This year during Sfira — as we count days of the Omer between Pesach and Shavuos — JQY will be amplifying the voices of our community members through our new “I count” campaign.
We count because of our accomplishments AND our struggles. We count because of what makes us unique and because of the things we share. We count because we are greater than the sum of our parts AND because each one of us is complete and whole. We count in our communities. We count in our homes and our schools and in our shuls.
It is taught that thousands of students of Rabbi Akiva died during the Omer because they didn’t respect each other. Let’s use these days to share, teach, and learn to respect each other on a new and deeper level than ever before.
#WeCount: Today is the 37th day of the Omer.
"So maybe next time, I won’t pretend.
Because when you’ve been trapped for so many years
You forget what it’s like to be free.
And when you take that first breath of freedom,
All you want to do is fly, and never go back."
-Avi, 20, Miami
#WeCount: Today is the 33rd day of the Omer.
"to the rabbi’s gay son/ Lonely Men of Faith"
- Shonna, Brooklyn
#WeCount: Today is the 32nd day of the Omer.
"There should be a masquerade party
in a synagogue
for those who are leading a double life
who come alive only in the shadows
for whom love is fraught
with guilt and strife"
-Jen Hersh, 27, Brooklyn
#WeCount: Today is the 31st day of the Omer.
"Even though I was wearing a mask, she could still see me."
-Layla Feder, 26, Brooklyn
#WeCount: Today is the 30th day of the Omer.
"i want to count now not because i need to but because i like to"
-Seela, 16, Teaneck
#WeCount: Today is the 26th day of the Omer.
"I count because I am a mother.
I count because I am an educator.
I count because I am a dancer.
I count because I am a Jew.
I count because I am human.
I count because I can make a difference.
I count because others count on me.
I count because of all that I am.
But most of all, I count because my daughter counts on me."
-Adina Rudin, 29, New Jersey
#WeCount: Today is the 25th day of the Omer.
"At 19 I was a closeted kid at Yeshiva University on the cusp of coming out. I remember trying to understand how I see my own beauty. There was a feminine image in my mind that seemed as unattainable as it was relatable. Could I love myself even when I didn't have a complete sense of who I was? This poem was about thinking of myself as a million different parts that may never come together, but has strength in its entirety nonetheless. I am reminded of it during sefira, which is about the beauty of the parts, even apart from the whole. The picture you see of yourself through the powder of colors and shapes may be closer to your authentic self than the clarity of self actualization. This is the way I made my parts count."
-Mordechai, New York City
Coming Out: חרות (acrylic on canvas)
-Jen Hersh, 27, Brooklyn
#WeCount: Today is the 23rd day of the Omer.
"Counting to 23"
My personal Sefirat HaOmer is to 23.
23 is the age in which I came out as gay and finally started living my authentic life. The Jews may have gotten the Torah on day 49, but I received my life's Torah at 23. My whole life, little did I know, I was counting to 23.
I came out during the summer; which I was spending living in Israel.
It was a strange summer for gay rights. It started with the Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage across the United States. I was so proud to be American, and for the first time felt like I can live a life as a gay man.
But then, that same summer, just a few blocks from my apartment in Jerusalem, tragedy struck during the Jerusalem Pride Parade. 16 year old Shira Banki was murdered for marching for LGBT Pride. This was the world I was coming out to. I was scared.
From then on I promised to never stop fighting to count and be counted. When I need strength, I count to 23.
Photo: Pride flag hanging in Jerusalem, taken by me on the day of the 2015 Jerusalem Pride Parade
#WeCount: Today is the 19th day of the Omer.
Speaking words of approval
"This drawing is of a human profile and on inside I put a rainbow and an Israeli flag to show the pride I have in being who I am. As well as all the colors surrounding it to represent us being who we are but having to have a barrier up at times.
I also wrote a quote on it and the person is speaking the words “A person can’t be comfortable without their own approval.” To me that is interpreted as if you cant accept and be who you really are then how are you suppose to be comfortable with yourself. Thank you to JQY for giving me that outlet"
- Anonymous, 18, Queens
#WeCount: Today is the 18th day of the Omer.
My Queer Year In 2017
A year of political hate, a divided America, and an internalized self. Fear, invalidation, and danger was at my every corner. Hope, affirmation, and safety was at risk, dying from my heart.
I became tired.
I was oppressed.
I wanted to crawl into a dark room and die from existence.
I want to change an unjust world that is killing my queer siblings, but I can’t even fix myself.
I believed I am powerless.
Without money, means, or connections to stop those in power from destroying queer creation. Yet, I have no answers on how to solve the riddle “Why is my world always in demise?”
I searched for answers, sought support, built community, and became more involved in the environment and people around me, all to hope for a better tomorrow.
I hope to thrive in 2018.
- @Mx.Enigma, 23, New York City
#WeCount: Today is the 17th day of the Omer.
