Archive for : Pride

Pride Interview: Alyssa Finn and Nehirim

During Pride Month, Repair the World published interviews with the people and organizations who are on the forefront of the LGBTQ movement. Pride Month 2013 is officially over, but we have one more interviewee who is too great not to share. (Think of it as a bonus feature!) New York resident Alyssa Finn talks about her transformative experience at a retreat led by Nehirim (a national community of LGBT Jews, partners, and allies), and how she transitioned from being an enthusiastic participant to a committed volunteer and board member.

How did you first find Nehirim?
It’s a funny story! Back in 2009 I was on J-Date and this person contacted me who said, “I don’t know if you and I would be good for each other romantically, but I think we’d be friends and I’d like to meet you.” So we met up and, as she thought, we totally clicked as friends. On our first meeting she told me about Nehirim and how they were hosting their first ever women only gathering. I’d never thought about combining my queerness with my Judaism, so this seemed like an interesting opportunity.

And how was the retreat?
It was incredible. I’ve never felt so whole in my entire life. Sometimes in life I think we inadvertently shine a light on different parts of ourselves depending on what the situation calls for. And by doing that, the other parts of our life grow temporarily dimmer. But at the retreat I felt like all my lights were on, and I didn’t have to dim anything. I found community I didn’t even know I needed.

What was it about the retreat that made it so powerful?
There was a good sized group of people all around my age, who were all experiencing a Nehirim retreat for the first time – so having a cohort to bond with and share the novelty of the experience with was really great. I was also blown away by the community as a whole. I’d thought everyone was going to be just like me – a bunch of Jewish queer folks all getting together. But we were all really different in ways I didn’t anticipate – religiously, our ages, socio-economically, racially. It gave me more freedom to be who I was because, while we came together with one commonality, we all had our own special take on it to share.

How did you stay involved after the retreat?
I actually kind of became a Nehirim junkie! I immediately signed up for a multi-gendered retreat, which was four months later, and ended up going to another retreat that same year. Along the way, queer Jewish community has become my norm instead of something I thought I could never have. It changed the way I viewed myself and also encouraged me to find Jewish queer circles outside of the retreats. In Massachusetts, where I was in medical school until recently, I also participated with a lot of Keshet programs – I actually met my fiancé Lisa through a Keshet shabbat potluck! Then about two years ago, I was asked to play more of a facilitator role at a Nehirim retreat. That’s when I started really owning the experience and realizing I could play a creation role in this work. There was this shift from just taking things in to being like, “wow, I can help give this experience to other people.”

What does it mean to facilitate at a Nehirim retreat?
We have these small groups that meet three times over the course of the retreat, which allows people to get to know some of the other participants really well and have a smaller, safe space to listen and be listened to. I helped facilitate one of those small groups. During the third meeting we do a “blessing circle” where each person steps into the center and asks for a blessing to bring with them after the retreat ends. So everyone stands around them and gives their blessings at the same time. With everyone talking over each other it’s not about individual words, but about the act of bestowing and receiving blessings. It’s really powerful.

When did you join the Nehirim board?
I joined last October. It’s been a pretty loose commitment so far, but we have a board visioning retreat at the end of June. We’re transitioning to a new executive director, so at the retreat we’ll talk about how to best move forward and transition with our new leadership. We’ll also envision what our roles on the board could and should be. I’m looking forward to it because our board members are spread all over the country, so this is the first time we’ll all be face-to-face. This is my first time on a board, and I’ve found it really interesting. Overall, it’s great to be able to help take something that has been powerful for me and try to bring that energy outward to other people.

Find out more about Nehirim’s work at their website.

Pride Interview: Shane Windmeyer and Campus Pride

During Pride Month, Repair the World is featuring interviews with the people and organizations who are on the forefront of the LGBTQ movement. This week: Shane Windmeyer talks about founding Campus Pride, the leading organization for student leaders and campus groups working to create a safer college environment for LGBT students.

Tell me a bit about the inspiration behind Campus Pride.
It grew out of my experience being gay on a small, rural campus in the middle of Kansas. I came out to my fraternity brothers and luckily had a very positive experience, but I knew that wasn’t the case for many people. I went to college in the early 1990s when there weren’t a lot of resources for LGBT students who were closeted and trying to come out, or students who were already out. A small handful of campuses had started centers or clubs, but students needed basic resources. Campus Pride started out as an online clearing house where students from different campuses could share and find those resources.

