• Upcoming Event

  • Proud to be a Communal Leader

    Nearly twenty years ago, the co-chair of my congregation invited me to a coffee where she asked me to consider becoming our next board co-chair. At the time I expressed a concern, to her and to others – that our nascent community, and our ability to draw people in who wanted to shift the conversation within American Orthodoxy regarding women’s inclusion, would be negatively impacted if we were to have an openly LGBTQ leader at the front of the room; the first ever, to our knowledge, for an American halachic/Orthodox community. After reassurance from her and others in our community that this should not be my concern to carry, I agreed to accept this responsibility.  

    It ended up being the most meaningful thing I have ever done as a volunteer in the Jewish community. 

    A year or so later, at kiddush after services one shabbat, a newish member of the community, who I did not know particularly well yet, approached me with an offer to fix me up with a woman friend of his. I kindly thanked him for graciously thinking of me, and then informed him of my status, one that I had assumed was known to everyone in our extended community. He would become a long-term member and raise two wonderful kids in our community. And years after I moved to Boston, with its growing number of LGBTQ members, our congregation would establish a Pride group that hosts regular programming within the umbrella of this halachic community. 

    I tell you this because over the years I’ve thought a lot about what it means to be an Out leader in a rapidly changing Jewish community. Personally, I have chosen the path of working and leading in non-LGBTQ specific communities and interests. I do so in part with the belief that the transformation of our Jewish community includes our ability as LGBTQ Jews to fully lead in the ‘whole’ community, and the need for us to be visible as leaders not ‘just’ on LGBTQ concerns but as leaders committed to the whole of the Jewish people. Additionally, I do so because I believe it is transformational for LGBTQ kids in our community to see leaders who give them space to imagine themselves in leadership– to see themselves as belonging at the highest levels of our community in a way that I did not when I was younger. 

    None of that is meant to diminish in any way the vital work that many of my dearest friends do in and on behalf of ‘specifically’ LGBTQ Jewish spaces and organizations. We need to take care of our at-risk youth, and our families that are still not universally welcomed. We need to explicitly advocate for ourselves in a variety of ways. And our visibility as a distinct LGBTQ community within the broader Jewish community adds something vital and enriching to the whole of our people. Candidly, I don’t think Boston would have been ready twelve years ago to accept me as our JCRC director were it not for the work that Keshet and its allies had already done – leading the Boston Jewish community to establish a framework of inclusion and belonging. I have deeply held personal gratitude for the importance of LGBTQ specific Jewish efforts. 

    But it is also a reminder that, in some ways, coming out remains a lifelong part of the work for me. Because if people don’t know that I’m LGBTQ, and especially if our rising leaders don’t know it, then I’m not achieving what I did set out to model many years ago; that we have so much to offer to the whole community; that we want to, can, and should be leading for our whole Jewish community, and; that we should aspire to be leaders for the whole community.  

    I do not often use this space to explicitly remind you that I am an LGBTQ Jew in a communal leadership role. I know you will forgive me the taking of some personal privilege on this first Friday of Pride Month to explain why I do remind you so from time to time. 

    Shabbat Shalom, and Happy Pride.  


    P.S. JCRC’s member organizations are offering a number of wonderful Pride month programs in the coming weeks. These include but are in no way limited to:  

    Saturday, June 10, 11am: For those for whom it is in the spirit of your Shabbat practice, Keshet and the Riverway Project of Temple Israel Boston invite you to join them in marching as a Jewish community at the Boston Pride for the People Parade. 

    Wednesday, June 14, 12pm: Keshet and The Vilna offer What’s Jewish About LGBTQ+ Rights? An important conversation about Jewish advocacy in response to rampant anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the country. 

    Sunday, June 18, 4pm: The Vilna, Eshel, The Consulate General of Israel to New England, Combined Jewish Philanthropies and Boston Pride for the People are pleased to host a screening of the groundbreaking Israeli film The Holy Closet.