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11th Eshel National Retreat – Virtual Event
January 17, 2021 at 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
One event on January 16, 2021 at 6:30 pm
One event on January 17, 2021 at 10:00 am
11th Eshel National LGBTQ Retreat
Unmask. Unwind. Reunite.
Retreat Help Desk
If you experience any technical problems or difficulty logging in, please call the Eshel Retreat Help Desk at 302-354-0705.
Who Is This For?
We gather during our annual weekend with other Orthodox/formerly Orthodox/traditional/Ortho-curious LGBTQ+ individuals who seek connection and community. During the retreat, we get to know each other, learn, sing, and shmooze, watch a film, and have lots of fun! Sign up below!
Some participants may not be out as LGBTQ+ in their daily lives or may have other important reasons for keeping their attendance at the event confidential. You will need to agree not to share information you have heard about individuals at the retreat with anyone else. For many people who attend, strict confidentiality is crucial.
Highlighted Speakers & Presenters
Rabbi Benny Lau
Rabbi Benny Lau is the founder and co-head of the Israeli initiative 929 along with Gal Gabbai. In addition, he served as the rabbi of the Ramban synagogue in Jerusalem for many years and is a community leader, activist, author, and public speaker.
Abby Stein is an American transgender author, activist,blogger, model, speaker, and rabbi. She is the first openly transgender woman raised in a Hasidic community, and is a direct descendant of Hasidic Judaism’s founder, the Baal Shem Tov. In 2015, she founded the first support group nationwide for trans people of Orthodox Jewish background.
Caleb and Gedalia Robinson
Caleb and Gedalia got married with a drive-in wedding in Washington, DC in August. Since then, they’ve moved together to Philadelphia where they live with their dog, Booker, and are remotely pursuing Rabbinical and Cantorial degrees at JTS, respectively.
Joy Ladin holds the Gottesman Chair in English at Yeshiva University, and, in 2007, became the first openly transgender employee of an Orthodox Jewish institution. Author of nine books of poetry, a memoir (Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders), and The Soul of the Stranger: Reading God and Torah from a Transgender Perspective, she has long served on the Board of Keshet, an organization devoted to full inclusion of LGTBQ Jews in the Jewish world.
Liz Glazer is a standup comedian, actor, and writer who used to be a law professor, a job she was very funny at. Recently Liz was the first place winner/champion of the Boston Comedy Festival. In 2021 Liz will be part of the HBO Women in Comedy Festival, assuming it happens. During the pandemic, Liz has been keeping busy reading her old journal entries (2014 was quite a year!), getting COVID tests, and yelling into her laptop on Zoom. She loves Eshel as it brings her back to her Jewish day school roots (Moriah ’93 and Ramaz ’97!) and is extremely happy to be here.
Ruben Shimonov was born in Uzbekistan and raised in Seattle. Ruben is an educator, community builder, and social entrepreneur with a passion for Jewish diversity. He previously served as Director of Community Engagement and Education at Queens College Hillel. Currently, Ruben is the Founding Executive Director of the Sephardic Mizrahi Q Network, a grassroots movement building a supportive and much-needed community for LGBTQ+ Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews.
DJ Wildstyle is a 14-year-old Latinx Jewish teen from the Los Angeles area who has been DJing for the last 7 years. She brings a spirit of creativity, gratitude, and joy for life with her to the turntables! Raised in a multi-ethnic/multi-racial family, she has an energetic soul that gets a crowd moving and loves spinning all kinds of music for people of all ages. For more information about DJ Wildstyle, visit www.djwildstyle.com or @djwildstyle18 on Instagram.
Yseult Polfiet is a Queer Jewish woman from the Rwandan diaspora—Brussels-raised, now New York City resident—wants to create spaces for tough conversations. Together with her Co-Founder, she has launched a consultation company that addresses and works on dismantling racism and antisemitism and co-hosts “The Kinswomen”—a podcast that was named top podcast from Cosmopolitan, Elle, Marie Claire magazines. Also a fashion model and designer, Yseult has rolled out a non-gender brand.
Leana and Sandy Jelen Tapnack
Sandy and Leana were married in 2018 in New York. Sandy is a lawyer from London and Leana is a Sign Language interpreter and soferet. They live on Manhattan’s Upper West Side with their dog Nemmy.
