By Seth Marnin
When I became Keshet’s Board Chair in January 2019, that week’s parasha recounted the battles with Amalek. I predicted that during my tenure as Chair, we would surely face Amaleks, large and small. The political landscape looked grim, but none of us could imagine what the future would hold…
Here we are, four+ years and a pandemic later. I surely could not have predicted a global health crisis and the present wave of anti-trans and anti-LGB+ legislation attacking our successes and seeking to erase our existence. But I knew then, as I do now, that Keshet’s success is driven by Idit Klein’s indefatigable leadership, our gifted and deeply committed staff, my Board colleagues, and all our supporters.
My Jewish and queer identities occupy a central place in my life. As an observant Jew and an out transgender man, even before joining the board I had long valued Keshet’s voice in the battle for marriage equality and advocacy on behalf of LGBTQ+ people. As I became more immersed in Keshet’s work, I began to understand how our work with youth, community mobilization, and education and training propel each other and strengthen our collective communities.
I am so proud of how Keshet pivoted our work at the height of a global pandemic to meet the needs of our community, particularly our youth. We were able to transition our programming from in-person to online, reaching more young people, with some literally zooming in from their closets to connect with other LGBTQ+ Jewish teens. As many of our programs return to in-person, we have retained the lessons we learned and maintained online programming to ensure this life-saving space continues to be available to our youth.
Keshet’s work with LGBTQ+ Jews of Color and the expansion of our work into embattled communities in Florida – and most recently Texas and Arizona – give me hope for our future. Empowering these Jewish communities to effectively mobilize against abhorrent attempts to legislate us out of existence and partnering with Jewish institutions to create affirming space for all LGBTQ+ Jews and our families strengthens us all.
This week’s parasha, Nasso, describes the Nazirites who volunteer, by a simple vow, to take on a special sacred status for a period of time. We as a Jewish community have long been sustained by voluntary leadership. The work is holy. And you become more holy in doing the work. Keshet thrives not only because of its excellent, life-saving and life-sustaining work, but because of its talented professional staff and dedicated volunteer leadership. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as Keshet’s board chair, to support Idit and our team, and to grow Keshet’s reach. I am confident that my successor, Ari Kristan, will ably lead Keshet’s board so that we can continue to work for the full equality of all LGBTQ+ Jews and our families.