Meet Sivan, a Keshet Youth Program Participant who Created a Workbook for Kids to Learn about Gender & Judaism

May 3, 2023

By Keshet

We recently sat down with Sivan Kotler-Berkowitz, a participant in our youth programs, who created Transgender & Jewish: A Fun Guided Workbook for Kids, and reached out to Keshet because he wanted to share it more broadly. Here’s what Sivan had to say about his workbook and what he hopes it will provide for other LGBTQ+ Jewish youth.

Keshet: What inspired you to create this workbook?

Sivan: It actually came from an assignment in my Jewish studies class. I go to a Jewish day school, and this year I was in this class focused on love, gender, and relationships in Jewish tradition and history. And for our final project for each unit, we were tasked with creating a project.

For my initial projects  I just created regular slideshow presentations. But I was getting kind of bored with the slideshows and I wanted to do something else for my gender-focused project. I didn’t know what to do for a while, and then the idea of creating an interactive and fun workbook just came to me. I love working with kids, I like being creative, and so it all made sense.

Keshet: What are you most proud of about the workbook?

Sivan: I’m proud of the variety of activities. When I first started making an outline, I really didn’t know what I was going to do. At school, we had spent some time learning about LGBTQ+ relationships and gender identities, but I wasn’t sure how much would translate well to a children’s workbook. The first challenge I ran into was taking this information, as well as information that I was finding and simplifying it. I had to ask myself, “how do I make it so it’s accessible for kids?”

So I kept learning,researching,and talking to different people until I was able to compile a broad variety of different activities. I’d say I’m most proud of finding all these different things and making complex topics palatable for kids.

Keshet: What aspect of this workbook are you the most proud of?

Sivan: I’d say it’s “How To Treat Others” on page 12. I’m proud of the range of ways that this value is presented: starting with the core information, then checking for understanding through an engaging question, then encouraging reflection by taking this information and applying it to a specific topic, and finally ending with a fill in the blank comic which allows for creative freedom while providing the opportunity to think about real life situations.

As someone who doesn’t always learn in a “typical way,” working to make the learning accessible to a variety of learners was important to me, and I think it can be seen on this page!

Keshet: Who inspires you the most?

Sivan: Teachers definitely inspire me the most. I love seeing how other teachers make content fun and accessible and engaging. I’m going to college next year and I’m going to study teaching, and I’ve had the opportunity to shadow a bunch of different teachers at a local elementary school. I’ve gotten to see so many different curriculums and lesson plans and even just posters in the classrooms that I never paid attention to when I was in elementary school.

Keshet: What do you want readers to get out of this workbook?

Sivan: Two things: (1) I want more kids to know about transgender identities and how they intersect with Judaism. (2) I really want kids to have fun with this.

I want kids to have fun because when you’re fully engaged, you learn the most. I never had a workbook like this growing up, and I wanted to meet kids where they’re at and help them grow as students, learners, and people.

Keshet: Anything else you’d like to share?

Sivan: There’s a lot of hate and discrimination against both LGBTQ+ and Jewish communities right now, and it can be even more challenging when you identify within both communities. But my hope is just for happiness and for peace, and that people can find themselves and be proud of who they are and can say that they are proud of their identities. I hope that through my workbook and others like it, there can be more understanding about LGBTQ+ identities, relationships, and people, so that there can be more acceptance within Jewish communities.

Sivan (he/him) is an 18-year-old student passionate about transgender youth advocacy, working with kids, and making the world a better place. An aspiring special education teacher, Sivan devotes much of his time to working with kids with developmental disabilities, including in an elementary school and at summer camp. As a transgender youth advocate, Sivan shares his story as a thriving transgender teenager to help replace misinformation about transgender youth. He is proud to be a Champion with The GenderCool Project and a Speaker for PFLAG. Through his advocacy, he has appeared on national television, worked with Nike, met with officials in the U.S. Department of Education, and attended events at the White House. In his free time, Sivan enjoys hanging out with his friends, reading, and playing with his dog.