I May Have Cried During Shabbat

March 13, 2024

By Sage Cassell-Rosenberg

I’d been envisioning this exact Shabbat for months, the Keshet Neshamot/Rainbow Souls Shabbaton, a name inspired by the vibrant spirit of the QJOC (queer Jews of Color) community. As the lead organizer, I had made dozens of strategic and logistical decisions, all with the hope that participants would walk away feeling empowered and celebrated in their queer and JOC identity. Through it all, anxiety and urgency often reigned supreme, and I realized I had yet to pause and welcome into my vessel the Shabbat experience I had helped craft.

So, as we gathered for Shabbat’s closing ritual and lit the havdalah candles we had braided together, I deliberately chose to pause and savor the Shabbat experience I had been diligently orchestrating for months.

Sage Cassell-Rosenberg, JOC Program Manager, and Kohenet Dr. Harriette Wimms recite havdalah blessings

Behind me, I overheard a conversation—a conversation about feelings of anxiety when walking into most Jewish spaces juxtaposed with the joy of being amongst QJOC community at the Shabbaton. And all around me, I watched as folks showed each other the poems, havdalah candles, and art we had made together throughout the day.

Check out clips from the Shabbaton!

A wave of emotions washed over me and I couldn’t suppress the smile that spread across my face nor the tears of pure joy that welled in my eyes. In that moment, I reflected on years of feeling like an outsider in the Jewish community and the pain I carried with me. Yet here, surrounded by other QJOC, I felt an unparalleled sense of belonging—a sense of being embraced wholly and authentically within my Jewish, queer, and BIPOC identity.

Looking back, the glowing memories of the Shabbaton remain a protective love letter placed over my heart like a mezuzah. And I am left counting down the days till the next QJOC Shabbaton!