A place at the table – A report from TischPDX: Unaffiliated Jewish Leadership Incubator

A place at the table –
A report from TischPDX: Unaffiliated Jewish Leadership Incubator

EJewish Philanthropy | By Eleyna Fugman

The What and the Why:

In May of 2018, Rabbi Ariel Stone, Kalyn Culler Cohen and I met to discuss a local phenomenon in our hometown of Portland, Ore.: the abundance of young Jewish organizers, activists and individuals creating Jewish programming and hubs of community outside of our Jewish institutions. The problem was that while these were thoughtful efforts and well-tuned to the organizers’ peer groups, they would spark and then quickly fade.

Many of these Jewish event planners, hosts and organizers, including myself, were younger — 20s and 30s, mainly queer-identified, and a significant number raised outside of organized Jewish community. What we had in common was that we were actively seeking places where we could be Jewish in ways that felt authentic to our experiences. For many of us, traditional Jewish environments such as synagogues and Jewish Community Centers did not offer spaces where we felt invited to show ourselves fully — even in programs and organizations that were targeted to younger adults. When we tried to enter these spaces, we had the sense of feeling unseen as young Jews, queer and trans Jews, multiracial Jews — or we would struggle with feeling like we did not know enough, having grown up in interfaith families or raised outside of Jewish homes or communities. We sought places where we could bring our whole selves, and the solution seemed to be that we needed to build those spaces for ourselves.

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