While I grew up in a family that encouraged questions, the Christianity in which I was raised did not. One of the reasons I was drawn to Judaism—and Jewish learning—is its emphasis on asking questions and creating room for different opinions.

In the process of my conversion to Judaism, I heard about Eser from a rabbi who taught part of my Intro to Judaism class and also led an Eser group. A year later, and actually Jewish, I decided that I needed to find a bit of Jewish community with others my age who are also interested in meaningful discussions. As someone who enjoys meaty conversation, I was excited about this year’s Eser theme, “Ten Social Issues You Can’t Ignore,” and its hot-button topics. I chose to be a member of the Eser/Keshet partnership group because I wanted an environment where questions and perspectives of the LGBTQ community were expected and equally valued with Jewish identities and journeys. As the group started to meet, it was clear that my expectations would be met, thanks to our group’s fearless leader, Rabbi Margot Meitner, who wasn’t afraid to take us in some “off-roading” discussions that brought out LGBTQ viewpoints in contrast or comparison to our Jewish perspectives.

My Eser group was a terrific example of the plurality of views within any slice of the Jewish community. Although many of us aligned on some topics, as we settled into being comfortable with somewhat uncomfortable subjects and established trust within the group, people began to share their different opinions, formed by their very different Jewish and queer journeys. As I chatted with people after class and thought about the discussions on my drive home each week, I realized how much I appreciated the chance to meet new friends and to grapple with them on the tough and very present issues of today. And I appreciated that we did that while always keeping an eye on the original sources, be it Torah or Beyoncé.

To learn more about Eser, visit hebrewcollege.edu/eser or email eser@hebrewcollege.edu.

Lizza Sandoe Picture resizedLizza has had a meandering journey to Judaism and is enjoying finding new ways to study Jewishly. She is a clinical social worker and enjoys being active, spending time in nature, and working with kids in all types of environments.

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