How has Campus Pride changed and evolved over the last decade?
The biggest and most important evolution is that we’ve moved from being an online clearing house to a full-fledged organization that provides programs and services to students. Another thing that has changed is how we talk about students, and the way we look at LGBT young people. It used to be a common idea in the 1990s that there were gay people, but they did not necessarily talk about the intersectionality of their other identities. Now younger LGBT people are bringing their full identities to the table – things like their faith, gender, ethnicity, and race, in addition to their sexuality. It’s not a surprise, for example, that young people of faith who are LGBT have a very different experience because of what their faith means to them. Our programs try to work with people across the full, complex spectrum of who they are.

What is one of your favorite Campus Pride initiatives?
Camp Pride is one of our best programs. It’s a five day, five night training and conference for LGBT college-aged students. This year we had 70 undergraduate leaders from over 60 different colleges come together. I never would have imagined that, but now we have this national presence and students who take back these ideas and resources to their campuses. In tandem, we have a professional advisor boot camp for grad students, faculty and staff who work with LGBT students.

We also have the Campus Pride Index, which is an online tool that allows campuses to analyze, benchmark and share the resources they provide for LGBT students. The index is based on research, is updated every year, and is based around different criteria – things like housing and resident life, campus safety, recruitment and retention, student life, academic life, and institutional support. Each of these areas addresses different questions like, “does your campus have a mentoring program for new LGBT students?” or “Do you have a supplemental lavender or rainbow graduation to honor graduating LGBT students?” or “Do you have gender neutral restrooms?”

Campuses mostly want to be LGBT friendly, and some think just having a club is enough. But at the end of the day it’s about institutional commitment. Only 12% of our nation’s colleges have a non-discrimination policy that includes sexuality. And while 500-600 campuses are doing great work, a number of colleges are not doing any work to take responsibility for LGBT students. The good news is, 80% of colleges participating in the index have improved year on year, which means they are adding additional services and becoming increasingly supportive to their school’s LGBT community.

Tell me about Campus Pride’s faith initiatives?
We’ve always had students of faith who have come to us and participated in our programs. For the longest time, we would refer people to Faith in America, and other organizations doing good work in that arena. But within the last two years we’ve had students say, “we’d really like Campus Pride to make a commitment on faith issues.” So it’s been a newer journey for us. Right now, we have a group of about 15 students from different academic institutions that have a religious framework, like Notre Dame. The goal is to take the voices of students that sometimes get isolated at these institutions and magnify them on a national level, while creating greater resources for these campuses.

Where do you think Campus Pride will grow in the future?
I’m excited about the next five years of Campus Pride. We’re in a good position to continue our growth, and are doing the work that needs to be done for young people today. We also have the good fortune of being closely connected to students, and hearing what is important to them right now, and in the future. For example, while marriage equality is an important topic, by talking with young people on campus, we hear what other issues are bubbling up, and are able to get our finger on the pulse for what’s coming next.

Learn more about Campus Pride’s work at their website.

Pride Interview: Ross Murray and GLAAD

During Pride Month, Repair the World is featuring interviews with the people and organizations who are on the forefront of the LGBTQ movement. This week: Ross Murray talks about his role as Director of News and Faith Initiatives at GLAAD – one of the leading organizations in this country working for LGBTQ awareness and rights through media and culture.

How did you get involved with GLAAD? What drew you to the organization?
My background is working in religion, particularly in the Mainline Protestant world. GLAAD is actually the first secular organization I’ve ever worked with. Before GLAAD, I worked for a Lutheran LGBT group, which at the time was called Lutherans Concerned, and is now called Reconciling Works. I was there when the Evangelical Lutheran church changed their policy about allowing clergy to recognize and support “publicly accountable lifelong monogamous same-gender relationships.” They are the largest Lutheran denomination in the country, so it was a big deal. While at my former job, I worked with my predecessor here at GLAAD. So when she resigned to do private consulting, I thought it could be a good fit.

