As many of you may have seen––we are actively promoting our LGBTQIA+ initiative at the J.
Some of you have wondered why, and we figured what better way to share the story than interviewing the two women behind the initiative––Courtney Jacobson and Shana Jacobs!
Whose idea was it to create the LGBTQIA+ initiative? Is it a new thing?
Shana Jacobs: The JCC has had a grant to cover LGBTQIA+ programming for the last two years. During that time, it was managed by an outside consultant who built the program out of nothing and managed it entirely independently. When that was no longer available at the end of the summer, the JCC decided to bring it in-house entirely, and the natural fit was for it to live under the Engagement Department. I decided it was an initiative that needed to represent many voices and thought it would best be run as a committee. I started by inviting staff, and then after we met for our first meeting, asked staff members to invite people from their personal network to join the committee as well. Once Courtney joined as a staff representative on the committee, she asked if she could co-chair with me, and I obviously said yes!
Why did each of you personally want to be a part of this initiative?
Courtney Jacobson: This is my community, as is the Jewish community, so it’s important to be on a lot of different levels to support these efforts.
Shana Jacobs: It’s important to me to be part of this initiative because I have two young boys, and can’t imagine raising them in a world where they aren’t accepted for who they are and who they love. I also have a lot of family members in the Queer community and want to support anything that helps them live happy and meaningful lives.
What does LGBTQIA+ stand for (for those who may not know/understand) and why is it important to create a group for this community?
CJ: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersection, Allies (meaning not identifying as any of the LGBTQ, but strongly wanting to support those who identify). The + is for non-binary, gender queer, etc. Basically the + stands for all of the identities folks have and want to identify as. Typically, this is an underserved community.
What is the main goal of this new LGBTQIA+ initiative here at the J?
SJ: The goal of this new initiative is to create year round programming engaging people in the community that is the best fit for them. Recognizing there are families, singles, married with no kids, teens, seniors, and more in this community, it’s important to have programming for every demographic.
If someone were interested in joining the LGBTQIA+ committee, how might they go about that process? What expectations are made for the committee?
CJ: Please reach out to Shana or myself and let us know. Totally happy to welcome anyone who is wanting to (including teens with parental sign-off). We meet once a month (likely a little more before big events) and meetings are about 90 minutes long. We want you to bring your ideas and support our current efforts. If the committee isn’t right for you, check out the events, sign up, and bring your friends! Everyone is welcome!
Judaism (both in religion and culture) has always seemed to be a strong supporter of the LGBTQIA+ community. In your own opinion, why do you think this is the case? How do both Judaism and LGBTQIA+ support complement one another?
CJ: One of the most basic tenants of Judaism is that a person is made in God’s image. Each person should be loved and embraced regardless of the form that image comes in. Furthermore, we hope this community embraces the Jewish Values and JCC Values which are intrinsically human values, of: Respect, Kindness, Community, Inclusion, and Wellbeing.
SJ: I think the Jewish community is incredibly supportive. From my perspective, the Jewish community makes a huge point to be as inclusive as possible on many different levels. Basically, we know how it feels to be outsiders (and with mistreatment how dangerous it can be for those individuals) and so the Jewish community goes out of its way to welcome everyone.
Thank you so much, Shana and Courtney, for supporting and pioneering this important initiative. You both are changing and benefiting lives each and every day and we’re proud to know you both!
Join the JCC Denver LGBTQIA+ Committee today by emailing Courtney Jacobson (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Shana Jacobs (email@example.com) today.