JQY 2020 in Review

Title
JQY 2020 in Review
Description
Please see attached for a complete guide to all the virtual work we did in 2020 for queer Jewish youth – specifically with a focus on those from Orthodox homes.
Date Created
2020
Creator
JQY
extracted text
2020
IN REVIEW
A COMPREHENSIVE APPROACH
TO VIRTUAL SUPPORT

2020 IN REVIEW
JQY’S COMPREHENSIVE APPROACH
TO VIRTUAL SUPPORT
WHAT FOLLOWS IS A BREAKDOWN AND
DESCRIPTION OF OUR 2020 JQY PROGRAMING.
It is an opportunity to learn about our innovative activities as well as how
JQY adapts to the challenges we face. We hope that this paper can be
helpful to other organizations, youth services, therapists, community
organizers, rabbis, and institutional leaders looking for best practices in
supporting vulnerable youth populations during quarantine and stay at
home times.

WHILE THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC MIGHT BE UNDER
CONTROL IN 2021, THERE WILL LIKELY BE FUTURE
PUBLIC SCARES AND SHUT DOWNS.
Documenting our processes this year will help us develop templates for
success that we can all build upon now and in the future.

THANK YOU

to all who have supported JQY throughout this extremely difficult
year. We are incredibly blessed to have foundational funding and
the support of many many individuals and alumni who make this
work possible. 40% of our $512,000 budget comes from personal
donations, with an average gift of $85. We invite you to join us
and support the continuity of this life-saving work by making a
donation at jqyouth.org/donate.
We are forever grateful for the generosity of our community.

MISSION
JQY (Jewish Queer Youth) is a nonprofit organization supporting and
empowering LGBTQ youth in the Jewish community, with a special focus on
teens and young adults from Orthodox, Chasidic, and Sephardic/Mizrahi
homes.

VISION
JQY envisions a world in which no young person, regardless of Jewish
denomination or community, feels alone, ostracized, or shamed because of
their sexual orientation or gender identity.

VALUES
We provide crisis intervention, support services, and educational resources,
guided by the conviction that access to mental health support should not be
contingent upon religious or political beliefs. JQY honors the Jewish concept
and philosophy of Eilu v’Eilu (both these and these), allowing us to create
safe spaces where multiple truths are held and valued. At JQY, you do not
have to choose between conflicting identities: your whole self belongs.

WHEN HOME IS NOT
THE SAFEST SPACE
TO BE YOURSELF
As the world responds to COVID-19 with important safety measures that
include staying at home and sheltering in place, it is important to think about
the young people who rely on resources outside of their homes in order to be
themselves.

JQY PRIORITIZES LGBTQ TEENS FROM ORTHODOX, CHASIDIC, AND
SEPHARDI/MIZRAHI HOMES WHO ARE MORE LIKELY TO FACE
HOMOPHOBIA AND TRANSPHOBIA IN THEIR HOUSEHOLDS.
The majority of JQY participants are not yet "out" to their parents. They often
rely on their "chosen family" at school, on campus, or at JQY events for the
opportunity to be their full, authentic selves. The pandemic has temporarily
taken away these spaces which means quarantining at home can present
serious challenges and risks for these young people.

JQY CRISIS AND SUPPORT RESOURCES ARE NEEDED MORE THAN
EVER. More than just simply responding to these new challenges, JQY has
monitored, studied, and learned how our virtual programming can be more
responsible, impactful, and accessible. We have developed a comprehensive
approach to virtual support that includes crisis, clinical, and communal
resources that are specially designed to meet the needs of Orthodox,
Chasidic, and Sephardi/Mizrahi LGBTQ+ teens. These new programs will not
only continue in 2021 but will be integrated with our in-person programming
once the pandemic subsides. At JQY, once a support resource is offered, we
believe we must find ways to responsibly continue that resource.

