By Combined Jewish Philanthropies
Three years ago, Keshet Boston began hosting events for area LGBTQ families with young children.
Thanks to funding from the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and then CJP, these Shabbat and Havdalah gatherings, picnics and other programs became a way to provide LGBTQ families a comfortable way to connect to others—and Judaism. These events help Keshet further its mission of ensuring full equality of all LGBTQ Jews and their families in Jewish life.
So, when the pandemic hit and everything came to a halt, Keshet got creative.
On a Sunday afternoon in March, Keshet Boston’s families with young children coordinator Jaime Brody decided that the organization would throw a Zoom dance party. She got the word out via social media, and the next day, dozens of families, some from around the country, logged on to dance.
“Everybody with young families was in the same state of panic,” says Brody, who lives in Framingham with her wife and two children, ages 4 and 7. “We just put on some great dance music and let kids see other kids. We all let our wiggles out with nothing else to worry about for 30 minutes.”
From there, Brody hosted more dance parties, an online Havdalah ceremony and, last week, a rainbow challah-baking class for families. About 100 people baked, laughed and connected during the interactive class, led by baker Mandy Silverman, founder of Mandylicious: The Challah Guru.
“Keshet has the know-how and the experience to bring together LGBTQ Jews and our families, even when we are socially distanced,” says James Cohen, Keshet’s chief development and communications officer. “We are so grateful for the support of CJP, and every donor who makes a gift to support this programming. While we come together only virtually, our sense of community and belonging is very, very real.”
Moving forward, Keshet is planning to create space online for a conversation in July with parents about racial justice and activism, a safe space to guide parents as they teach kids who are both Jewish and part of the LGBTQ community to stand up and use their voices as allies.
“Now more than ever, we need to come together as a community,” says Brody. “Just because we are social distancing doesn’t mean we need to be isolated from one another. We will continue to find tools and resources to build each other up and strengthen our connection to one another as Jews, families and members of the LGBTQ community.”