How did the Faith Initiatives program get started at GLAAD?
It started 6 years ago, before my time. After the 2004 election, many exit polls noted how people mentioned moral values as one of the reasons they voted for the president. A lot of LGBT advocacy organizations began to realize at that point that they hadn’t been engaging fully with religious communities, and began to establish programs to do so. It’s been a really fruitful shift. At GLAAD we have a huge network of pro-LGBT religious leaders, and the program focuses on figuring out how we best work with them to influence how the story of religion and the LGBT community is being told in the public sphere. For example, if the issue is marriage equality, how can we share voices of rabbis and ministers who would say, “I’d like to help loving, committed, same gender couples get married, but I can’t right now.”

What are the major program areas within the Faith Initiatives wing?
Last year GLAAD did a study called Missing Voices, commissioned through the University of Missouri. It examined which religious representatives the mainstream media outlets tend to go to when talking about LGBT issues. It turns out, three quarters of speakers in mainstream media represent a tradition or denomination that has a formal policy or culture opposed to LGBT equality. Mainline Protestant and Jewish voices are underrepresented – and when there is a Jewish voice included, it’s often someone from an ultra Orthodox community. The news likes excitement and drama, which means religious voices that are more tolerant get shut out of the conversation.

We have a bevy of speakers including faith leaders, and I work to actively pitch the mainstream media and let them know who they should be talking to. On the flip side, we help train people who are not explicitly working within the religious world – like lawyers and non-profit workers – to have religious talking points.

We also help get out the stories of people who are doing exciting pro LGBT work in the religious world. For example, there’s a man named Jayson Littman who started a successful Jewish LGBT party production company called He’Bro. We did a profile on him where he talked about his experience with reparative therapy programs, and he’s received other media attention. He does not necessarily think of himself as a religious leader because he’s more on the social and cultural side of things. But he is someone with a voice who is working explicitly within the Jewish world. People pay attention to that.

Any goals moving forward?
It’s really about continuing with what we’re doing and helping shift the view of the “moveable middle.” We want to make sure the media continues on a pro LGBT trajectory, and also work with pro LGBT religious leaders who are working within denominations that tend to be stereotypically anti-gay. It’s really great to be a part of this work, and to help be a sounding board for religious leaders. I went to seminary so I know about Lutheran theology. Now I’m learning about how the politics of religion work.

Find out more about GLAAD’s work at their website.

Pride and Prayer: LGBTQ-Friendly Synagogues

Living a Jewish life can mean a lot of things. It can mean celebrating the holidays, observing Shabbat, or spending time with Jewish grandparents. It can mean keeping kosher, wearing a kippah, studying Jewish texts (or Hebrew or Yiddish), or giving tzedakah and living out the Jewish value of tikkun olam.

But for many Jews, living a Jewish life also means prayer, spirituality, and going to synagogue – either twice a year for the high holidays, or more regularly. Historically, finding a safe and welcoming place to worship has been challenging for LGBTQ Jews. Starting in the 1970s, a handful of congregations formed that specifically served the LGBTQ community.

Today, more and more synagogues are becoming increasingly welcoming to all members, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. For Pride Month, Repair the World rounded up some historic and more recent congregations that were either founded by, or have made themselves particularly open to members of the LGBTQ community:

Am Tikva (Boston): Since 1976, this LGBTQ-congregation has served Boston’s community. Their first Shabbat service was held at the Boston University Hillel House, and in 2003 voted to become a formal congregation.

Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple (Beachwood, Ohio): Within this larger temple, located in the larger Cleveland area, exists a smaller synagogue called Chevrei Tikva Chavurah, which welcomes gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Jews and their families and friends for worship services.

Bet Mishpachah (Washington DC): Bet Mishpachah is a spirited, egalitarian congregation founded in 1975 to serve gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Jews, as well as anyone who wishes to participate in an inclusive, egalitarian, and mutually supportive community.

Beth Chayim Chadashim (Los Angeles): Badging itself as “the world’s first LGBT synagogue” (it was founded in 1972), BCC-LA continues to be a vibrant spiritual and communal center for Los Angeles’ LGBTQ community and allies. In 2011, the congregation moved into a beautiful, newly built eco-friendly synagogue!

Congregation Bet Haverim (Atlanta): Led by Rabbi Joshua Lesser, this Reconstructionist synagogue was founded by gay and lesbian Jews as a place where they could engage with Judaism and Jewish life in a full and safe way. Today the synagogue retains that mission, while opening itself to a diverse community of congregants.

