central Conference of American Rabbis (the organization of reform rabbis in North America).
During Passover we focus on overcoming oppression. In the story of Passover, Moses was a leading advocate for the people of Israel, helping them break free of the bonds of slavery and reach the land of Israel. The story of LGBTQ liberation has been full of many Moses—from elected officials like Harvey Milk and Barney Frank who have worked to create more inclusive laws to the people who work to make more inclusive communities, like the staff at Keshet. It is only through the combined efforts of organizations that work toward legal equality, like the Religious Action Center, and organizations that work toward lived equality in our communities, like Keshet, that LGBTQ people will truly be able to overcome the oppression that we face.
Passover occurs during the month of Nissan, which was traditionally the first month of the Jewish calendar. As the first month of the Jewish calendar begins, I am reminded that my year as a legislative assistant at the Religious Action Center is coming to an end in just a few months. Although I do not yet know what my future holds, I know I plan on continuing to advocate for LGBT equality after my fellowship concludes, whether it’s by taking a job on Capitol Hill or by working for an organization dedicated to advancing LGBT equality. I’m thankful for the opportunities Keshet and the RAC have provided and continue to provide for me to advocate on behalf of LGBTQ people, so one day we can instruct the next queer generation to see themselves as if they had personally been liberated from a heteronormative world, because that liberation will have already been achieved.
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