JQY’S VIRTUAL
REACH THIS YEAR
1,031

WE CREATED ZOOM PROGRAMMING FOR 1,031 INDIVIDUAL
PARTICIPANTS

66

WE HOSTED 66 VIRTUAL DROP-IN CENTER AND GROUP
THERAPY SESSIONS

219

WE CONNECTED WITH 219 YOUTH VIA OUR CRISIS CALL/TEXT
LINE

4,860

WE’VE REACHED 4,860 VIEWS ON OUR WEEKLY JEWISH QUEER
COOKING SHOW

103

WE’VE SUPPORTED YOUTH OVER 103 SESSIONS WITH JQY
LICENSED SOCIAL WORKERS
WE CONTINUED TO SHOW LGBTQ TEENS FROM ORTHODOX HOMES:

YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

JQY 2020
VIRTUAL PROGRAMS
• THE VIRTUAL DROP-IN CENTER
• CLOSEUP CONVERSATIONS & SMALL GROUP THERAPY
• SPECIAL COMMUNITY EVENTS
• THE JQY CRISIS HOPE-LINE & TEXT LINE
• ONE-ON-ONE VIRTUAL CLINICAL CONSULTATIONS
• FIRESIDE CHAT OFFICE HOURS WITH JQY STAFF
• A WEEKLY JEWISH QUEER COOKING SHOW
• YIP FOR LGBTQ GAP YEAR STUDENTS IN ISRAEL
• JQYU FOR JEWISH QUEER COLLEGE STUDENTS
• SHTULTZ FOR YIDDISH SPEAKING TEENS
• USED PHONE DRIVE TO INCREASE VIRTUAL ACCESS
• SCHOOL & MENTAL HEALTH TRAININGS

THE VIRTUAL
DROP-IN CENTER
“DROPPING IN” ONLINE
JQY’s in-person Drop-in Centers are our
hallmark programs providing weekly safe
spaces for LGBTQ youth ages 13-23. The
Drop-in Center is a place where queer
teens from Orthodox homes can access
specially trained social workers, group
support, health and safety resources,
friendship and community opportunities,
and free hot kosher meals. They are local,
community-based programs that serve
teens who are mostly not out to their
parents and consequently, can not travel
far. Prior to March 2020, JQY ran Drop-in
Centers in Manhattan, Long Island, and was
in the process of opening a new branch in
New Jersey. When the pandemic hit, all
in-person programming came to a halt and
we were tasked with transforming the
Drop-in Center from in-person to virtual
platforms.

by those who wish our participants harm.
Furthermore, all new members of the
Drop-in Center must first undergo a
comprehensive intake process with a JQY
social worker. The intakes assess for
self-harm, abuse, and suicidality.
Subsequently, all returning Drop-in clients
must answer a wellness survey each time
before entering the Drop-in virtual space.
These processes need to happen as teens
arrive at the center because the nature of a
Drop-in group is the ability to just “drop in”
without previous applications or arduous
preparation. It is also vital to respect that
not all teens will want to participate in the
nightly activity. Consequently, our Drop-in
program must offer multiple rooms where
clients can engage at their own comfort
levels, while still being in a space facilitated
by JQY mental health professionals.

RUNNING THE DROP-IN CENTER
ONLINE IS NOT AS EASY AS JUST
CREATING A ZOOM GROUP.

Finally, accessibility tools including live
transcription, chat capability, and call-in
access must be offered for deaf
participants, closeted teens who do not
have the privacy in their homes to speak
out loud, and youth who need to call in via
phone do to restricted internet or
technology. Incorporating all these
elements into an online space is what
makes the JQY Virtual Drop-in Center so
unique, impactful...and complicated.
Through a process of trial, error,
consultation, and evolution, we now have
created a Virtual Drop-in Center that meets
our complex needs.

The Drop-in program is a clinical resource
for a highly at-risk population and as such,
has multiple levels of security,
accountability, reporting, and assessment.
Closeted LGBTQ teens from Orthodox
families risk visceral harm if outed or
bullied. Unfortunately, this cohort is
particularly targeted by hate groups against
both Jewish people and queer people. The
Drop-in center balances the need for low
barriers to entry with security protocols
ensuring that the resource is not exploited

THE DROP-IN PROCESS
THE WELCOME ZOOM ROOM

Teens first enter a “welcome Zoom room” where they are greeted by our staff welcomer
who guides them through initial registration, assesses for security, and triages for next
steps. New participants are sent to individual break out rooms for an intake consultation
with a JQY social worker. Returning participants are given wellness surveys, the option to
sign up for a one-on-one check-in, and the special link and weekly password for the inner
Drop-in Zoom room. Guests who do not fit the age requirements are politely referred to
more appropriate resources.
Both intake and wellness data are incorporated into our protected database, which
streamlines narrative accountability for each client. This allows us to know and monitor
each individual’s specific needs. Before entering the Drop-in Zoom room, participants are
able to schedule private check-ins with JQY social workers – these can either take place
during Drop-in hours or for the week ahead. This way vulnerable youth are immediately
given a connection to free mental health professional consultations, should they need.

