Recently, I received a Facebook invitation to a singles event sponsored by a Jewish organization. “All are welcome!” the email said, a tagline that undoubtedly comes from a place of good intent. Scanning the email, I saw four pictures—all of straight couples. After sending a kind email suggesting they adjust their marketing, I decided not to attend. Even though I like this organization and I’d been to events I’d enjoyed, I hold the Jewish communities I immerse myself in to high standards—of inclusion, diversity, and respect for all people. And, I want to meet other young people who share the experience of being both Jewish and queer.

These kinds of moments are what inspired me to host LGBTQIA Shabbat Dinner, in collaboration with Riverway Project. On Feb. 2, over 70 queer young adults gathered at Temple Israel to light Shabbat candles, enjoy a Thai food Shabbat dinner, and connect as a community of people with a shared identity—which is, at its core, the true beauty of Shabbat. There was a special, holy Shabbat energy in the room as people greeted new and old friends, excited to be meeting people who shared similar experiences. As one participant shared the next day:

“Being in that space was more comforting than I’d expected. Having that immediate level of familiarity with everyone around me, that shared reality, I think I needed that. I know I’m not alone in my queerness and not alone in my Judaism.”

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It is an exciting time to be a Jewish young adult in Boston. There is no shortage of incredible programming geared toward the 20-something crowd, with new and creative ideas to engage young folks in Jewish life. And while so many of these communities are working hard to include queer Jews in their communities, our Friday night experience demonstrated that queer Jews are craving not just inclusion, but true connection and belonging. We want to be in a room of people who are just like us. We want to know we’re not the only queer person amongst a sea of straight and cisgender people. We want to wear our pronouns on our name tags at every event we attend. And we want to do it regularly—not just during Pride month or as a one-off experience. We want this community—and we’re building it together.

Thank you to OneTable for nourishing us and to Rabbi Jen Gubitz and Riverway Project for making the evening possible. Much of young Jewish life takes place outside of the synagogue, but having the event at Temple Israel made the moment feel infused with Jewish life and ritual.

Stay tuned to see what’s next—we know that this is just the first iteration of what could grow into an integral part of Boston’s Jewish scene. And all are welcome!

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