By Sawyer Goldsmith
Today is National Coming Out Day: a day to celebrate and share our full authentic selves to the world. Coming out is not always easy or safe, nor is it a one day event, but today’s holiday marks the incredible power of LGBTQ+ visibility and community.
I came out for the first time publicly on Facebook on National Coming Out Day in 2015. I hadn’t heard of Keshet yet, nor did I have a queer community surrounding me. I remember feeling terrified but knowing that it was something that I needed to do to express myself fully. The following year, I found out about Keshet and registered for my first Shabbaton, thus starting my involvement with this organization and community. Eight years later, I now work for Keshet and spearhead all the planning for our youth-led Shabbaton weekend retreats for LGBTQ+ and Ally Jewish teens (ages 13-18)!
This National Coming Out Day, we are so excited to launch registration for our 2024 LGBTQ & Ally Teen Shabbaton! Hear from our teen Shabbaton co-chairs on what their visions are for an LGBTQ-inclusive and affirming community for Jewish teens.
Ash (they/them) – Midwest Shabbaton Co-Chair
“My hope for the spaces we create through the Shabbaton is that queerness is inherent and inevitable in our spaces and practice. Queerness comes first and the Jewish spaces are built with and around and through our queerness, so that they are safe, inclusive, and affirming for all of us.”
Clay (they/he) – Midwest Shabbaton Co-Chair
“…I am motivated to serve as a co-chair because I believe in the power of this Shabbaton to positively impact people’s lives and create a ripple effect of positivity and growth within our queer and Jewish community. I think that the power and impact of a Shabbaton comes from its ability to offer differing programs ranging in severity and seriousness with peer support, to religious/spiritual programming, as well as creative opportunities.”
Blue (they/them) – East Coast Shabbaton Co-Chair
“ I have been working at creating inclusive spaces in my local communities, and I think a major aspect is being able to step back and create space for people to express their experiences…I believe an inclusive and supportive community for LGBTQ+ Jewish teens isn’t defined by who makes it or where it is (Keshet’s virtual programs have proven that!). I believe it’s a state where people are listened to and accepted, something many Jewish people, LGBTQ+ people, and teenagers have trouble finding.”
Jax (they/them) – East Coast Shabbaton Co-Chair
“As a member of the Shabbaton leadership team, my ultimate hope and goal for the program is to create a transformative experience that serves as a catalyst for building a stronger LGBTQ-inclusive and -affirming community for Jewish teens…The Shabbaton can serve as a launchpad for participants to carry their newfound knowledge, connections, and sense of belonging into their broader Jewish communities, fostering a ripple effect of LGBTQ inclusivity and affirmation for Jewish teens.”
Roi (he/him)- East Coast Shabbaton Co-Chair
“As a co-chair, I hope and aspire to be able to create a community that is welcoming, affirming, and understanding, a microcosm of what I know we can make the entire world look like. The Shabbaton community should be a place where nobody has to defend themselves out of fear of being seen as uncool or confusing. My hopes for the Shabbaton are that everybody comes out having learned something new, met someone new, and with a new connection to their Jewish and LGBTQ+ identities.”
I hope to make their visions a possibility and you can help! As co-chair Roi put it, “The best way for you all to support the Shabbatonim is for you to register if you’re eligible or forward the information to all the LGBTQ+ and allied Jewish teens in your life! I pinkie promise that they won’t regret it.”