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 this International Women’s Day, we are grateful for the creative and inclusive space Keshet offered us to explore our identities and find our voices as young queer Jewish women.
Our Keshet journeys over the past four years have brought us across the country to spend Shabbat in community with queer and trans Jewish teens, celebrating our identities, friendships, and pride as young LGBTQ Jews. We’ve each led conversations on a variety of topics with our peers, participated in countless steering committee Google Hangouts, and even had the privilege of serving as a Shabbaton co-chair along the way. What a ride!
Now, in the final months of our senior year, we are honored to co-chair the inaugural Keshet Women & Girls Teen Shabbaton, May 31-June 2, at Camp Avoda in Middleborough, MA. (Learn more and register here: www.keshetonline.org/teenshabbaton!). (1)
We feel grateful for this special opportunity—and quite reflective as we prepare for this weekend and the close to our high school involvement with Keshet.
When I tell people I’m going to Barnard College next year, one of the questions I frequently get is “why do we even need women’s colleges anymore? Shouldn’t all colleges be coed?” It’s reflective of a broader question – why do marginalized groups need their own spaces? I’ve been in those type of spaces my whole life. I’ve been at a Jewish day school since kindergarten. I’m an editor of a magazine for Jewish girls (JGirls Magazine). I’m going to a women’s college and a Jewish one (JTS). And last, but certainly not least, I’ve attended Keshet shabbatonim for LGBTQ and ally Jewish teens since freshman year.
Each space has allowed me to thrive in different ways. Keshet reconnected me with my Judaism, and gave me the tools I needed to become an activist, public speaker, and advocate. The shabbatonim made me realize I could be Jewish and LGBTQ. JGirls gave me the courage I needed to start expressing myself through my writing, to speak up, and to share my ideas. My school gave me the tools to grow and thrive, and pushed me to succeed. I would not be the person I am today without these spaces in my life. And for that I will be forever grateful.
Over the past four years, Keshet shabbatonim have taught me the value of inclusive spaces. Each shabbaton has different programming and youth leaders, but the message of the shabbaton remains the same: this is a space where you can be your whole self.
According to the Torah, all people were created “B’tzelem Elohim”, in the image of God. Each life has infinite value, and we must recognize that spark of holiness in each person we encounter. Too often, I have felt that in my encounters and communities, I have to leave a piece of myself behind. Whether it’s my Jewish, queer, or feminine identities, there have been very few spaces where all of my complex identities can coexist in harmony.
The Keshet Women & Girls Teen Shabbaton will be unique. It is the first ever Shabbaton for young LGBTQ Jewish women. It will be a space where we can come together, be proud of who we are, have fun, and be vulnerable in the best possible way.
We would love for you to join us. We hope to see you there!
Alyx & Emma
P.s. Are you in grades 8-12? Want to share your ideas, or join the steering committee and help plan the Shabbaton? We want to hear from you! You
can reach us at email@example.com.
(1) The Women & Girls Shabbaton is open to self-identified women and girls in grades 8-12. This includes trans and cis (non-trans) LGBQ women and girls of all gender expressions, as well as genderqueer and non-binary folks who
identify on the feminine side of the gender spectrum. If you have questions about whether this Shabbaton is right for you, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.