THE MAIN DROP-IN ZOOM
ROOM

Once teens enter the main Drop-in
space, they join a group of their
peers in a social worker facilitated
ongoing icebreaker activity that
encourages participants to open
up, feel seen, connect to each
other, and build peer relationships.
Teens are also given the option to
join breakout rooms within the
main Zoom group for more
directed programming, which
might include speakers, games,
health information, and even
content watch parties. Each week
we have a new theme and special
program devised to keep the
virtual Drop-in Center fresh and
exciting. As Drop-in nears the end,
all participants are moved back into
the main Drop-in space where we
have a final share, administer
closing surveys, and inform
participants about crisis resources
and upcoming events.

GEOGRAPHY OF THE
VIRTUAL DROP-IN
CENTER

Locations of participants at JQY virtual events based on zip code

In order to run this sophisticated and multi-pronged program successfully, JQY has
expanded both our part-time administration and social worker staff hours. Our
virtual Drop-in Center has served over 1,050 individuals since the beginning of the
Pandemic. The average number of participants per session has increased 15% from
our in-person programing. Participants at our virtual Drop-in Center include teens
from multiple states, countries, and continents. From Miami, Baltimore, Houston,
and Chicago to Jerusalem, Argentina, London, and Paris, LGBTQ Jewish Youth from
all around the world now join our New York queer Jewish community, making our
Virtual Drop-in program more diverse, more expansive, and more inclusive.

CLOSEUP
CONVERSATIONS
CONNECTING IN SMALLER DIRECTED GROUPS
While the Virtual Drop-in center does offer new opportunities including national and
international reach, it also presents unique challenges that have led us to create a new
virtual program called Closeup Conversations. As reported by many organizations serving
teens, there is a new phenomenon called “Zoom Fatigue”. This is exemplified by a growing
frustration (and sometimes even animosity) to Zoom programming over time. By early
summer, we assessed that this was impacting our Virtual Drop-in center program.
Furthermore, with the expanded reach of a virtual platform, Drop-in sessions became
broader, larger, and less identity, geographic, or affinity focused. This presented as an
issue for our members who found themselves a minority within the greater minority of the
JQY population. It became easier to fall through the cracks and some began to feel that
their unique needs were not being met.
In consultation with facilitation experts at UJA and other nonprofit leaders serving youth,
we learned that smaller, more focused closed groups that revolve around specific
personal issues that are relevant to teens are less subject to Zoom fatigue than larger
open zoom events. In July 2020, we introduced Closeup Conversations. These are groups
that address a particular concern in the lives of LGBTQ Jewish youth from Orthodox
families and require members to apply and commit to meeting once a week, with the
same small group, for an eight-week period. The weekly support groups are limited to ten
participants each. Every group is facilitated by specially trained mental health
professionals who are culturally competent and proficient in both LGBTQ and Orthodox
sensitivities and norms.
We have intentionally devised the subject matters of these groups to resonate with
minority populations within the greater populations we serve. Each group targets unique
needs and provides a more intimate, continuous, and responsive small group environment
to process these complex experiences.

THE GROUPS WE ARE PLANNING OR HAVE PILOTED INCLUDE:
“TALKING TO YOUR ORTHODOX PARENTS ABOUT GENDER”
which is geared toward trans, nonbinary, and gender expansive JQYers.

“THE ASEXUAL JEWISH EXPERIENCE” which is a place where ace-identifying
JQY members feel that their narratives are centered.
“BI ERASURE IN QUEER ORTHODOX ADVOCACY”
“REMAINING ORTHODOX AGAINST ALL ODDS”
“COMING OUT IN THE TIME OF COVID”

We currently run two Closeup
Conversations per week, and anticipate that
we will do 3-4 groups per week for six
cycles a year. This means that at then end
of the year we will have 60 teens per
closeup topic, and the program will have
served 180-240 teens. The program has
been incredibly successful with full
attendance and the highest feedback
scores of any JQY program.

