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.
Who is Dubbs Weinblatt? Dubbs (they/them/theirs) is Keshet’s newly promoted Associate Director of Education and Training, and their work will focus on supporting leaders and staff of Metro NY Jewish institutions in advancing LGBTQ equality and inclusion.
I sat down with Dubbs to learn more about them, and wow did I learn a lot.
For example, keeping in mind that Dubbs is leading our NYC Jewish LGBTQ education and training work, would you believe their favorite food is an everything bagel toasted with scallion cream cheese and tomato? How New York and Jewy is that?! I couldn’t have planned it better! But wait, there’s more! I was amazed to learn that Dubbs actually has a day named after them in their hometown which is also bagel related. Dubbs saved the life of a young child who was choking on a, you guessed it, on a bagel, and the city was so grateful they named a day in October after Dubbs (our hero!)
Though now living in Brooklyn, Dubbs was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio. They kept every Saturday free to watch the Ohio State Buckeyes, which, they informed me, is a football team (sorry!)
Growing up in Columbus was not without challenges. As they shared, Columbus is a progressive city in a red state, but they knew not a single out queer Jewish person.
Like many LGBTQ folks, they told me they always felt different growing up, and alone.
“I wanted a connection to my Jewish identity, but I couldn’t find a way in. Being forced to have a Bat Mitzvah was very painful. I couldn’t bring my full self to the Jewish community and I was afraid of being outed. I participated in BBYO, Jewish summer camp, etc., but after college, I stepped away,” Dubbs shared.
In addition to their work at Keshet, Dubbs is the Founder and Executive Producer of the wildly successful ‘Thank You for Coming Out’ improv show centered around folks’ coming out stories. They started the show in 2015 after they saw the need for all-queer performance spaces. Now in two theaters, the show has traveled the country performing in festivals and doing workshops. Only a few months ago, in May, Dubbs was approached to start a weekly podcast version of the show, to which you can subscribe right here! Dubbs said one of the most rewarding parts of the show is to witness the healing moments when painful elements of a coming out story are transformed, and storytellers see the joy in their own story.
As far as Dubbs’ own coming out story, they said that “growing up I always knew I was gay but when my body started betraying me, I didn’t have the words to describe what was happening. I thought it was about being gay, I didn’t realize it was about my gender identity. I only knew of trans binary identities – trans men and trans women. To my knowledge, there were no out trans/queer adults in my community to turn to.”
“It wasn’t until I was 29 at a ‘Lipstick Lesbian Awareness’ party (I never identified as a lipstick lesbian – I was there as an ally!) and I realized in that moment I felt so out of place – because I realized I wasn’t a lesbian or even a woman at all. I looked down, I had my bag across my chest, I said, ‘I hate my chest, I need to get rid of it. I hate my name assigned at birth, I need to get rid of it.’ I learned that genderqueer was a thing (to me that means I am a person who doesn’t identify as a man or woman – I am just myself.) I had top surgery in 2016 and woke up from surgery smiling. The first time I looked in the mirror I cried because I finally saw myself looking back, after 32 years of life.”
In 2016 they were looking for a career change. They knew they wanted to do something “that mattered.”
“I had been following Keshet for years, knew that somewhere in there was a way back to the Jewish community. In November 2016 I saw a job listed – it was actually the day after the 2016 election I was connected to Keshet – and I knew this was the place where I could make a difference,” they said.
When I asked them their hopes for their work, Dubbs was quick to respond. “I want every queer Jewish person to feel affirmed and celebrated and know that they are not alone. I want them to walk into any Jewish space and bring their full self.”
So what does it mean for Keshet (and for Dubbs!) to be growing our work in New York?
Keshet can be “a resource as you start to dig into this work and if you start to implement something and more and more questions pop up, [an organization can] bring me back in, and we can talk it through.” says Dubbs. Because of UJA’s grant, we can focus more of our efforts into creating specialized training programs that are tailored to every specific institution’s needs and goals. Dubbs creates these plans in partnership with the specific organizations to best assess where they are in their inclusion work and what Keshet can do to support them along the way.
Although every organization moves at a different pace, Dubbs says their goal is to have “inclusion on everyone’s radar, and that everybody is working towards more affirming places.”
Dubbs is thrilled about this opportunity and is incredibly grateful to the UJA for investing in such important work. They are most excited about building community and have been blown away by the willingness and enthusiasm of these organizations to learn and begin their work. “The Jewish community cares about this work and wants to put the time and effort into making their spaces more affirming.”
If you belong to a New York area Jewish organization that you think would benefit from training, consultation, or other partnership with Keshet, please contact Dubbs at email@example.com.