Telling Our Stories

The Pathways fellows gathered at Menorah Park in San Francisco on a recent Monday night to explore a topic close to the core of Judaism – telling our stories. The evening with Rabbi Larry Kushner progressed as we listened to stories and began to craft some of our own. Whether perfected over many years or spontaneously crafted, a story creates a window between worlds. A good story captivates and may, for a moment, connect us deeply with those who came before us and we may grasp in a story how similar we are to our predecessors. As Rabbi Kushner put it: “the stories are what people remember.”

We have stepped forward, perhaps to tell a story revealing a piece of our identity and our evolving history. We are unraveling the story in San Francisco by creating a sacred queer place and holding space for people of all genders and sexual orientations. Here we are sharing our stories in an intimate way and can hopefully begin to tell a collective story, rooted in all that we bring with us into it the space in body and in spirit. Rabbi Kushner encouraged us to speak with those whose stories we know the least and to listen to the little voices that chime in when we’re least expecting it. He supported us to use dynamic volume in our voices and to explore the idioms that arise in daily life. His stories were intriguing and drew us in, transporting us from Menorah Park deep into the wilderness and to the Holy Land with grace.

As we, the twelve Pathways fellows, tell our stories we hear each one unique unto itself in this common place we are co-creating. We are gradually interweaving them to tell a collective story with vision for the future of LGBT Jewish inclusion. With our group and Rabbi Kushner we remember our wandering ancestors, which led me to realize that our story is not new, but is rather the retelling of a story that has been told over and over again, one that has been lived for many generations, and perhaps one that was offered to us at Sinai.

I take comfort in the familiarity found in a story told by a stranger. If we realize that all stories are merely a retelling, then perhaps we can find greater focus on the lived experience and the precious moments full of ahava (love). This, I believe, is far more important than the final destination.

Nisan Linesch is a member of the Federation’s first cohort of LGBT Jewish leaders in its Pathways to Jewish Leadership program.

For more information on the LGBTQ Pathways to Jewish Leadership program, contact Katherine Tick at or 415.512.6265.



March 06, 2014


Nisan Linesch