My apologies - I’ve been struggling to find time to blog, even though my experiences and thoughts regarding my blog have been ongoing. I have much to write about, and I am planning on sharing everything scattered over the next few weeks.
I’m going to start with an event that occurred at UMD in February. I helped organized a JQY (www.jqyouth.org) shabbaton at Maryland. Ten JQY members came down to campus for the shabbaton, which included three panels over the course of the weekend. On Friday night, there was a panel about “growing up frum and gay: personal narratives and Q&A.” Shabbat day included a panel titled “Orthodoxy and Homosexuality: Halacha, Community, and the Future.” Lastly, during the evening on Saturday, a final panel took place, covering issues regarding gender-identity and gender non-conformity in orthodoxy.
All in all, it was a very successful weekend. The JQY members really enjoyed the warmth and impressiveness of Maryland’s orthodox community. Additionally, the community really appreciated the panels and sharing that the JQY members did. They were greeted positively and with open arms.
JQY has done a similar shabbatonim at other Universities across America, and each one is important. For a lot of the orthodox Jews that attend secular Universities, their respective college campuses are the first exposure many of them have outside of their orthodox bubbles. It was for me and many students like me.
Through these panels and shabbatonim, JQY does two things: Firstly, and most important, they are able to impart the knowledge and awareness of the existence of homosexuality to the general student body within in the orthodox community on both a personal and objective level.
Secondly, JQY brings awareness to those few students who may be questioning their sexuality. For these students in particular, they may have never known that a community of orthodox, gay Jews exists. They may have suffered emotionally and/or felt restricted by their community. By hearing these panels and hearing the stories of several gay, orthodox individuals, some of the students learn that they are not alone; they learn that gay, orthodox Jews exist, and that they can take the necessary steps they desire to take that they may not have had the courage to take before.
There was an article written about the Friday night panel in The Mitzpeh, the Jewish newspaper of UMD.
**disclaimer: there were more than 75 people at the panel. Additionally, I feel that a lot of important information was omitted from the article**