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Keshet LGBTQ and Ally Teen Shabbatons
I CAN BE A QUEER JEWISH MAN
“I CAN be a queer Jewish man; I am not supposed to be ashamed of myself. Whoever or whatever God is, they made me what I am and that’s not a mistake.”
—Jayson Olson, 16, MI, 2015 LGBTQ & Ally Teen Shabbaton
In 2012, in partnership with Hazon and the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, Keshet created the first LGBTQ and Ally Teen Shabbaton. A few months later, we planned a follow-up retreat that brought together LGBTQ and ally Jewish teens from across the country to participate in a transformative weekend of learning, Jewish ritual, socializing and inspiration. In 2016, we expanded our Shabbaton to the West Coast, as well as the East Coast.
Sign up for our emails or follow us on Facebook or Twitter to find out about our next Shabbaton.
Read blog posts written by teens about the Shabbaton
Join us for a weekend of fun, community, and learning for and by Jewish LGBTQ and ally teens! Meet new friends, learn about LGBTQ organizing and identities, and celebrate a lakeside Shabbat with a warm, vibrant community of LGBTQ and ally teens and adults.
Questions about the Shabbatons?
See Our Frequently Asked Questions
BBYO youth at The March for Equality
Do you think you are or might be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and/or queer?
Figuring out who you are and how you identify, and potentially coming out to the people you love isn’t always easy, but you’re not alone. Keshet has a lot of things you can read and explore to understand how some queer Jews relate to being LGBTQ and Jewish, and how our allies are taking action. Here are some ways you can find others to connect with and find support.
- See how other LGBTQ Jewish teens about feel about their identity.
- Jeremy Burton, Keshet board member and director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, talks about being gay and Jewish, and why LGBTQ Jews are integral members of our communities.
- Jewish youth groups are becoming more and more inclusive. Check out this video from BBYO, and see a letter that all of the major youth movements signed committing to ending bullying.
Are you or your family Orthodox, traditional, observant, or frum?
- Check out Jewish Queer Youth (JQYouth or JQY), a social and support group for frum and formerly frum LGBT Jews ages 17-30.
- Visit Eshel, an organization dedicated to creating understanding and support for LGBT people in traditional communities. They offer great events and resources designed especially for observant Jews.
- In Boston, Netivot Boston hosts social and educational events for LGBTQ Jews engaged with traditional Judaism.
- Watch this video from other LGBTQ gay Orthodox Jews who want you to know that it does get easier.
Looking for a safe place to ask questions about sexuality, gender identity, and sex?
- Check out Scarleteen. Scarleteen offers inclusive, comprehensive and smart sexuality information for folks in their teens and 20s.
- Planned Parenthood will text you answers to your questions about sexual heath; totally anonymous.
Are you in crisis or are thinking about suicide?
Please talk to someone you trust or call The Trevor Project Lifeline for immediate help at 866-4-U-TREVOR (866.488.7386). Available 24/7. Calls are confidential and toll-free.
Jewish tradition teaches us that all people — without exception — are created B’Tzelem Elohim, in God’s image. You are imbued with holiness and your life is sacred. We want to meet you one day, to count you among the tens of thousands of LGBT and ally Jews in our community fighting to make this world safer and more whole for all of us. Please reach out for help. We need you to stick around.
Not in crisis, but having a hard time?
- Kate Bornstein wrote an awesome book, “Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws.” You can buy it here, and read a few snippets here. You can also watch her “It Gets Better” video here.
- Visit TrevorChat, a confidential and secure messaging service to ask questions or get advice: Friday, Saturday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 1-7 p.m. Pacific (4-10 p.m. Eastern).
Have a friend who recently came out to you?
Not sure what to do? Here is a list of tips for supporting your friends when they come out to you.
Do you want to see LGBT Jewish role models on the walls of your synagogue or school?
Check it out these posters of famous queer Jews. We’ve also got a whole library of LGBT Jewish resources here.
Thinking about starting a GSA (GLBTQ-Straight Alliance) or other LGBTQA community group at your school, synagogue, camp, or youth group?
A GSA is a club which provides a safe place for students to meet, support each other, talk about issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity, and work to end homophobia. GSAs are a great way to build community at your school and lessen the isolation that GLBTQ students might otherwise experience.
Check out the movie we made, “Hineini: Coming Out in a Jewish High School,” which tells the story of a student at a pluralistic Jewish day school and her courageous campaign to start a GSA. You can order a copy for yourself or your institution here.
