I Count.

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.


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#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


30716117_10155754759929121_4901290723984277504_n#WeCount: Today is the 16th day of the Omer.

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
Or community

I just realized
I have a choice
When it comes to 
who I marry
It's scary 
Because all this 
is new to me

Now I feel like
I need to stop
And recalculate
Where I stand

It just hit me 
Like a ton of bricks
In a good but
Confusing way

Was I brainwashed 
Till now?
I wonder why
Sexual orientation 
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 
Meant to

I don't think 
G-d would want me to be 
any different 
Than me.

I hope to 
Gain confidence
And strength
To stand up for myself
And make 
Choices 
Despite others pressure
To get me to do what 
They think is normal
And regular

Because I am different
Unique
I am me
No one else 
Needs to tell me 
Who I am 
And what I need to do
And be.

 

#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

 


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#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.”
-Tehila, 15


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#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."

-Anonymous, 17


Click here for video.

#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


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#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


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#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


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#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


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#WeCount: Today is the 4th day of the Omer.

The Multifaceted Butterfly

We count. 
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. 
Acceptance- מלכות. 
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


Sandy

#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