I invite you all to think back to who you were 10 years ago. Where were you living? Who did you surround yourself with? What made you come alive during that time in your life?
I was a middle schooler at Chamblee Middle School. I was obsessed with the musicals RENT and Thoroughly Modern Millie. I spent all my free time (and a lot of my class time) doodling & painting. I had just been Bat Mitvahed in the community of Temple Kehillat Chaim, in Roswell, GA. I was also just on the cusp of embracing my latent queerness.
It was one day during this time in my life when I made an uncharacteristic and probably really terrible attempt at feigning sick. I was trying to avoid going to religious school. My mother saw right through the ploy, and figured out easily enough that there was something I was trying to avoid. I somehow found the words to explain to her that I was anxious. Our religious school class, I explained to her, was going to have a conversation that day with representatives from The Rainbow Center, who would talk with us about the intersection of the LGBT & Jewish communities. My mother looked me right in the eyes, and told me that no daughter of hers was going to pre-judge. I was going to religious school class, and I was going to listen to what The Rainbow Center people had to say.
When I look back to this day, I don’t know what I was nervous about. I think I must have concerned that this conversation would mean confronting my queerness before I was ready. I am happy to report that I had nothing to fear. I was in such good hands with the folks from The Rainbow Center, which you know today as SOJOURN. If my memory serves me correctly, it was, in fact, Rebecca Stapel-Wax who facilitated our discussion!
Now I invite you again to think back to that person you were 10 years ago. And to the person you are today. How have you grown? What has remained exactly as it was?
For me, that constant doodling translated to a degree from Georgia Tech and a career as a User Experience Designer. I am still obsessed with musicals - these days it’s Hamilton on repeat. I have fully embraced my queerness now, (my girlfriend and I just celebrated our one year last month!) and I spend my Sundays teaching a 7th grade religious school class at Congregation Bet Haverim. A few months ago, I got an email from Rebecca briefing me that she would be leading the discussion with my Sunday school class as a representative from SOJOURN. (We had not been in contact since I was in 7th grade). This time around, I wasn’t nervous in the slightest.
My class wowed me with the meaningful and mature conversation that followed. I am a proud alum of this education outreach program and I feel so fortunate I grew up in a faith-based community that was - beyond embracing its LGBT siblings - educating its young folks to cultivate understanding and empathy. Thank you, SOJOURN, for being a harbor for LGBT & Jewish folks in Atlanta, and throughout the southeast. We are so grateful to you.