JQY began in 2001, when a small group of New York LGBTQ Orthodox Yeshiva students found each other online and decided it was time to meet and begin to form a community. Many were still closeted, and few knew exactly what they needed from the community that they were seeking to build. However, they knew what they did not want. They did not want a future of living in the shadows. They did not want to continue feeling alone, isolated, afraid, ashamed, and ostracized by their communities of origin.
These initial JQY-ers began to meet informally in restaurants and coffee shops. In coming together and sharing their experiences, they provided each other with camaraderie, validation, and hope. Although some had different approaches and attitudes toward being LGBTQ and Orthodox, the simple act of joining together and sharing stories felt liberating, inspiring, and therapeutic. What began as informal meetings of like-minded people set the groundwork for the community that would later become JQY.
It was decided that JQY should be a resource for all LGBTQ youth who may be dealing with feelings of rejection from their Jewish communities. News of this new resource spread quickly through word of mouth, and membership increased exponentially with every get-together. Within three years, JQY had over 500 members on a confidential email discussion listserv. As the group expanded, coffee shops could no longer hold the number of individuals coming to meetings, and thus began monthly JQY meetings at JCC Manhattan.
Eventually, JQY’s programming grew and extended beyond these initial support groups to Holiday and Pride events, lectures by rabbis and community leaders, advocacy efforts, trainings for Jewish institutions, a JQY Hope-line to support members in crisis, and in 2015, a Mental Health Conference geared specifically toward Jewish therapists, rabbis, and allies.
As JQY has grown, there has been greater representation of all individuals in the LGBTQ Jewish community, and greater diversity amongst members. JQY now includes more specific and targeted programming based on the unique needs of certain ages and different identities: Yeshiva High School support groups, Women’s* and Trans programming, and as of May 2016, the JQY Drop-In Center in Midtown Manhattan.
Over the years, the leaders of JQY came to realize that although building a safe LGBTQ Jewish community helps heal the scars of rejection that many face, it is equally important to prevent this pain from being experienced in the first place. JQY works with Orthodox community leaders and rabbis to raise awareness and connect on a basic, human level. It is critical that LGBTQ youth feel a sense of belonging and love in the communities that they come from, something that is very much in line with Jewish values. Working from the inside, JQY advocacy can be credited with some of the most important milestones in LGBTQ inclusion and progress within the Jewish community. Below are just a few of the accomplishments of which we are most proud.
JQY creates first confidential email support group for LGBTQ Jewish Youth in the Orthodox community.
JQY begins monthly meetings at JCC Manhattan.
JQY launches “Rabbi’s Project” where groups of JQY members meet with rabbis from their communities to share their personal stories.
JQY creates the “JQY Speaker’s Bureau,” organizing Orthodox LGBTQ panels at Synagogues, Jewish Organizations, Schools and Campus Hillels around the country.
JQY becomes the organizer of the LGBTQ New York Community Chanukah Party. The first special guest singer is Nechama Carlebach, the daughter of famed Jewish singer Reb Shlomo Carlebach.
JQY collaborates with Hillel to organize College shabbatons about Sexuality and Gender in Judaism at University of Pennsylvania, Yale University, and Columbia University.
JQY coordinates the community-wide memorial for the victims of the shooting at a Tel Aviv LGBTQ youth center. Every Orthodox Synagogue on New York's Upper West Side is represented at the memorial.
JQY approaches Yeshiva University (YU), and in conjunction with the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, organizes the first-ever YU gay panel. Despite pushback, JQY successfully advocates for the event to take place on YU’s campus. Over 1000 students and faculty were in attendance.
JQY incorporates as an independent 501c3 (non-profit organization).
JQY helps a group of progressive Orthodox rabbis formulate a "Statement of Principles on the Place of Jews with a Homosexual Orientation in Our Community" calling for the welcoming and tolerance of LGBTQ people in the Orthodox community. The Statement of Principles has over 200 signatures as of 2016.
JQY creates the "It Gets Better" video for Orthodox LGBTQ Youth, a contribution to the larger It Gets Better movement in response to a spate of suicides by LGBTQ youth in the U.S.
JQY is the first LGBTQ supportive organization to be allowed to take part in the Nefesh Conference for Orthodox Mental Health. Professionals
JQY successfully advocates for the NY Celebrate Israel Parade to change its policy to allow openly LGBTQ groups to march and is the first LGBTQ Jewish group to march in the Israel Parade under an LGBTQ banner.
JQY successfully advocates for the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) to take down its endorsement of JONAH (what used to be a ‘reparative therapy’ organization).
JQY starts the first Orthodox high school Support group for LGBTQ teens at the JCC of the Greater Five Towns in Long Island.
JQY is the first and only LGBTQ support organization to run an advertisement in an Orthodox Newspaper, The Jewish Press.
JQY staff and members testify in front of the NJ congress and succeed in passing a legal ban on gay conversion therapy aimed at minors
JQY Women’s* Programming (W*P) is launched.
JQY members successfully sue JONAH (what used to be a ‘reparative therapy’ organization) for consumer fraud and win a landmark court case, potentially making all conversion therapy illegal under state consumer fraud law.
JQY organizes the first Mental Health Professional Conference on Sexuality and Gender Identity in the Orthodox Community. The conference was attended by over 130 Orthodox therapists, educators, rabbis, and community leaders.
JQY Collaborates with Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST) on creating a Jewish Communal Memorial Service for Shira Banki and the victims of the Jerusalem Pride Parade stabbing.
JQY creates its Yeshiva High School LGBTQ Sensitivity Training, and trains several Orthodox High Schools.
JQY launches the first ever JQY Teen Drop-In Center for at-risk LGBTQ Jewish youth.
JQY brings established and emerging LGBTQ Jewish leaders together for its first ever Leadership Training Retreat.
JQY holds a memorial service at CBST following the mass shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando. Several Orthodox Rabbis speak at this event.