CBST (New York City): Congregation Beth Simchat Torah has been a haven for gay Jews, their families, and straight allies since 1973. Their services, led by the visionary Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, attract a diverse crowd of including some celebrities. (Bravo’s Andy Cohen, Joan Rivers, and Cynthia Nixon have all attended high holiday services at CBST.)

Congregation Etz Chaim (Tamarac, Florida): First started in 1974 by seven gay Jews who had been attending services at Miami’s MCC church (at the time, the only place in South Florida that welcomed openly gay people), they created an independent Jewish minyan. Beginning by holding services in people’s homes, they now hold services at the Conservative-affiliated Temple Beth Torah in Tamarac.

Congregation Or Chadash (Chicago): Founded in 1976, this reform synagogue serves as the Windy City’s preeminent LGBTQ-friendly synagogue. It was founded as an answer to the prejudice that gay and lesbian Jews experienced in other synagogues, and continues to be a warm and welcoming place for all. This past spring, the congregation hired a new spiritual leader, Rabbi Cindy Enger.

Sha’har Zahav (San Francisco): Founded in 1977, this progressive and diverse congregation celebrates its history as a LGBTQ-centered community, while actively welcoming all for worship, learning, and celebration.

Temple Israel of Greater Miami (Miami): This reform congregation has within it a havurah (independent prayer group) called Ru’ach that specifically serves the synagogues LGBTQ community.

Valley Beth Shalom (Encino, CA): This 1800 family Conservative synagogue is one of the largest in the United States. While not an official LGBTQ congregation, the synagogue’s rabbinic and communal leadership actively and explicitly welcomes same-sex individuals and families.

Who did we miss? Let us know your favorite LGBTQ-friendly synagogue in the comments or by tweeting @repairtheworld #pridemonth.

LGBTQ Movements Around the World – What’s Going on Globally

In the last decade, conversations about LGBTQ rights – from healthcare to the right to marry – have skyrocketed in America. And while the United States is by no means free of bigotry and injustice directed towards gay people, overall acceptance of and support for the LGBTQ community has also made great strides, with campaigns like It Gets Better making mainstream headlines and national impact.

But the struggle for LGBTQ rights is hardly just an American issue. Around the world, people of other countries are fighting just as passionately for justice. Below, we’ve offered a few snapshots (by no means an exhaustive list!) that paint a picture of the global LGBTQ movement.

Brazil In May, Brazil became the third (after Argentina and Uruguay) and largest Latin American country to give a “defacto greenlight” on same sex marriages by saying that government offices that issue marriage licenses cannot turn away gay couples. It’s a big move for a country that is predominantly Roman Catholic. More than a million people celebrated this year’s pride parade in Sao Paulo.

China: A few years ago, China celebrated its first Pride Week – though much of the celebration was muted by governmental interference. More recently, an activist and organizer of this year’s Pride March was disconcertingly detained.

France: In May, France signed gay marriage into law – it is the 14th country to do so (after New Zealand, which legalized same-sex marriage about one month earlier.) Not long after, the first gay wedding was celebrated. However, at the same time, tens of thousands of people turned out to protest the new ruling.

Israel has positioned itself as a haven for the country’s LGBTQ population, especially in Tel Aviv (less-so in more conservative Jerusalem). Gays can serve openly in the army and gay marriages from other countries are honored – though gay marriage is not sanctioned within the country itself. (Bonus: watch this sweet It Gets Better video by an Israeli family speaking about their transgendered family member.)

Nigeria: Known for its vocal intolerance of the LGBTQ community, the Nigerian House of Representatives recently passed an anti-gay bill, that criminalizes same-sex marriage, relationships and even membership to gay-rights groups (the country’s President has not yet signed it into law). Punishment includes jail sentences of up to 14 years. Despite the horrendous pressures against the gay community, Nigerian gay-rights activist organizations like Alliance Rights, Nigeria and Queer Alliance Nigeria, continue to fight for LGBTQ rights.

New Zealand In April, New Zealand’s parliament voted to legalize same-sex marriage, making them the 13th country to do so, and the only one in the Asia-Pacific region. After the bill’s passing, spectators in parliament (and some of the lawmakers themselves) burst out into joyous song.

Curious about other countries’ stances on gay rights? Check out Global Post’s interactive graphic that lets you search by country for info.

