Three Stories of Hope in a Tough Year

January 9, 2024

By Idit Klein and Jon Grabelle Herrmann

The following stories were first shared in a letter to thank Keshet’s 2023 donors. We are so grateful to our entire community of donors, partners, and friends for making hope possible in a tough year. Click here make your first donation to Keshet in 2024.

We are grateful to you for your commitment to LGBTQ+ equality in Jewish life. Because of your support in 2023, Keshet changed lives and communities for the better.

As Jews, queer people, and allies, we experienced tremendous loss, pain, and fear this past year. And yet because of you, thousands of people built a world of hope through Keshet.

Thank you for helping us enter 2024 stronger than ever.

This is what you made possible in 2023, joined by 1,500 other Keshet donors:

  • Over 13,500 people participated in a Keshet program to empower queer Jewish youth, train Jewish leaders to build communities of belonging, or organize Jews to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights.
  • Over 240 Jewish community organizations joined our coalition to mobilize Jews to fight back against attacks on the rights of trans kids.
  • Over 800 Jewish organizations that collectively serve 3 million people across North America engaged in LGBTQ+ equality work in partnership with Keshet.

Three stories of how you made a difference:

A Parent’s Learning, A Shul’s Growth

Following a Keshet training at a New York City synagogue, Norman, a board member there, approached us to share:

“My child is trans. They have tried to talk to me, but I only recently wanted to talk about it. I went into this training with no expectations and not a lot of enthusiasm. Before the workshop, I hadn’t done any reading on trans identities. I belittled pronouns. I didn’t understand why they were important.”

“But the Keshet training was mind-blowing. Now I understand that using the correct pronouns is a way of validating my child. People are prejudiced and fearful. The first step is understanding. Then the next step is to speak truth to power.”

One training. One supportive parent and Jewish leader. An amazing impact on him, his family, and, over time, the broader community.

Thank you for making this possible.

Supporting an Isolated Teen in the Wake of October 7th

Keshet has been supporting queer Jewish teens since the October 7th attacks on Israel through online spaces for teens to gather in community and process their thoughts and emotions.

In one of these conversations, a participant from a rural midwestern community shared how isolated they’d been feeling as a trans Jewish teen.

They talked about experiencing increased antisemitism at their high school since October 7th. They also said that the Keshet space was the first time they were able to talk about the war with anyone other than their parents.

Keshet staff noticed the palpable relief on the teen’s face when meeting other young people online who validated their feelings and experience. And this was their very first Keshet program!

The teen shared that already they felt that they could be themselves in this space, in a way they didn’t experience anywhere else. Within minutes of the end of the program, the teen had signed up for Keshet’s 2024 Midwest Shabbaton.

A powerful antidote to loneliness and isolation.

Thank you for making this possible.

Jews Show up for LGBTQ+ Rights

With your support, Keshet hired two staff members last summer in Texas, one of many states where LGBTQ+ rights have been under intense attack, especially targeting trans youth. Over 500 pieces of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation were introduced in 2023 nationally, with 85 passed. And in the state of Texas alone, we saw 140 pieces of legislation proposed and 11 passed into law.

We are proud to share that Keshet — along with Jewish and interfaith partners — played a key role to prevent one of these anti-LGBTQ+ bills from becoming policy in several large communities.

The so-called Chaplain Bill would allow volunteer religious chaplains to replace counselors in public schools. These religious chaplains tend to be conservative Christians who aren’t supportive of queer students. What’s unique about this bill is that each of the 1,200 school districts in Texas need to vote on whether to make this their policy.

Keshet partnered with RAC-Texas — the Religious Action Center of the Reform movement — to mobilize a coalition of 200 Jewish Texans to educate their communities on the harmful impact of this bill on religious freedom and LGBTQ+ students. Our coalition members advocated to their school boards in both public hearings and meetings.

And those efforts led to victories: several of the largest school districts in Texas – including Dallas and Fort Worth – soundly rejected the Chaplain Bill. Students in these districts will continue to benefit from supportive counselors.

We are proud that our Texas-based team and local partners are already making a difference. We are rallying Texas Jews to speak out as Jews for equality, joining others who refuse to allow faith voices to be dominated by those spreading hate or fear.

A policy win with profound implications for kids’ lives.

Thank you for making this possible.

With you by our side, Keshet will continue to engage synagogues, Jewish Community Centers, Jewish federations, local and national advocacy organizations, and so many other Jewish institutions in states like Texas and Florida and throughout the country. Together with you, we are fighting back and building a society that honors LGBTQ+ dignity.

Thank you for making hope and change possible.