Admission to each of the groups is rolling
and at the end of eight weeks, a new eight
week group begins with 10 new
participants. Each Closeup Conversation
topic will have a corresponding group on
Discord, a unique social networking
platform that cultivates dynamic and
interactive communities. Graduates of
each cycle of the Closeup Conversation
groups will gain access to the
corresponding Discord group, allowing it
to grow into a larger sub-support
community. By the end of one year we will
have completed six cycles amassing to 60
members in each Discord group. These 60
youth in each group will be invited to a
special gathering celebration event.
Graduates of the following year’s Closeup
Conversation groups will also join their
Discord community, growing these organic
communities into larger dynamic spaces.
Guided small group work on topics like
speaking to Orthodox parents about
gender, or being an asexual Orthodox teen
are completely unique to JQY and not
offered anywhere else. This is particularly
important given that trans, nonbinary, and
asexual teens in Orthodox families face
particular risks and have the least amount
of targeted programing.

JQY SPECIAL
COMMUNITY EVENTS
GOING BIG WHILE STAYING HOME
Another established strategy to combat Zoom fatigue is the creation of one-off large
special virtual events that inspire excitement, intrigue, collaboration, and FOMO (fear of
missing out). This gives the teens something to look forward to and can, in some ways,
make up for the lack of large in-person gatherings such as parades, proms, and holiday
parties.

WE HAVE LEARNED AND INCORPORATED
THREE KEY COMPONENTS TO ENSURE
SUCCESSFUL VIRTUAL MEGA-EVENTS.
1. INVEST IN BOOKING CELEBRITY GUESTS THAT HAVE
VISCERAL MEANING TO OUR TEENS’ QUEER JEWISH
NARRATIVES. We want to know which musicians our teens are listening to.

Who are their favorite influencers? Which performance artists are making the
most impact?

2. DON’T USE THIS CELEBRITY TO ENTERTAIN FUNDERS
ONLY. The teens should know that when we pull out the big wigs, it is for them

and them alone. They deserve our best, and they know when the special guests,
money, effort, and time are diverted to funders. Teens can sense authenticity in
this way.

3. COLLABORATE WITH AS MANY ORGANIZATIONAL
PARTNERS AS POSSIBLE. Teens want to know that this is not just another

event, but that this is THE event. If another organization is doing a similar event
for a similar audience, we’ve found the best practice to be contacting that
organization and consolidating events. While for in-person events it could be
argued that the more events the better, successful virtual mega-events for teens
rely on one main program for the whole community.

JEW YORK PRIDE
Our first Virtual special event was called Virtual Jew York Pride. Taking place on the last
Sunday in June, the program occupied the space usually held by New York’s Pride Parade
and our annual pre-parade Jewish queer youth brunch and marching contingent. We
followed all three key components to make this event a major success. With a core
collaboration between major New York queer Jewish initiatives including Keshet, CBST,
JCC Manhattan, BBYO, and UJA, we were able to garner nearly thirty cosponsoring
organizations for this event. Furthermore, we made the case to our partners to invest more
funds than we all would regularly spend on Pride, because it was essential to book the
best and most impactful celebrity figures. Our efforts paid off and we were able to get
Troye Sivan, the most high profile queer Jewish young star in music today, as well as Sasha
Velour, the winner of Rupaul’s Drag race (the most popular show among queer youth) who
just happens to also be queer and Jewish.
The event was a
huge success with
over 800
registrants and
thousands more
views on our
shared Jew York
Pride streaming
content. The
feedback for this
program was also
some of the best
we have seen. This
was an example of
understanding that
with traditional
Pride events being
canceled, queer
Jewish teens were
missing something
very essential. We
took it upon
ourselves to create
something truly
special in its place.
We like to think of
this as the magic of
JQY.

USING THIS TEMPLATE, WE CONVENED FOUR
MORE VIRTUAL SPECIAL EVENTS IN 2020.
Mid-summer we facilitated a virtual event
called “MOMMY, TATTY, I’M A DRAG
QUEEN” – a community conversation
about talking to your Orthodox family
about drag. The event starred Orthodox
drag sensation Lady Sinagaga and her
parents. In the fall we ran THE VIRTUAL
PRE-YOM KIPPUR MUSICAL TESHUVA
EVENT event with Jewish singing
sensation, Neshama Carlebach, and
author, Rabbi Avrohom Mlotek. On Sukkot
we convened a massive INTERNATIONAL
QUEER JEWISH VIRTUAL SUKKAH HOP
where queer Jewish teens and young
adults from all over the world were able
to visit unique virtual Sukkahs, each
hosted by different LGBTQ Jewish
organizations from around the world.
Finally, this winter JQY produced a

landmark role model event for youth called
LGBTQ ORTHODOX WEDDINGS &
SIMCHAS featuring a live Q&A with four
Orthodox queer couples who were recently
featured in the Jewish Week and Forward
Magazine. Each event built on the other,
and resulted in a year full of unforgettable
milestones and iconic moments for LGBTQ
Jewish youth.
We have intentionally devised the subject
matters of these groups to resonate with
minority populations within the greater
populations we serve. Each group targets
unique needs and provides a more intimate,
continuous, and responsive small group
environment to process these complex
experiences.