Pride Interview: Justin Spiro and JQY

During Pride Month, Repair the World is featuring interviews with the people and organizations who are on the forefront of the LGBTQ movement. This week: New Yorker, Justin Spiro, talks about his role as facilitator for a teen support group with JQY – a nonprofit organization supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Jews and their families in the Orthodox community.

Tell me a bit about your own background in the Jewish and queer worlds.
I grew up in the Conservative movement, and became more observant in college. I had come out as gay in high school, and started the gay-straight alliance at my school. So I had that part of my identity, and then my Jewish identity became more central later. After college, I moved to NYC which is one of the few places that has a critical mass of queer Orthodox people. I got involved with JQY as a member and occasional volunteer. Many of the friends I have today I originally met through JQY.

And what do you do with JQY now?
I am a facilitator for a monthly teen group in the Five Towns, Long Island. It’s a safe space for LGBTQ people who are currently or formerly religious to discuss about the issues they have, and realize that they are not the only ones facing those issues. In my professional life I have a masters degree in social work and work as a therapist with teenagers in the Bronx. My experience with that age group plus my own personal experiences in the queer and Orthodox communities made me a good fit for this particular program. The group is still pretty new, and its founding was one of luck and circumstance. We got a grant from Federation to put something like this together, and Five Towns, which has a large Orthodox community, seemed like a great place to jump in. We’re hoping it eventually spreads to other communities.

What unique challenges do queer Orthodox teens face?
One issue has to do with their internal moral compasses. Since they were young, they were taught that whatever the Torah says you have to do. More liberal movements can be more interpretive and open about Jewish law, but in Orthodoxy there is a deeply ingrained sense of right and wrong, as well as punishment and reward from God.

But as upsetting as that might sound, that feeling often pales in comparison with the social and community pressures the teens face. By far kids say they are more stressed out about how their parents or peers are treating them rather than about halachic (Jewish law) issues. It may be a matter of kids making jokes in the hallway, or rabbis and teachers who try to be helpful but say unhelpful or hurtful things. That’s what really stresses them out.

Do you think the Orthodox world is becoming more accepting of LGBTQ people?
I see a lot of movement in that direction. On the one hand, if your goal is to have an Orthodox rabbi perform a same sex ceremony, that is unlikely to happen. But in the Orthodox world, and particularly the modern Orthodox world, people are talking about the issues, which is ground breaking. It doesn’t change halacha, but it does acknowledge that these issues exist and that life can be a real struggle. Allowing people to share their full selves with the community is a step in the right direction.

Interestingly, the Five Towns group is endorsed and sponsored by two Orthodox rabbis in the community – without that, we never would have gotten it off the ground. So these changes are not across the board – they’re not happening in every synagogue – but it’s starting.

The most important thing is exposure. In any community, knowing someone in your family or friendship circle who is gay makes a huge difference. Then it becomes not a foreign concept, but something that impacts people just like us. Enabling people to come out safely in their communities is the single most powerful way to foster acceptance.

How has being a part of JQY impacted you personally?
It makes me feel good to see kids make progress in their lives and feel better about themselves. Personally, I am at a good place in my life – I have stable identities as a Jew and a gay individual. But many people are still unstable in one or both identities, so I feel like this work lets me give back. It’s my duty and I’m happy to do it.

Find out more about JQY’s work at their website.

Breaking Norms by Breaking Glass

(Jewish, LGBTQ, Celeb Weddings!)

Love is in the air in June. As one of the most popular months to get married (that’s where the term “June bride” comes from), happy couples all over the country are tying the knot right now. And in recent years, these happy “I, do” moments have grown to include LGBTQ couples – as of now, 12 states plus Washington DC legally recognize same-sex marriage.

The ultimate goal of legal recognition and constitutional protection for same-sex marriage has not yet been achieved, though the majority (just over half) of Americans support it. And yet, the more gay weddings that are celebrated, the more it becomes a part of the cultural norm. As part of that celebration, Repair the World rounded up some of our favorite Jewish LGBTQ celebrities to honor their decision to marry their partners. Mazel tov!

