I can’t believe how far we have come. If I look back on the last year, I feel nothing but pride in our JQ community. Our teen JQSA program serving 14-18 year olds has spread across Greater Los Angeles, creating easy access for teens regardless of where they live in LA. Our identity-building programs have made groundbreaking strides from our Persian Programming, which served over 750 people this past year to last week’s annual Gelty Pleasures event, which brought out over 400 JQers.
If that wasn’t enough, I have to say that this year’s Transgender Equality Brunch in November was the event that clearly demonstrated the powerful change that JQ has made in our community. As an inaugural event, we reached out to four partner communities and both the Citys of West Hollywood and Los Angeles. Together with Beth Chayim Chadashim, Temple Kol Tikvah, Malibu Jewish Center & Synagogue, and Temple Beth Am we honored and heard from four panelists who spoke about being transgender or having a transgender parent, as we commemorated Transgender Day of Remembrance.
Due to limited space we selected only four community partners for fear of having too many participants. Not only was the event sold-out, with a room filled to capacity, we had to turn away dozens of people. After hearing about how successful the program was, several other partner organizations told us they wish we had included them. Only a few years ago, Jewish institutions were hesitant to partner with us because we are an LGBTQ organization. Synagogues made parents sign waivers before their teens could hear one of our gay, lesbian, or bi speakers. A transgender guest speaker was even less welcome in Jewish institutions. Now we have a Jewish community that is pounding on our door to partner with us on our Transgender Equality Brunch and requesting our speakers.
Finally the years of advocacy and institutional education are showing the fruits of our labor. The number of synagogues requesting LGBTQ inclusion education and training has sky rocketed. This is the opposite of what happened during our founding years when we pounded on as many doors as possible and none answered. Our persistence and determination has paid off.
We experience our successes more and more because of the dedication of our entire community. Along with these upbeat successes, we have also experienced a different kind of success.
Our JQ Helpline has served over 3,000 people with life-saving referrals for counseling, educational trainings, speakers, and other resources since it launched three years ago. These calls have come from community members in 13 States and Canada. We knew the JQ Helpline was essential and still we are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of LGBTQ Jews and their families who are struggling every single day and reaching out to us for support!
The emotions are strong. The anxiety is very real. The pain is indisputable.
Requests for help have come from confused teens and scared parents. Sometimes calls are from desperate adults from traditional backgrounds in the Orthodox and Persian communities who are confronting their sexual orientation, feeling alone and isolated. They are terrified to come out to their families and beloved communities.
Knowing that in a place of darkness there is a dedicated, caring voice at the other end of the phone line makes a life-changing difference.
Dedication is at the core of the story of Hanukkah. The Maccabees dedicate themselves to protecting Israel and after they defeat the Greek army, the Temple is rededicated. We at JQ are dedicated to serving the LGBTQ and ally Jewish community and we rededicate ourselves to seeking the full inclusion and embracing of LGBTQ Jews in our Jewish community.
Regardless of whether the news is joyful or causes pain, JQ’s impact has never been stronger and we have never been more determined to continue our work. Please support JQ’s valuable work as we move into a new year so that we have an even greater opportunity to make changes for the better!
Hanukkah sameach (a joyful Hanukkah) and Happy New Year,