Sharing Leadership Skills and Making a Greater Impact in the LGBTQ Community

By Sam Goldman

In 2003 when I graduated from college, after serving as president of Bates College Hillel, I found myself out in the world: a tiny gay fish in a huge straight sea.

I started working in politics and my Jewish life was put on hold. I was literally “wandering in the desert.” There was no coming of age program for LGBTQ young adult Jewish leaders, so I was on my own to figure out how to get back involved.

Luckily I found Nehirim, the LGBT Jewish spirituality organization launched by Jay Michaelson. Those retreats, on which I had the opportunity to pray and hike with orthodox, reform, and secular LGBTQ Jews, were sweet (and still are). For several years while living in Washington, D.C., I attended Nehirim retreats and spent time with friends at Moishe House.  After moving to San Francisco, I also became involved with a fledgling LGBT Jewish social program for young gay men (though it took on more forms than months I was involved).

I started to see a trend in how young LGBT Jewish leaders were involved: in fits and starts, and without a plan.  I had to figure out how to be a leader on my own, with guidance from personal mentors and friends.  Today I am on the board of directors of two Jewish organizations, and am a member of the 2013 San Francisco cohort of the Wexner Heritage Program. I want to make sure that those experiences are available to more LGBT Jews in the Bay Area.

When I heard that Keshet and the Jewish Community Federation were partnering on a program to train and inspire young LGBTQ Jews in the Bay Area, I jumped at the chance to get involved. What better way to inspire future leaders than get them together for a year and have them start thinking about their legacy and their vision for the LGBTQ community? In my opinion, the Pathways to Jewish Leadership program is an excellent way to share leadership skills and tools to make a bigger impact.

I often hear that LGBTQ Jewish leaders don’t want to go to Jewish leadership “straight” events. So, while we have made a ton of progress in opening doors to LGBTQ Jews in the wider Jewish community, I have wondered what we are doing to ensure that they have leadership opportunities like our straight brothers and sisters. This program is part of the answer.

We need to ensure that we have more of a pipeline for people like me - young adults who are wandering around in the LGBTQ Jewish community looking for, or making flirting glances at, leadership roles, but who don’t have the opportunities like I had to jump in. This isn’t about tokenism or a feel-good project. The Pathways program is a way for the Jewish community to invest in LGBTQ leaders.

If you know someone who might be perfect for the program, let us know. If you want to join us for the program, please do. Let’s create your vision and plan for the future and let’s do this together.

Sam Goldman is the California Program Director for the Conservation Lands Foundation, an organization that works to protect lands in the American West. Sam serves on the boards of Wilderness Torah and Nehirim, and is a current member of the Wexner Heritage Program.

For more information about the Pathways to Jewish Leadership Program, contact Katherine Tick at or 415.512.6265.


Categories: Community, Leadership, LGBT


June 07, 2013


The Federation