Barney Frank: The former House of Representatives Democrat (he served in Massachusetts from 1981 until just recently in 2013), is considered the most prominent gay politician in the United States. His wedding last summer to his partner Jim Ready was a highly publicized celebration, featuring lots of A-list political celebrities (Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, Dennis Kucinich etc.), the grooms lifted up on chairs during a hora and, as the Times reported, some tasty vegan cocktail food. (Check out the New York Times’ wedding announcement.)

Leslie Feinberg: A transgender activist and author, Feinberg’s novel Stone Butch Blues is considered a watershed work about gender identity. Feinberg’s partner, Minnie Bruce Pratt is also a writer and activist. The two got married in two different states in order to help legally protect each other with regards to healthcare and other critical life issues.

Tony Kushner: In 2003, Tony Kushner’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Angels in America, was turned into a hugely successful TV miniseries for HBO. But that wasn’t the only exciting thing that happened to Mr. Kushner that year. He also wed his partner – journalist and author Mark Harris. According to their New York Times wedding announcement, Rabbi Ellen Lippmann “blessed the couple while wrapping them together with a prayer shawl, pulling them so close their eyeglasses touched.”

Cynthia Nixon: The actress and former Sex in the City star is not Jewish herself, but her kids are – and she has been an active community member at Manhattan LGBTQ synagogue, CBST. (She also recently hosted a benefit for T’ruah, a Jewish human rights organization.) Last year, Nixon married her partner, education activist Christine Marinoni. True to her SaTC roots, she wore couture – a pale green gown designed by Carolina Herrera.

Ari Shapiro: You may not know what Ari Shapiro looks like, but chances are you’ve heard his voice as the White House correspondent for National Public Radio. When not reporting the news as a radio journalist, Shapiro has been known to sing and record in multiple languages, including Hebrew and Ladino. A 2004 article in The Yale Daily News (the newspaper of Shapiro’s alma mater) covered his wedding to long-time partner – and fellow Yalie – Michael Gottlieb, a lawyer.

Who is your favorite gay Jewish couple? Let us know by tweeting @repairtheworld #pridemonth

Pride Month Events 2013

Not sure how or where to celebrate Pride Month this year? Repair the World has got you covered!

The festivities begin during the last days of May and continue throughout the end of June, and there are events going on all around the country. Check out our roundup of fun, fabulous (and in many cases free!) events, talks, film screenings, parties, marches and shabbat dinners celebrating LGBTQ rights during Pride Month.

Boston
May 31: Join Keshet for “Erev” Pride Week Shabbat services and dinner in Sommerville, MA.
June 1: Congregation Am Tikva in Brooklyn, MA is hosting a Pride Liberation Seder – aka a retelling of the story of the LGBT liberation following the Passover seder model.

Chicago
June 22 and 23: Chicago’s annual Pride Fest helps kick off summer in the second city!
June 24: Congregation Or Chadash is hosting a beach-side BBQ and Shabbat service to launch the city’s Pride Week.

Denver
June 14: Shabbat services and a picnic lunch are at the heart of this Keshet-inspired Pride Month event.

Los Angeles
May-June: There are a ton of events going on in West Hollywood before and during Pride Month, from a discussion of LGBTQ rights around the globe on June 18, to the official LA Pride Parade on June 9. For more events in and around Los Angeles, click here.

Miami
June 5: Temple Israel of Greater Miami is hosting a ru’ach pride seder, celebrating the freedoms and remembering the challenges of the LGBT community.

New York
June 22: Congregation Beit Simchat Torah is hosting a multigenerational pride picnic in the park.
June 28: Join other New Yorkers for the Pride Week Kickoff Rally at Pier 26.

San Fran
June 9 Keshet is hosting a LGBTQ mixer and Pride Month picnic in Delores Park.
June 28: Join the Jewish Community Federation for a gay pride Shabbat celebration.
June 29-30 San Franciscans know how to party during their annual Pride festival.

Seattle
June 28: JConnect in Seattle will host their annual Pride Shabbat with services, music, food and mingling.

Washington DC
May 29: Join in on the fun at the Big Queer Jewish Pride Kick Off Happy Hour event hosted at Mova Lounge.
June: The Washington DC JCC’s LGBT group GLOE is hosting several fun events, all worth checking out.
June 8: Join in the annual Capitol Pride Parade, and March with GLOE.

Did we miss a great Pride Month event? We want to hear about it! Share it below or tweet us at @repairtheworld #pridemonth.

