Loud and Proud

Written by Shlomit Ovadia of JCC Denver

There is much that Jewish and LGBTQIA+ communities have in common besides an overlap in members. As a fellow marginalized group focused on inclusivity, JCC Denver acknowledges and supports the fight for equality while taking an active role in creating queer-safe spaces that honor Jewish values.

“Being gay has actually connected me even more with my Judaism, because there are thankfully welcoming spaces in the Jewish world for queer people including JCC,” says 4th year PhD student, adjunct professor, and member of JCC Denver’s LGBTQIA+ group, Jesse Tenenbaum (pictured below).

Last summer, Jesse marched with JCC Denver in the Pride Parade. “That felt amazing. I think it’s really important as double minorities that Queer Jewish people are vocal and authentic to who they are especially since there is still discrimination…unfortunately even in the wider LGBTQIA+ world, Jews are often not welcome especially if they are Zionists, that is the sad reality we have to face – people we naturally would be allied with might not want to be our friends, just because we believe Israel has the right to exist,” explains the Masa program graduate, who has many friends and relatives currently residing in Israel.


In addition to Pride month festivities, JCC Denver hosts a variety of other year-round, queer-focused Jewish events, which foster a welcoming environment for queer-identifying Jews and allies to convene and celebrate through meaningful cultural activities.

“Fellow Jews of a queer identity, you just kind of understand each other. I see the JCC has a big role to play in that,” notes the adjunct professor.

Jesse’s hope is for young, Jewish queer kids to see “they can be authentically who they are and still have a place in the Jewish community.”

Fellow JCC Denver member, Dina Rouff, 35, shares her experience growing up in a reform and conservative household: “being Jewish was a huge part of my identity,” she explains, “but I always felt something was missing.”

Joining JCC Denver’s LGBTQIA+ Volunteer Committee two years ago allowed Dina to better integrate her queer identity into Jewish spaces. Now through her volunteer work, Dina gets to support and facilitate others in doing so as well.

“I think it’s important to have specifically queer spaces and feel like there are other people like you,” she adds.

With her role, Dina has helped organize several events including Queer Shabbaton at Ranch Camp. Most recently, she co-created the Haggadah used at Queer Seder and led some of the seder readings herself.

This month, Dina is looking forward to marching in the Pride Parade on Colfax with JCC Denver, and claims we have the best signs and swag.

“Pride is fun because it’s just so lively. The Shabbat service we do on the Friday night of Pride weekend keeps attracting different people, Jews, non-Jews, parents of gays.”

Join in on the J’s Pride fun this month, including Pride Craft Night June 5, Pride Shabbat June 21, PrideFest June 22-23, and Pride Parade on June 23, and together let’s take a stand for equality!