You can also take a look at this toolkit, put together by GLSEN, the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network, on tips and tools for creating a GSA: GLSEN Jump-Start Guide for Gay Straight Alliances. Visit the GSA Network for other ideas on creating a GSA at your school.
Jewish High Schools with Gay-Straight Alliances
The following schools currently have an active Gay-Straight Alliance.
- American Hebrew Academy (Greensboro, N.C.) — The Diversity Alliance at American Hebrew Academy holds campuswide activities, including an annual Pride-Shabbat, an annual ally day and movie screenings. More information can be found by contacting Andrew Shaw.
- Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy (Bryn Mawr, Pa.) — Barrak Hebrew Day School recently dedicated a gender-neutral bathroom and held a public ceremony organized by the GSA. For more information on their Gay-Straight Alliance, contact Dewey Oriente or Kim Gillio.
- Gann Academy (Waltham, Mass.) — Gann’s Gay-Straight Alliance, known as Open House, was founded in 2005. The club meets weekly for discussions on current events regarding the LGBTQ community. Other activities include the Day of Silence, a Day of Dialogue and a Shema Koleinu (“hear our voices”) presentation. For more information, contact Susan Johnson.
- Abraham Joshua Heschel School (New York City) — For more information about Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Alliance For Respect, contact Aviva Perlman.
- New Community Jewish High School (West Hills, Calif.) — Creating a Kehillah of Equality began in 2012, when the “Stop the Hate” club combined with the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance. CAKE held an antidiscrimination assembly at school “town hall,” an event for National Coming Out Day, and constructed an AIDS memorial quilt project. For more information, contact Rabbi J.B. Sacks.
- Golda Och Academy (West Orange, N.J.) — Golda Och Academy’s GSA was founded in 2013. Activities include an annual observance of the Day of Silence, a booth at NJ Pride Festival and interviews with teachers about openness and acceptance. More information can be found by contacting Jordan Herskowitz.
- Prozdor of Hebrew College (Newton Centre, Mass.) — Prozdor is a supplementary Jewish education program. Their Gay-Straight Alliance functions as a class as well as a club. For more information, contact Prozdor.
- San Diego Jewish Academy (San Diego) — For more information, contact Annie Watt.
- Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School (Rockville, Md.) — For more information on the Gay-Straight Alliance, contact Nora Cumberbatch.
- Rochelle Zell Jewish High School (Deerfield, Ill.) — Ga’avah (“Pride”) was founded in 2011. The club holds regular meetings, participates yearly in Day of Silence and is currently working on a film project. For more information, contact Joseph Eskin.
Does your school have a GSA? Let us know! Want help starting one, but don’t know where to start? Contact Joanna Ware at 617.524.9227, or send us an email.
Jewish LGBT Youth Groups
- Rockville Open House (Washington, D.C.) Monthly Meeting (1st Thursday each month). Rockville Open House (ROH) is a supervised, safe gathering space for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer, questioning,or intersex (LGBTQQI) teens, and their friends and allies, between the ages of 13-18 yrs old. ROH is open once a month,from 7:00 pm – 9:45 pm at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington Youth Lounge, 6125 Montrose Road, Rockville, MD. Check out Rockville Open House on Facebook.
- Brooklyn Jewish GSA (Brooklyn, NY) A group that is a safe, supportive and social place to discuss issues, ask questions, and celebrate. Participation in the Brooklyn Jewish GSA is free, open to interested high school students, meets once a month at the Park Slope Jewish Center in Brooklyn. See our Wall for info on dates and times. The Brooklyn Jewish GSA is led by adult Jewish facilitators who are committed to mentoring the LGBTQ and ally youth of Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Jewish GSA is an initiative of the Park Slope Jewish Center and Kolot Chayeinu, in collaboration with Congregation Beit Simchat Torah.
- Queer Jewish Teen Group (San Francisco) – Events for LGBTQIQ Jewish Teens! Based at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco. Check out their Facebook page.
- LBTQ (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender or Questioning) Teen Support (Atlanta) at the Jewish Family & Career Services in Dunwoody. The group will meet every other Wednesday, 6-7:30pm, January 30 through April 24 (members can join at any time). A concurrent group for parents of any GLBTQ teen will be held the last Wednesday of the month, starting January 30. In lieu of a participation fee, a donation of any amount is greatly appreciated. All participants are required to attend an individual meeting prior to joining the group. To set up a meeting, or for more information, please contact Dan Arnold at firstname.lastname@example.org , 770.677.9314.
Looking for LGBT Inclusive Colleges?
Check out this guide and read Hillel’s recommendations.