Keshet has an incredible Board of Directors, and we recently had the honor of installing Ari Kristan as Keshet’s new Board Chair! Ari brings a depth of dedication to queer Jewish community, legal acumen and expertise, and aspirational vision for Keshet’s growth. She recently sat down with us so we could get to know her better; here’s what she had to say:
Keshet: Tell me a bit about your history with Keshet and what inspired you to take on leadership.
Ari: I first encountered Keshet almost twenty years ago when I attended a presentation by Keshet’s President and CEO Idit Klein, during which she showed clips from Hineini: Coming Out in a Jewish High School. At the time, there was not a lot of representation of LGBTQ+ Jews, and I remember thinking, “Yes, we are here.” I also remember being deeply impressed by Idit’s passion and dedication to opening Jewish communities and institutions to people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
Just before the pandemic, I was looking for opportunities to deepen my involvement with the Jewish community, and found my way to Keshet through Lenny Goldstein, a former colleague who is now Keshet’s Chief Financial Officer. All of Keshet’s work resonated with me, but I was particularly moved by Keshet’s support and empowerment of LGBTQ+ Jewish youth. It means a lot to me to be a small part of creating a place where queer, transgender, and nonbinary youth can experience Jewish communal life as their full, authentic selves.
Keshet: What are you most excited for in your role as Board Chair?
Ari: Excitement might not be the right word, but I am particularly motivated to work with the Board to support Keshet’s expansion into states where LGBTQ+ rights – and lives – are threatened in unprecedented ways. I believe that Keshet will have a vital role in supporting Jewish institutions and communities to provide a refuge for queer and transgender Jews facing attacks from their own state governments. And I also know that Keshet will be there for Jewish communities in those states fighting for the very Jewish values of dignity and equality.
Keshet: What brings you the most joy?
Ari: I can find joy in both a quiet hike on a crisp fall day and in the middle of a Pride parade. I love to be challenged – intellectually and physically – and I can get quite competitive in games and sports. But, at the end of the day, my family and friends are my home and my greatest source of joy.
Keshet: What are your hopes for Keshet in the next 5 years? 10 years?
Ari: I hope that every LGBTQ+ Jewish young person, regardless of where they live or how they practice Judaism, knows that they can turn to Keshet for community and support. I hope that every Hebrew school teacher, camp counselor, and synagogue administrator has access to the resources and training they need to create vibrant Jewish experiences for everyone in their communities. And I hope – I pray – that we’ll no longer need to focus on community mobilization because LGBTQ+ rights and equality will be the law of the land. And until those things are true, we’ll keep up the work.
Keshet: What do you see when you envision the future for LGBTQ+ Jews and allies?
Ari: I have seen extraordinary progress toward the inclusion and celebration of LGBTQ+ Jews in Jewish communities in the past twenty years. Given the rapid pace of change, it’s hard to predict how things will look in even three or four years, let alone another twenty. I envision queer, transgender, and nonbinary Jews continuing to take on key roles in our communities and leading some of our most important organizations. I see our communities continuing to grapple with diversity of gender identity and gender expression in a tradition where our practices and even our language have long been binary. There will be backlashes, and places where we lose ground, but I envision steady progress toward full inclusion and celebration of LGBTQ+ Jews in Jewish communal life.
Ari practices employment and higher education law as a partner at Hirsch Roberts Weinstein in Boston. In this role, Ari advises organizations on how to avoid employee conflict and minimize the risk of litigation. Ari also represents businesses and non-profits, including colleges and universities, in state and federal court. In addition, Ari serves as an investigator of claims of workplace misconduct and allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment on university campus. Ari frequently presents and writes about anti-discrimination laws and workplace issues, with a special focus on the creation of inclusive and equitable workplaces for LGBTQ+ employees. Ari has served as a Board member for the Massachusetts LGBTQ Bar Association and chaired the organization’s Committee on Transgender Inclusion.
Ari graduated from Tufts University and received her law degree from Boston University. Before law school, Ari worked for campus Hillels at UCLA and Tufts University. Along with her wife, Suzanne, and daughter, Eleanor, Ari is an active member of Temple Shalom in Medford, MA. Ari is passionate about the outdoors, books, biking, and dogs.