Retreat for Orthodox Parents of LGBT Children

Baltimore OUTloud - An Independant Voice for the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community

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To whom can Orthodox Jewish parents turn when their child tells them they are LGBT?

They can join parents and adult relatives of LGBT children from around the U.S. who will gather for Eshel’s 3rd annual retreat. The April 17-19 weekend program at Capital Retreat Center in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, is organized by Eshel, an organization dedicated to create community understanding and acceptance for LGBT Jews and their families in Orthodox Jewish communities. Registration must be completed by April 7.

The theme of the third annual retreat is – “Family” – and will include workshops and meetings focusing on the implications of an LGBT family member’s “coming out” on siblings and extended family. The retreat is designed to be helpful for all parents, whether or not they are still struggling with or accepting of their children’s LGBT identity.

There will be opportunities to meet other parents who really know and understand, discover new approaches and ideas, share and learn in a comfortable place, and give and get mutual support.

Based on parents’ 2014 experiences, Tablet magazine reported on the prior retreat’s impact: “By and large, though, the retreat’s attendees had an obvious comfort level with one another, perhaps because Eshel’s retreat is one of the only resources specifically aimed at Orthodox parents. Other organizations, such as PFLAG and the Jewish LGBT organization Keshet, are wonderful sources of support and information, say parents – some of whom are involved with Keshet as well – but these groups are not specifically tailored for the unique concerns of Orthodox families.”

Caitlin Ryan, PhD, ACSW, will be a guest speaker at this year’s retreat. Dr. Ryan is a clinical social worker who has worked on LGBT health and mental health for 40 years.  She directs the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University. Dr. Ryan and her team have developed a research-based family intervention model to help families to decrease rejection and prevent related health risks for their LGBT children.

The retreat will take place at Capital Retreat Center (, 12750 Buchanan Trail East, Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, a full-service hospitality campus near BWI and Philadelphia airports, and a one-hour drive from Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Dining is under strict Star-K Kashrut supervision, with Glatt Kosher meats and Cholov Yisroel dairy products.

Eshel provides a safe haven for those it serves. The retreat respects its participants’ privacy needs both at the weekend and afterwards. Attendees are asked to sign a confidentiality agreement and are expected to rigorously keep private any personal details or identifying information of the other retreat participants.

“This retreat is unique in that it offers parents in this situation a safe space to be themselves, not having to hide in a closet, and to get support around the issues that affect them and their families,” Mindy Dickler, co-founder of JQ Baltimore and committee member of the Eshel Retreat, told Baltimore OUTloud. “It is also helpful for Orthodox parents who are comfortable with the issues related to having an LGBTQ child and want to surround themselves with others who are in a similar situation.”

For more information on the parent retreat got to