Today I had the privilege of meeting with some young LGBTQ college students at the annual NUJLS conference. NUJLS for those of you who are uninitiated is the National Union of Jewish Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, and Intersex Students. Annually this group conducts a wonderful conference at some university in the U.S. Students come from all over North America to learn, study, celebrate Shabbat and explore the meaning of being Gay and Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender and Jewish. This weekend was no different. They had a wonderful array of teachers including Rabbi Brad Artson, Rabbi Lisa Edwards, Howard Solomon (chair of the World Congress of Gay and Lesbian Bisexual and transgender Organizations), Rabbi Don Goor and Cantor Evan Kent. They talked about gay Jewish identity, LGBT Jewish history, diversity in the gay community and being out in the Jewish community.
Students came from University of Michigan, University of Kansas, Em0ry, University of Pennsylvania, UCLA, USC, even York in Canada among many others. Some were completely open and out and others just learning what this identity means for them. But I was impressed with how amazingly dynamic and bright and articulate each was and in his or her own way a leader in their college circles.
In my workshop I spent some time talking with them about the nature of being an out leader in the Jewish community. But in reality we really discussed what it means to be open and honest and to stand up for yourself. That is what it means to me at least. Letting no one in the Jewish community assault your dignity because of their homophobia or ignorance. Lead by example-be yourself and don’t be afraid to do the hard work. Activism isn’t only organizing rallies but activism in this case is being willing to teach about who you are and be open with others about it! There are still corners of the Jewish community that can’t deal with gay folks. There are still more that can’t deal with trans folks. And many who don’t want to understand. They are so busy looking down their noses that they can’t see the humanity in each person. But that is part of the gift of NUJLS and this annual conference and that is to give strength to each young Jewish queer person’s dignity and journey!
So thank you NUJLS for letting me come today to talk with all of you. And if you can support the work of this great group so that more college students can organize and be the openly gay or lesbian, bi or trans Jewish leaders of their campuses! We need them all.