Between celebrating the new babies in my family, attending a delightful Nehirim retreat and preparing myself for Passover and lending a hand to my parents for Pesach, I haven’t had much time to sit at my computer. In meantime, Gotta Give ‘em Hope received over 30,000 views the Friday before last — in just under two months! I continue to be amazed and humbled by the response, and I am thankful to all the readers and supporters.
The weekend before last, I had the great pleasure of attending a retreat hosted by Nehirim. Nehirim is an organization that fosters environments that allow for LGBT Jewish people to enjoy and explore spiritual and social community. The retreat was in the very comfortable setting of the mountains of Connecticut at the Isabella Freedman Retreat Center. I spent a lot of time talking to the many interesting and beautiful souls who are part of the wonder LGBT Jewish community, and I also spent time on my own just relaxing and reflecting over my life.
When I was still deeply in the closet and undergoing “reparative therapy” to become straight, I attended a few weekend retreats that also involved meeting other gay people, but in a very different context. We weren’t celebrating our identities; we wanted to change who we are. Those weekends were 48 hours of non-stop, planned programing. While I won’t delve into those details of those weekends, which ripe for movies on their own, I will say here that they definitely left a traumatic impression on me of “weekends” and “retreats”. On any weekend retreat now, part of me is always a little nervous of being reminded me of those 48 hour periods of absolute hell and false hopes that I had desperately wanted to be true.
After the Nehirim retreat however, I am happy to remember those two blissful days full of hope and acceptance. I was left with a strong sense of peace, joy and contentment for having been able to meet such incredible people celebrating who we are as gay Jews and our beautiful and thriving community, which is growing stronger and more vibrant and radiant through the work of Nehirim. I feel absolutely blessed and proud to be a part of it.
The Nehirim retreat served as a great reminder to me of the importance of community and great preparation for Passover, the holiday that celebrates Jewish freedom and justice. For me, it’s also an opportunity to celebrate personal freedom. This Passover has been going really well. I had spent large parts of last week and the previous helping my parents with various tasks in hard work of preparing for this holiday. I think I had a lot more preparing to do while growing up as Orthodox in my parents’ home. Now the preparation is over, and I am able to celebrate freedom with my friends and family.
I have enjoyed the wonderful company of my growing family, as well as two wonderful seders with my dear friends, the Balkany Family. I’ve been spending a lot of time reflecting on the meaningful things I’ve done in the past few months, the cathartic experience they’ve taken me on and the wonderful, touching feedback, emails, facebook messages and acknowledgments I have received from many people. I could have never dreamed that I would get this far in such a short time.
While I feel grateful for many things, this Passover particularly I also feel free. I have enjoyed the freedom to tell the truth to those who will listen and to offer hope to those who may feel there is none and to live freely and contentedly with who I am — a feeling that many of us are lucky have and celebrate in our lives. Diversity is what makes this world vibrant and beautiful.
I hope that everyone reading this can embrace the freedom that is our right. It might be just one click away — a phone call, or a community or family event that can change your lives; wherever your freedom is, it is most certainly there waiting for you. And, when you find it, you will feel the sweetness of nothing but acceptance, appreciation and love.