Pride Interview: Shanna Katz and Keshet

During Pride Month, Repair the World is featuring interviews with the people and organizations who are on the forefront of the LGBTQ movement. This week: Colorado native (and current Denver resident), Shanna Katz, talks about her volunteer work with Keshet – an organization “working for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Jews in Jewish life” – and the important role Keshet has played in her own journey.

How did you get involved with Keshet?
When I moved back to Colorado from Arizona in early 2011, I felt very engaged in the queer community, but very disconnected from the Jewish community. Several months later, I started getting emails from friends saying “I saw this poster for a queer Hanukkah party that you might like.” I checked it out and thought it looked fun, plus it was being held at my favorite vegetarian restaurant. I hesitated because my partner is a transman and not Jewish, so I wasn’t sure he’d be welcome. But it turned out that there were people there from all walks of life and Judaism. It immediately felt like a safe space to be my kind of Jewish and talk about issues relevant to the LGBT and Jewish communities. For the last year and a half since then, I’ve gotten much more involved.

In what ways have you gotten involved?
I’m on Keshet’s Young Adult Planning Team. There’s this fear across the Jewish community that we’re losing people in our 20s-30s, so the original idea of the team was to make sure that the events we were planning felt relevant and meaningful to the younger adult community. We got a grant through a local foundation that paid for a year-long salon series, so we planned fun and educational events like a talk on transgender issues within Judaism. I taught a class on sexuality and Judaism, and we hosted a spoken word performance by Harvey Katz’s Athens Boys Choir. We held the salon series in coffee shops, bars, people’s homes – places that felt distinctly different from the traditional Shabbat service space.

How did you spread the word about the series?
We put flyers out at local synagogues and bars, and got an add in the local queer newspaper. We felt like we had the Jewish spaces pretty well covered, and more wanted to find queer Jewish people who did not typically come to Jewish events. The salon series did pretty well – my class, for example, had about 20-25 people.

Are you involved in other Keshet programs?
Through Keshet I’ve volunteered for our local meals on wheels program, and we have an upcoming event with Ekar, a local urban farm that provides food for Jewish family services. Each year, we march together with other Jewish groups in the Pride Parade, and recently my partner and I hosted a Keshet Shabbat. We alternate between religious and non-religious locations and usually have a lay-led service followed by a potluck. Our Queer Seder, which we hold during Passover is also one of the largest in the country. Last year we had about 150 people attend.

What role does Keshet play in your own life?
Growing up, I had a bat mitzvah and was president of Hillel during college, but then I lost my connection with the Jewish community. I had no ideas Jews had something to say about issues I cared about. So for me, Keshet been an important pathway back into Judaism, and I think it has the potential to do the same for many other people.

Find out more about Keshet’s work at their website.

Pride Month 2013

June is LGBTQ Pride Month – 30 days dedicated to honoring the impact people who are lesbian, gay, bi, and transgendered have had on the world. (June was chosen in commemoration of the famous Stonewall Riots.) The month is also host to Pride Day, when cities around the globe celebrate with fun festivals and marches meant to spread awareness about LGBTQ issues.

Here at Repair the World we are celebrating Pride all June long, offering stories focused on LGBTQ causes, featuring organizations doing great work to promote rights for all, and publishing interviews with leaders and change makers in the community.

The tide towards rights for the LGBTQ community is turning, and great achievements have been made since the first Pride March was held in New York City in 1969. But in America and around the globe, there is much work to be done to ensure safety, rights, and an end of discrimination for everyone, regardless of who they love or how they identify.

Check back on Repair the World’s blog often during the month of June for opportunities to get involved and make a difference! Here are the great ways we’re already celebrating Pride Month:

Pride Month Events (find one in your area this month!)
Breaking Norms by Breaking Glass (Jewish, LGBTQ, Celeb Weddings!)
Pride and Prayer (LGBTQ-Friendly Synagogues)
LGBTQ Movements Around the World – what’s going on globally
Top 10 LGBTQ Movies
Pride Interview: Shanna Katz and Keshet
Pride Interview: Justin Spiro and JQY
Pride Interview: Ross Murray and GLAAD
Pride Interview: Shane Windmeyer and Campus Pride

How are you celebrating Pride Month? Tweet us at @repairtheworld #pridemonth.