Supporting and understanding LGBTQ+ youth through a Jewish lens

Jordan Palmer, Chief Digital Content Officer

How to support LGBTQ+ Youth through a Jewish lens will the focus of an upcoming virtual panel on Tuesday, May 23. The event is presented by Camp Ben Frankel and the Jewish Federation of Southern Illinois, Southeast Missouri and Western Kentucky. In addition, nine other Jewish Federations are helping sponsor the event.

This conversation will be hosted by Selena Simmons Duffin from National Public Radio, with expert panelists Rabbi Micah Buck-Yael from Keshet, Rose Kantorczyk from SOJOURN,  Shira Berkowitz from Camp Indigo Point and an alum of Camp Ben Frankel.

The panel

Berkowitz is currently the co-president of the Board of Directors at Camp Indigo Point as well as the Senior Director of Public Policy and Advocacy at PROMO Missouri, an LGBTQ advocacy group. Berkowitz is one of multiple veterans of Jewish summer camps on the founding team of Camp Indigo Point, which caters to trans children at a time when many children who are gender non-conforming are facing fierce attacks by conservatives in their own communities.

Rabbi Micah Buck-Yael is Keshet’s Director of Education & Training, where he supports organizations across the spectrum of Jewish life to build communities in which LGBTQ+ Jews and our families can thrive. Before Keshet, Buck-Yael had the position of Coordinator of Community Chaplaincy with the Jewish Family Services.

Rose Kantorczyk (they/them) joined SOJOURN as communications associate in 2021, spreading the word about SOJOURN’s programs, partnerships and advocacy opportunities. They cut their teeth in Jewish advocacy and storytelling as a fellow at Rice University’s Religion and Public Life Program and landed at SOJOURN following a stint in digital fundraising for politics.

What to expect from this conversation

What can participants hope to learn from this discussion? The Jewish Light asked Kantorcyzk the following questions.

Why is this discussion important right now? Why is it urgent?

We’re nearing the end of a legislative session that has included horrific attacks on the LGBTQ+ community, and trans youth specifically. In states where “Don’t Say Gay/Trans” laws, bathroom bans, and disclosure requirements are marginalizing LGBTQ+ youth in schools and other public settings, Jewish organizations have the potential to play an important role. Synagogue, camp and youth group could be some of the few spaces where trans and LGBQ+ youth can use their chosen pronouns, the facilities that align with their identity, and learn LGBTQ+-affirming material – if the Jewish world is willing to step up.

What is the critical support Jewish LGBTQ+ youth need?

Jewish LGBTQ+ youth need Jewish spaces where they can be themselves, full stop — and they also need to see the adults in those communities advocating for them in the broader community. They need to know not only that Judaism affirms and celebrates them, but that Judaism motivates their community to fight for their rights in the legislative arena.

If the audience takes home one thing or new idea, what do you hope it will be?

Diversity of gender and sexuality are nothing new in Judaism or Jewish communities! There are eight sexes-genders referenced in the Talmud. We know of people who lived in shtetls and went through gender-affirming medical treatment as far back as 1930. The affirmation and celebration of LGBTQ+ youth in Jewish communities isn’t just about applying Jewish values to modern situations and topics — it’s about realizing the full scope of our tradition.

What is SOUJORN?

The Southern Jewish Resource Network for Gender & Sexual Diversity (SOJOURN) is the American South’s resource for Jewish and LGBTQ+ programming, education, support, and advocacy. Our mission is to empower communities to advance and celebrate gender and sexual diversity across the South.

Go to and @sojourngsd on social media for more information.

Supporting LGBTQ+ Youth Through a Jewish Lens

When: Tuesday, May 23 at 6 p.m. CST
Where: Via Zoom
How Much: Free and open to anyone
More Info: To attend,  RSVP at