Not too long ago, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Jews were largely invisible in American Jewish life. Marriage equality wasn’t on anyone’s radar — certainly not on the radar of most synagogues and Jewish organizations — and there was not a single gay-straight alliance at a Jewish high school.
Many LGBTQ Jews felt they needed to hide a primary part of themselves in order to remain involved in their Jewish communities. Other queer Jews left their Jewish communities altogether and never returned.
Two gay Jewish men in Boston, Jonathan Krasner and Jared Goldfarb, envisioned a different reality. They envisioned a world in which they could live integrated lives — a world in which their Jewish selves and their gay selves could be fully expressed and embraced. In 1996, they founded Keshet, a local volunteer-run organization committed to the full inclusion and equality of LGBTQ Jews in Jewish life.
In fall 2001, after several years as a volunteer, Idit Klein became Keshet’s founding executive director. With community organizing as a foundation, Keshet built a base of activists and leaders. We organized social events, such as LGBTQ Jewish speed-dating, and mobilized Jewish community support for marriage equality and transgender rights in Massachusetts.
In 2005, Keshet entered the national arena by producing “Hineini: Coming Out in a Jewish High School,” a one-hour documentary film that chronicles the story of one girl’s fight to establish a gay-straight alliance at her Jewish high school, the first in the country. On the heels of the film’s premiere, Keshet developed educational resources and trainings for Jewish educators in how to combat homophobia and promote safe, inclusive and celebratory communities for LGBTQ youth, staff and families.
Now, with offices in Boston and the Bay Area, Keshet offers a dynamic array of community events for queer Jews while also working directly for change in the broader Jewish communities of Greater Boston and the San Francisco Bay Area.
Nationwide, Keshet offers signature train-the-trainer institutes, giving educators and community leaders the skills and tools they need to train their peers in fostering safe, inclusive classrooms, youth groups, summer camps and more.
Keshet has certified trainers in more than 200 Jewish communities around the country. They are building a powerful base of leaders and change agents.
So much has changed since 1996, but much more work remains to be done. We know from Jewish youth, parents and educators that antigay bullying and gender policing are still endemic in Jewish youth settings.
We know that there are still Jewish professionals who are pressured to remain closeted if they want to keep their jobs. We know that many LGBTQ Jewish adults who seek a home in the Jewish community feel unseen and unwanted.
However long it takes, Keshet will work for a day in which Jews of all sexual orientations and gender identities can live fully integrated Jewish lives.
We envision a Jewish world in which LGBTQ Jews are not merely tolerated or accepted; we envision communities where the ethos of justice, caring, and inclusion that encapsulates the best of Jewish tradition is seen and felt by all Jews.
Join us in making this vision a reality.
Keshet (קשת, KEH-shet) is a Hebrew word meaning both “rainbow,” a symbol of LGBT pride, and “bow,” an instrument for action.