Read What Participants Are Saying
The absolute highlight of the weekend was the community.
I came away with learning a new step in the process of community building: after the foundation for our community has now been set in motion, it’s a great feeling to know I’m part of something that has the familiarity of years before it, yet continues to transform with new participants.
This is a fantastic, unique and vital program and I believe it is something special that brings together people who largely feel disenfranchised from the greater Jewish community. I am happy to have been a part of it for the last three years and hope to continue to be involved for many years to come.
To the sponsors, I cannot thank you enough for your support of Eshel! There is no other place like Eshel for me, where I can speak so openly about all the different facets of my life as both a gay man and Orthodox Jew. If I spoke openly in my synagogue about being gay I would face serious consequences. It’s even the case where I have to take all of my excitement from Eshel (both before and after) and remember to not share it with my friends in shul for fear of being outed. However, when I get to Eshel all the things I want to talk about, all the people I want to see, all the rest, relaxation and energy I need to receive is there! I am already looking forward to Eshel 2014 and seeing where I am in life at that time and to see all the good things that have happened in the lives of my friends!
Davening kabbalat shabbat at the Eshel shabbaton was the holiest davening I have ever experienced. I looked around at the people and they seemed to be transported by joy. I wondered if they were feeling what I was feeling: that here at Eshel, I could leave behind the sense of dissonance and delegitimization I always feel in shul when I’m around Orthodox Jews who would shun me if they knew about me. For the first time since becoming a ba’al tshuvah, I felt that I was truly worshipping Hashem and experiencing true community and Yiddishkeit.
There are not enough words or feelings to encompass or express my gratitude for your incredible generosity of spirit. I know how much work, time, sacrifice and effort it takes to make Eshel happen, and what you do is without a doubt life-saving and life-changing! Kol HaKavod, and tizku le mitzvos!
Read a blogpost by Orthodox, Gay and Married Jew :
The shabbaton started with davening on Friday night. I had been to support groups in the past, both for JQY or Jewish Queer Youth…and a non-religious (and non-agenda driven) support group for gay married men…When I went to these groups which had about 10-20 people, I was scared and overwhelmed.
Fast forward to Eshel. Walking in on 120 or more people made me feel like a deer in headlights. At first I stood in the back of the shul and observed. I couldn’t bring myself to sit down. As davening continued with the singing of kabbalas Shabbos, I suddenly found myself feeling the warmth of the room rush through my body. There were opening remarks that further made me feel like I was finding a new family.
By the time Maariv came along I gathered the courage and decided to find my way to the middle of the shul. As I walked toward one of the few open seats I was greeted with wide and welcoming smiles. People vigorously shook my hand and said good Shabbos. I was part of something rich. A feeling of camaraderie took hold of me that I had never felt before.