Report Back: How It Went Down at Keshet’s Defending Transgender Equality Town Hall

An energized crowd of over 150 people, from 40 organizations, turned up for Keshet’s Defending Transgender Equality Jewish Community Town Hall at Hebrew College on Monday night. The purpose of the event was to rally the Jewish community in support of a critically important statewide ballot initiative that will maintain protections against discrimination for Massachusetts transgender citizens. (See a complete list of our amazing cosponsors and attendees).

A little background: In 2016, Massachusetts passed non-discrimination protections for trans people in public spaces – places like restaurants, movie theatres, and public parks – anywhere that is not our home, work, or school. In the upcoming November 2018 elections, thanks to the machinations of anti-LGBTQ activists, Massachusetts voters must reaffirm their support for those protections or those protections will disappear.  Such a devastating outcome would embolden anti-gay activists nationwide. (Read more about the details of the anti-transgender ballot initiative.)

Keshet is leading the Jewish community mobilization effort for transgender civil rights as part of a statewide coalition called Freedom for All Massachusetts.  The Town Hall was the first big public kickoff of the Jewish community mobilization.  The event featured powerful testimony and calls to action.

  • Facilitator Rabbi Becky Silverstein, who is openly transgender, encouraged the audience to ask themselves, “What piece of myself am I bringing to this effort?”
  • Avery Khiine, a genderqueer high school senior, confessed deep fears about the November referendum: “This ballot question scares me…We don’t want anything extra. We just want to be as safe as our cis-gender siblings.”
  • Calvin Mitchell, a transgender high school junior, who said that the ballot initiative was a question of “whether we should be allowed to exist fully in a public place…This bill has full power to take away our ability to exist.”
  • Writer and activist Laurie Wolfe read two original poems, including one with the lines:


if you return me to
my narrow space
my mitzrayim

I would greatly miss
reaching the land promised
by God.


  • A closing blessing led by Rabbi Suzie Jacobson, and by all of the nearly 20 clergy members present, that brought people to their feet in a shared commitment to the sacred work of freedom.

Monday evening was a moving and reassuring sign that the Jewish community is in this fight fully and for the long haul. Stay tuned for more ways to join this critical effort soon.

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