THE JQY CRISIS
HOPE-LINE & TEXT LINE
THERE WHEN YOU NEED IT MOST,
HOW YOU NEED IT MOST
Since 2017, JQY has been running a crisis
hopeline staffed by trained JQY social
workers. We usually average about 5
crisis calls a week during the spring and
summer, and 8 calls a week during the
Fall and Winter Jewish holiday seasons.
As the stay at home orders began in the
Spring, we noticed a sharp decrease in
crisis calls. This initially confused us
because we knew from our virtual
support programming that teens were
going through a hard time and
experiencing trauma. Family tension and
mental illness were flaring. It became
clear that the reason why the hopeline
was not ringing as much was because of
accessibility.

CLOSETED TEENS SHELTERING
IN ORTHODOX HOMES HAVE
FEWER PRIVATE SPACES
WHERE THEY CAN FEEL SAFE
ENOUGH TO TALK ABOUT
THEIR STRUGGLES OUT LOUD.
In response to this challenge, JQY
expanded its crisis hopeline resource to
include a fully responsive texting service,
also staffed by JQY social workers. As
soon as the teens found out about our
crisis texting capabilities, the program

became markedly busier than years past.
We began to average around 11 crisis
interactions per week, and 19 crisis
interactions a week during the fall and
winter Jewish holiday seasons. While crisis
text support is generally not as easily
navigated as a traditional crisis call, our
social workers have used this opportunity
to keep the connection with these
vulnerable youth alive. We’ve also worked
with the youth on setting aside times
where they can feel comfortable enough
to reach out via phone. This fall and winter
Jewish holiday season we also noticed an
increase in crisis calls related to suicide
attempts and an increase in
hospitalizations as referred in these crisis
calls. This is unfortunately in line with the
general increase in suicidality among
teens during the pandemic. In response
we are expanding our crisis line staff and
offering enhanced suicide response
training to make sure we are as
responsible as possible.

ONE-ON-ONE
CLINICAL VIRTUAL
CONSULTATIONS
ACCESSING FREE WEEKLY INDIVIDUAL THERAPY
At JQY all of our resources have to be free because we serve closeted youth who cannot
simply ask their parents for money to pay for an LGBTQ program. Similarly any receipt
from a credit card or insurance document could out them to their parents and put them at
risk. This prevents many of our teens from seeing therapists. Unfortunately, even the ones
that do have therapists often fear coming out to their therapists lest they feel judged.
Some are concerned that their therapist will tell their parents. Others complain that their
Orthodox therapists actively discourage LGBTQ identity and are motivated by their
religious beliefs. At JQY, we believe that every LGBTQ teen struggling with family
acceptance deserves a competent therapist.
Before the pandemic, JQY offered free in-person weekly individual consultations with
members of our mental health team. This opportunity was limited to teens who could
travel into Manhattan during the limited available work hours of our social workers.
Consequently, many teens could not take advantage of this service.
As in-person services began to shut down, virtual therapy consultations began to be
normalized in the general zeitgeist, which affected both the interest and potential access
to therapy at JQY. We received more requests for therapy appointments and our social
workers could give us more flexible hours given that they could practice remotely. This
encouraged us to expand this program and build out our free therapy services.

TODAY, WE ARE THE ONLY ORGANIZATION IN THE WORLD THAT
OFFERS FREE ONGOING INDIVIDUAL THERAPY SPECIFICALLY FOR
LGBTQ JEWISH YOUTH.
JQY participants can sign up for therapy hours in the beginning of each week or set a
consistent time for a weekly check in. Additionally, both the crisis line and the Drop-in
Center intake processes are feeders into our one-on-one weekly social work check-ins.
We have also started offering free virtual family therapy for families looking for help
navigating their child’s LGBTQ identity and coming out. JQY has been consistently
increasing our social workers’ hours to be able to accommodate this growing virtual
program. We are in the midst of expanding our social work team to make sure that any
one of our teens who needs a weekly check-in with our social work team can get the
support they deserve.

