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“We love you; we honor you for who you are”– Shabbat Message 3/27/2015

Posted on 03/27/2015 @ 12:00 PM

“We love you; we honor you for who you are.”

This is the closing mantra that was chanted as participants of the Keshet/Hazon LGBTQ+ teen and Ally Shabbaton bravely shared their fears, hopes, and reflections from the Shabbaton and what would happen when they go home from the safe space.

I had the pleasure of staffing the Keshet/Hazon Shabbaton (www.keshetonline.org) for the second year in a row at the beautiful Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Falls Village, CT. Seventy Jewish teens from all around the country from different backgrounds and youth movements attended the Shabbaton with two things in common: 1. they identified as an ally or part of the LGBTQ+ community, and 2. they were Jewish. During the weekend the participants had the opportunity to celebrate Shabbat without the fear of being judged. Instead, they were empowered to create a Kehila Kadosha, a holy community. Diversity was celebrated but overall the main point that was taken away for everyone was: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

This week’s parsha, Parshat Tzav, mentions that a fire on the altar must be kept burning at all times, and in it are burned the wholly consumed ascending offerings. This reminded me of the participants and staff of the Shabbaton who fight every day for inclusion with a fire burning inside of them. It reminded me of the Aleph who has not come out yet because he is afraid of what his chapter will say. It reminded me of the BBG who doesn’t want to talk about which NJB is cute. And it reminded me of the teen who does not identify as being an Aleph or BBG but somewhere in between, and who yearns for a BBYO experience. How can we make their fire burn just as bright? How can we make them feel part of a holy community without shame?

BBYO had 5 alumni and current members that attended the weekend. We talked about inclusion in our youth movement and brainstormed how we can make our BBYO Kehila Kadosha a more welcoming space for teens that fit every shade and gender identity of the rainbow.

When Havdalah came around, we all stood in a circle arms around each other. It didn’t matter what youth movement you came from. In that moment we were part of something bigger: a community that gave us the freedom to let go and love ourselves. The fire of the Havdalah candle burns brightly in your chapter/council/region, and at IC, CLTC, or Isabella Freedman, and it gives us the same feeling of being a part of one holy community who are stronger together. Fire and hope are burning bright in BBYO.

Following the Shabbaton, BBYO participants started an Inclusion Facebook group to further the conversation about inclusion in BBYO. If you or anyone you know are interested in joining this group, or have questions about next year’s Keshet/Hazon LGBTQ+ Ally and teen Shabbaton please email me at csnyder@bbyo.org. Let’s resolve together to create a holy community in BBYO so that everybody will feel welcome and included in AZA and BBG. Let’s love each other and honor each other for who we are.

(This Shabbat message was written by Chelsea Snyder, Associate Regional Director of Pacific Western Region BBYO).

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