Ron Kaplan and Yoni Bock
Ron works in strategy at Capital One and also serves on the Board of Directors of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and on the development committee of Keshet. Yoni has worked for various humanitarian organizations, managing complex disaster responses, and currently consults for a Massachusetts-based research laboratory.Ron and Yoni were married in November 2011 by Rabbi Steve Greenberg and currently live in Washington D.C.
For the first 40 years of Janet’s life, she had little understanding of her body or the ways it was surgically altered to look more normal. Janet was told she was the only one in the world with a body ‘like that’ and she learned shame, secrecy and isolation from her family, caregivers and synagogue. There was something unspeakable about her differences and as far as Janet could tell; if most of us are created in G-d’s own image, that would not apply to someone like her. In wasn’t until the dawning of the internet two decades ago that Janet learned how her rare medical condition (Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia/CAH), genital differences and same sex attraction were experiences of a majority of all CAH XX females AND there were others! Janet has spent the past 20+ years being an activist and advocate to bring about change in thought and practice against early genital surgeries. Both inside the medical establishment and also in education of people, parents, and the general public, the quest to erase our differences continues in surgical corrections offered to parents of infants. As long as that is “standard care”, the phrase “first do no harm”, does not apply to intersex people and bodies like hers.
Dana Friedman is, in all likelihood, New York’s first Orthodox Jewish, transgender comic. During the COVID-19 crisis, she produced and performed in FunOrthodox: An Evening of LGBT+ Jewish Entertainment (benefit show for Eshel on FunOrthodox.com), and has written as wrote for the show’s host, TV star Mayim Bialik. She’s been a guest on SiriusXM’s “Tell Me Everything” with John Fugelsang, and has appeared with or opened for major headliners at clubs, colleges theaters, and Zoom shows all over the world. Check out her work at http://www.danafriedman.com.
Mab is a women’s rights activist, documentary filmmaker, and educator who believes food provides a special opportunity for connection and empowerment. Mab was born in Khorramshahr, a city with a large Arab population in southern Iran, but her parents have roots in the Azeri region of northern Iran, an area whose cuisine Mabknows well. She learned about ingredients from her dad, who owned a restaurant, grocery store, and tea importing company, and about the importance of cooking “low and slow” from her mom. As a young woman in the late 1970s, Mab became involved in the Iranian Revolution, but later, when she became a vocal advocate for women’s rights in Iran, she was persecuted by the Islamic Republic. After being imprisoned three times during the 2000s for organizing peaceful protests, she fled Iran and moved to New York City. Before joining the League of Kitchens, Mab managed the nonprofit organization Zanan TV, and she continues to work as an educator in schools around New York City.
Rabbi Steven Greenberg
Rabbi Steven Greenberg is an Orthodox ordained educator, writer, and speaker who has led the call for LGBTQ inclusion in the Orthodox world. He appeared in the groundbreaking film, Trembling Before G-d, in 2001 and accompanied filmmaker, Sandi Simcha DuBowski, all over the world in over 500 post-screening dialogues. He is the author of the award-winning book, Wrestling with God and Men: Homosexuality in the Jewish Tradition, (University of Wisconsin Press) for which he won the Koret Jewish Book Award for Philosophy and Thought in 2005. He is the founding director at Eshel.
Dr. Benjamin Ellis
Benjamin divides his time between medical work as Head of Rheumatology at Imperial College Healthcare, London, and as Senior Clinical Policy Advisor to a UK-wide non-profit, Versus Arthritis. As a volunteer, Benjamin helped establish and is now chair of KeshetUK, the organisation working so that no one should ever have to choose between their Jewish and LGBT+ identity. Benjamin grew up in an Orthodox family in Leeds, England, then studied for two years at Yeshivat Har Etzion before completing degrees at Cambridge then University College London.
Liz Alpern (she/her) is co-founder and co-owner of The Gefilteria, a new kind of food venture launched in 2012 with a manifesto and a mission to reimagine eastern European Jewish cuisine. She is also co-author of narrative cookbook, The Gefilte Manifesto: New Recipes for Old World Jewish Foods. When not diving deep into Jewish food culture, she is active in the LGBTQ food world and founded the global event series Queer Soup Night.
Time is running out!
Movie: Marry Me However
Variety Show &
DJ’d Dance Party
Gallery walk, food and drink demos
Welcome to the 11th Eshel National Retreat! The registration fee is $55, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds.
But first, we want to know a little about you, so please fill out the form below. Then you will be taken to the payment page.