“During the time that I first started coming out – I had just barely come out to myself and had begun to tell a few close friends – there was a call on social media for the public to wear rainbow one day in support of the LGBTQ community. It was probably the first day of June (pride month) but I wasn’t aware enough then to even know that. Though the LGBTQ community was certainly not a population of which I felt a part, I felt I needed to do *something* to prove to myself that I had some pride somewhere deep down. That I stood with the rest of the community, despite the fact that I didn’t know them, and that I couldn’t say it out loud. That, despite the immense amount of shame I felt, there was a possibility that maybe one day I would be able to be proud of my whole self.
I felt I couldn’t wear anything too obvious because 1. I worked in a religious institution and 2. I just wasn’t ready to say it out loud – even discreetly. I remembered that somewhere in the back of my sock drawer, I had a pair of socks with rainbows all over them. My mom had sent them to me in a summer camp care package many years back, and I had always thought they were kind of ridiculous. I realized that if I wore the socks and they were concealed by my shoes, I could stand in quiet solidarity with myself, and no one else would know.
I wore those socks with fear and courage and strength and discomfort. The distance between my brain and my feet seemed farther than usual, and yet, I stood a bit taller than I did on other days. I never told anyone about those socks, and I didn’t come out officially until years later.
I count even when I'm the only one who's counting."
- Rachael Fried, 30, New York City
This triptych represents years of doodles and personal drawings that I put together to stitch into one self-portrait.
-Ari Susswein, 27, New York City
I want to be me
But it's not accepted
Here in my family
I just realized
I have a choice
When it comes to
who I marry
Because all this
is new to me
Now I feel like
I need to stop
Where I stand
It just hit me
Like a ton of bricks
In a good but
Was I brainwashed
I wonder why
Is not talked about
And if I did
My friends and family
will try and shut me up
And get me mainstream
What if I want to be different?
To just be me?
Is that something bad?
The fact I can choose
When it comes to sex
Made me feel
So much better
I thought I was doomed
Had to do what I am told
What my friends had todo
But I can't
I don't want to
I am probably not
I don't think
G-d would want me to be
I hope to
To stand up for myself
Despite others pressure
To get me to do what
They think is normal
Because I am different
I am me
No one else
Needs to tell me
Who I am
And what I need to do
#WeCount: Today is the 13th day of the Omer.
"Now I feel like I need to stop and recalculate where I stand...I hope to gain confidence and strength to stand up for myself..."
-Rafi, 23, New York
#WeCount: Today is the 12th day of the Omer.
“While others around me fight for their rights through protests and petitions, I am fighting too. Fighting for the right to be me without mourning my pride.”
#WeCount: Today is the 11th day of the Omer
"They count my flaws, my mistakes, and my differences.
I count my virtues, my strengths, and my unique qualities that make me who I am
...So let’s stop counting our blessings, and make sure others can count theirs."
#WeCount: Today is the 10th day of the Omer.
"Growing up in a sheltered Ultra-Orthodox community, there were a lot of firsts that happened later for me. I've painted this interactive map to show the places in NY where I've had some of my significant firsts and the age I was when I did them. Read more on my insta @jenhershdesign"
-Jen Hersh, 27, Brooklyn
#WeCount: Today is the 9th day of the Omer.
Jewish-Queer Pride Mural: She'asani Kirtzono
Included in the morning blessings is one that reads, "Blessed are you, God ... for making me as intended," in Hebrew, "she'asani kirtzono." This is a bold statement that God created each of us intentionally. We count because God says we do. And who can argue with that?
- Hillel Smith, 33, Los Angeles
#WeCount: Today is the 8th day of the Omer.
"I count because
sometimes it’s too hard to feel like you
need to count on somebody else."
-Avygayl, 17, New York
#WeCount: Today is the 5th day of the Omer.
Mini seder survival guides and reminders, made at the Drop-in Center
"I count because this is my story too."
-Anonymous, 18 and 20, New York
#WeCount: Today is the 4th day of the Omer.
The Multifaceted Butterfly
That infinite spark inside each of us matters.
It glows in a crown above our spirit-כתר
It’s channeled through our multicolored being-דעת
It flows abundantly through our love. - חסד
And strengthens our perception of boundaried selves, the courage to be, complete in our totality. -גבורה
Resting in a glowing luminous balance- תפארת
Trudging forward, overcoming obstacles-נצח
Surrendering, a power greater than us takes the reigns- הוד
Connecting, self, other, universal spirit, aligned-יסוד
Resting, serenity in current state of being.
Each moment all these factors or perhaps just one of them are present and accessible, reach above to remember, you precious soul, matter.
-Shoshana, 25, Santa Monica
#WeCount: Today is the 3rd day of the Omer.
“I have struggled over whether or not I count in traditional Jewish spaces. I do. I believe in equality and I believe that there are people being erased and that I am one of those people but I am bit by bit finding my way to my own promised land out of the narrow place that was living in the closet. My experience is my own I am trans masculine and have some privileges but I know where I do and do not and I know when to step up and step back. To my trans siblings, you are valid and you deserve the right to practice Judaism on your terms and to live on your terms.” –Sandy, 20, New York City