Not just more JQY. New JQY.
JQY addresses a quiet emergency. The teens and young adults who take advantage of JQY’s resources face isolation, rejection from their communities, fleeting hope for their futures, and staggering mental health challenges. They do so most often in secret. Many believe that they are the only ones “like them” prior to finding JQY. When they step into our space, they are understood, valued, and an indispensable part of a bigger picture. They are home.
I am grateful for the honor of becoming JQY’s first new Executive Director since the organization was created in 2001 by Mordechai Levovitz with a small group of gay yeshiva students looking to connect, support one another, and advocate for change in the Orthodox world. Mordechai has made transformational change in the Orthodox world, and we embrace his new role working more directly with our teens and young adults as Clinical Director.
As I have worked for change at JQY, I have learned that innovation is found in embracing the “and,” not making “either/or” choices. For me, leading from a place of authenticity means holding multiple truths at once. I am an introvert and I lead to empower others. I am meticulously prepared and I take risks when needed to build and innovate.
I stand for JQY’s strong, sustainable growth and for change. Yes, JQY is growing – at an exponential rate – and as we grow, we must responsibly strengthen the resources we offer, recognizing our intrinsic responsibility to the young people we serve. Those who need us most must have knowledge of and access to those resources. It is imperative that JQY’s programs have the lowest possible barriers to access. Many teens we serve do not typically have internet access. We have begun to design guerilla marketing strategies and develop relationships with key community gatekeepers (such as guidance counselors and doctors) in order to reach them.
This means not just more JQY; it means new JQY. Thanks to grants from the UJA-Federation of New York, we are now working with IGY (Israeli Gay Youth) to empower LGBTQ youth while building bridges between communities to fight bigotry and isolation. We have launched JQYU (JQY University) to cultivate New York as a center of queer Jewish college life. And we have started to plan programming for children under the age of 13, who are increasingly finding their way to us.
This is a sign of progress, as is the question we can now ask ourselves: What does JQY look like not merely as an answer to a Jewish problem but as a pillar of the Jewish community?
Eilu v’eilu – both these and those, seemingly in contradiction. One of the greatest challenges in building JQY is working with the Jewish community and holding the community to task. If we succeed, no young person, regardless of upbringing or religious affiliation, will suffer from rejection, isolation, or shame. Teachers will no longer assume that their students are cisgender and straight, and Shabbos table conversations will not address LGBTQ topics as applying only to “others.” JQY’s existence will be known and accessible to any young person who needs us, and those who need us – children, young adults, and community leaders alike – will always be able to count on JQY to support those who would otherwise fall through the cracks.
Executive Director, JQY
June 19, 2019