FIRESIDE CHAT WITH
JQY EXECUTIVE STAFF
“MAY I SPEAK WITH YOUR MANAGER PLEASE”
When providing services to teens, it's important to be aware that adolescents are prone to
question the process, suggest programmatic changes, and challenge authority. At JQY, we
encourage this kind of engagement. We want our participants to feel like they can provide
direct feedback to the executive staff on any issue relating to JQY. Additionally, many new
members have a lot of questions about JQY and need to better understand the
organization before they can feel comfortable and safe.
Before the pandemic, there were limited opportunities for JQY members to directly meet
with the Executive and Clinical director regarding organizational feedback, complaints,
suggestions, and questions. While teens could email executive staff members and
schedule phone calls with them, we did not
have a designated place where clients were
encouraged to talk about JQY with the people
running the organization.
Our shift to virtual programming inspired us to
create the weekly Fireside Chat virtual office
hours. Every Monday at 6:30pm eastern, anyone
can log into our Fireside Zoom group and pose
their questions, comments, or complaints about
JQY to Executive Director, Rachael Fried, and
Clinical Director, Mordechai Levovitz. This is not
a clinical hour and there is no intake process.

THIS IS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR EVERYONE TO FEEL HEARD AND GET
TO KNOW AND INFLUENCE THE ORGANIZATION’S DECISION
MAKERS.
Because of our Fireside Chats, we have gotten some great programmatic suggestions
from teens that we will be putting into action in 2021. Additionally, we became aware of
blind spots in our support strategies and got a better sense of whose needs were not
being met. During the election period we heard a lot of conservative Trump supporters
who expressed feeling isolated and judged at JQY. This enabled us to be more intentional
about making sure that support was never contingent upon political belief at JQY. All in all,
the Fireside Chats are an important outlet for our members and is a vital tool for the
executive staff to keep making JQY better, safer, and more welcoming. This is certainly a
virtual program that we will be keeping far after the pandemic is over.

A WEEKLY JEWISH
QUEER COOKING SHOW
QUEER JEWISH COOKING WITH LOVE
In a time where feeling connected is so rare and valuable, we wanted to offer weekly live
video content where participants can tune into familiar JQY faces doing silly queer Jewish
things together. JQY members can drop by, say hello, see their friends watching too, and
enjoy the shenanigans. We developed the concept of a cooking show where our JQY
resident baker tries to teach our JQY administrative staff how to create queer Jewish food.
Every Tuesday at noon, our show Tasty Tuesday airs live on Instagram. Live viewership has
been consistently growing every week, as well as views of the recordings of each show.

THE SUCCESS OF TASTY TUESDAY HAS TAUGHT US ABOUT THE
VALUE OF SIMPLE SHARED ENTERTAINMENT WITH PEOPLE YOU
CARE ABOUT.
It is the lightest of our programs, but has become vital in our comprehensive support
approach.
We will be adding another virtual live weekly queer Jewish themed show to our calendar
in 2021 that will also be available to listen to on podcast platforms. The show will be called
School’s Out, and it will be about the lives of queer youth in different Orthodox high
schools. The shift to dynamic content creation is how we stay ahead of social trends and
empower teens to utilize and enjoy this content on their own time and in their own space
as is convenient to each individual.

YIP FOR LGBTQ GAP
YEAR STUDENTS IN
ISRAEL
THIS YEAR IN JERUSALEM
The Yeshiva Inclusion Project (YIP) is a resource for LGBTQ Orthodox students applying to
and studying in Israel gap-year yeshivas and seminaries.

YIP AIMS TO PROVIDE INDIVIDUALLY TAILORED GUIDANCE AND
SUPPORT FOR HIGH SCHOOL SENIORS TO ENABLE THE MOST
POSITIVE AND SUPPORTIVE JEWISH GAP-YEAR EXPERIENCE
POSSIBLE.
All guidance is based on our research, conversations with Yeshiva hanhala (administration),
and the collective experience of past LGBTQ students. YIP also serves as a way for these
LGBTQ students to connect to each other while studying in Israel and access JQY support
throughout. The pandemic has introduced new policies in these Yeshiva programs limiting
opportunities for students to leave their campuses and preventing students from meeting
with students from other schools or accessing off campus in-person resources in Israel.
This presents a unique challenge for queer gap-year yeshiva students who rely on both
their connections with other JQYers studying in Israel and LGBTQ Israeli support resources
for connection, safety, and support.
JQY has met this challenge by creating a virtual meeting place for LGBTQ gap-year
Yeshiva students in Israel. We run a JQY social worker facilitated WhatsApp group for
these students and host monthly Zoom meet-ups, post night seder discussions, and will
eventually host cafe and restaurants meet-ups once the pandemic subsides.
YIP representatives continue to virtually meet with Yeshiva and Seminary rabbis and
leaders to assess the safety of each school for LGBTQ students. The collected information
is stored in our database allowing for LGBTQ high school students to make more informed
decisions when choosing a gap-year program.

JQYU FOR JEWISH
QUEER COLLEGE
STUDENTS
WHEN THE INTERNET IS YOUR CAMPUS
JQYU (JQY UNIVERSITY) IS A CROSS-CAMPUS NETWORK FOR LGBTQ
JEWISH COLLEGE STUDENTS. JQYU serves as an umbrella community for queer

Jewish campus organizations as well as queer Jewish individual students. In 2019, JQYU
began as a partnership between JQY, UJA-Federation of New York, Columbia-Barnard
HIllel, CUNY Queens College Hillel, and NYU Bronfman Center. Together, we created
Queer Jewish College student Shabbatons, picnics, campus think tanks, and holiday
events. The JQYU students formed their own JQYU student council and launched a Jewish
queer college newsletter called “Pride and Prejewdice”. JQYU also created a fund open to
all queer Jewish college students to cultivate Jewish life on campus and form new queer
Jewish clubs and initiatives in their respective universities. During the pandemic, JQYU has
supported four virtual college events, one outdoor socially-distanced picnic, and is
partnering with over 10 Hillels across the country on creating a national queer cross
campus Virtual Purim Drag Ball.

In 2020, JQYU helped to
fund and empower the
Yeshiva University Pride
Alliance, YU’s first LGBTQ
student organization.
Because Yeshiva
University won’t yet
recognize the Pride
Alliance as an official club,
they rely on funding and
resources from outside,
making it a perfect fit for
JQYU. JQYU works closely
together with Yeshiva University students to fight for inclusion, equality, representation,
and safety on campus. In December 2020, JQY worked with Yeshiva University students
to organize a landmark college event called “Being LGBTQ+ in an Orthodox World”. The
event would be the first time in eleven years that Yeshiva University students and alumni
held a public event regarding the experience of being queer in Yeshiva University. The
event had 953 audience participants and has already been credited as a huge success,
likely to improve the safety and atmosphere for LGBTQ students on the YU campus. The
program was recorded and is accessible on the JQY website.

SHTULTZ FOR YIDDISH
SPEAKING, CHASSIDIC,
& YESHIVISH TEENS
JQY FEELS LIKE HOME, NO MATTER HOW
RELIGIOUS THAT HOME IS
Shtultz is JQY’s newest support initiative that focuses on youth from Ultra-Orthodox,
Yeshivish, and Chasidic families. Some may not speak English, might have little exposure
to the secular world, and dress in religious garb that may make them feel different from
the other teens at JQY. Queer Chasidic youth are one the most disadvantaged
demographics in the queer Jewish community. It is essential that when they join JQY they
do not feel “othered” and can easily learn and understand all the new queer terminology
surrounding coming out as LGBTQ.

The Shtultz program makes sure all of its online and print literature is translated into
Yiddish. Messages are formulated with this population in mind, teaching the basics about
sexuality and gender identity in ways that are meaningful and relevant. Shtultz also uses
its platform to advocate and tell the stories of these youth. At Shtultz events, LGTBQ
Chassidic youth will see and meet teens that look and sound them. While many of
Shtultz’s marketing initiatives are not online because so many ultra-Orthodox youth do not
have access to the internet, with the help of JQY’s used phone drive, Shtultz has been
building an online presence for this population, featuring Zoom events, Instagram
campaigns, and upcoming virtual safer sex seminars in Yiddish.

USED PHONE DRIVE TO
INCREASE VIRTUAL
ACCESS
ACCESS TO SUPPORT MEANS A LIFELINE TO HOPE
Today virtual connection
is the only way for LGBTQ
youth to access JQY
resources. Without full
access to a smartphone,
the internet, and Zoom
capabilities, many queer
youth from Orthodox,
Chasidic, and
Sephardi/Mizrahi homes
cannot reach the support
that they need. While our
JQY virtual resources
have expanded, they are
only accessible to those
who have access to
smartphones and
unrestricted internet.
Unfortunately, some of
our most at-risk
members in the Orthodox
and Chassidic communities are not allowed smartphones and have Kosher phones with
internet filters that block all social media platforms and LGBTQ websites. In other times,
these youth have found computers in libraries or have found their way to our in-person
programming. Today, they are left without any access to the support resources they so
desperately need.

WE REALIZED THAT OLD PHONES CAN BE A NEW LIFELINE FOR
TEENS TO CONNECT TO VIRTUAL SUPPORT.
We launched a used phone drive collecting smart devices and legally giving the
technology to the youth who need it most. We figured if we can get them phones that can
access JQY virtual support resources, they can find public WiFi areas where they will be
able to connect to personal and group support. Through the used phone drive, JQY makes
sure that vulnerable queer Jewish youth do not just have great virtual programming, but
that those facing the largest risks can actually access these resources.

SCHOOL & MENTAL
HEALTH TRAININGS
EXPERIENCE SHARED MEANS
TRAUMA PREVENTED
JQY is the only organization in the world with over ten years of clinical experience serving
LGBTQ youth from Orthodox homes. This experience has translated into best practices,
data points, cultural competency, and expertise unique to JQY. Our trainings for schools,
leaders, and mental health professionals are an essential part of our mission to not only
serve as a healing resource for traumatized teens, but to help prevent this trauma
altogether. While JQY has trained at over 25 Orthodox institutions and over 700 Orthodox
educators, mental health professionals, and Jewish leaders, there is still a taboo among
more right wing communities about attending an LGBTQ sensitivity training.

VIRTUAL TRAININGS ALLOW FOR PARTICIPANTS TO REMAIN
ANONYMOUS AND ATTEND A TRAINING FROM THE COMFORT AND
PRIVACY OF THEIR OWN HOME.
2020 was the first year that JQY ran a training for an Orthodox middle school. We
facilitated seminars for both the staff and students – some as young as eleven years old.
Being able to intervene at the age when bullying is shown to be the worst was particularly
impactful and indicative of where LGBTQ trainings are heading in the future.
Virtual trainings have also opened many doors that were once closed to JQY. In the Fall
semester of 2020, for the first time ever, Yeshiva University undergraduate schools green
lit a mental health based virtual training with JQY clinical supervisor, Dr. Sara Gluck, and a
virtual LGBTQ sensitivity training for students with JQY’s Executive Director, Rachael Fried.
Additionally, JQY has used the summer of 2020 to begin developing the largest and most
comprehensive summary of all scientific research with respect to the risks, trends, and
treatments that affect LGBTQ teens from highly religious families. Information from this
project has already been shared with major Orthodox rabbinic institutions looking for the
latest science and data on this population. We hope to publish our findings, as well as use
the significant amount of data collected from our programming to build on this research in
2021.

THE JQY TEAM
IT TAKES A VILLAGE
OPERATIONAL STAFF
RACHAEL FRIED
Executive Director

DENAH EMERSON

Designer & Drop-in Center Admin

GILA ROMANOFF

Baker & Drop-in Center Admin

ARI WEITZ

Teen Outreach Coordinator

CLINICAL STAFF
MORDECHAI LEVOVITZ
Founder & Clinical Director

JOSH ZIMMERMAN

Drop-in Center Social Worker

TALI BENKOE

Drop-in Center Social Worker

DR. SARA GLUCK
Clinical Supervisor

BOARD OF DIRECTORS
MORDY WALFISH
Board Chair

SARA FARBER-SMIGEL
GEORGE GELLIS
BOB GOLDFARB
NATHANIEL GOLDMAN
DEENA KLEIN
ALEXANDRA LUSTIG-ELGRABLY
ISAAC NAMDAR
ALAN STADTMAUER

JQY FOUNDATIONAL
SUPPORTERS
Aviv Foundation
Hesed Foundation
Natan Fund
The Polis-Schutz Foundation
ROI Community: A Schusterman Initiative
The Solelim Fund
UJA-Federation of New York
UpStart
Van Ameringen Foundation

www.jqyouth.org • info@jqyouth.org • 646.866.7662

This item was submitted on April 6, 2021 by Rachael Fried using the form “Contribute Your Materials” on the site “American Jewish Life”: https://pandemicreligion.org/s/american-jewish-life

Click here to view the collected data.