Class of 2015 Orientation!

Musings on the Federation's LGBTQ Pathways to Jewish Leadership program

It was at the closing circle of this summer’s Keshet Family Camp when I first became aware of the “LGBTQ Pathways to Jewish Leadership” program.

One informational call, one completed application, one in-person interview, and one acceptance letter later, I found myself at the Pathways cohort’s all-day orientation retreat. It was wonderful to hear from a group of leaders with rich and varied experiences, including Paul Cohen, Deborah Newbrun, Arthur Slepian, and Katherine Tick (along with Pathways alum Angie Dalfen). They have decades of combined experience that will surely enlighten our group as the 2014-2015 cohort begins to chart its own journeys.

We then participated in several activities meant to introduce ourselves to each other and to begin to explore our own identities. There was 30-second “Speed-Dating,” in which we literally had a minute to expound upon given topics; “Place Yourselves Here or There on the Map,” in which we identified our relationships to both the Jewish and LGBTQ communities; “Jewish Timelines,” in which we examined the changing nature of our Jewish journeys from birth through the present; “Describe Yourself Through an Object,” in which we each were asked to bring and share symbolic items that told others something unique about who we are and what we bring to the table; and, a “Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument” analysis, in which we reflected a bit about our interpersonal communication skills.

While there is still much to learn about one another, what became very clear is that we are all very different – in a good way! Some of us are educators, others are health professionals; some are starting small nonprofits, some are in corporate upper management; some have been in the work world for 20 years, while some are recent college grads; some are heavily involved in the Jewish community, others only peripherally. It is all these differences that ultimately make this an exciting group to be a part of, and the many perspectives and experiences will only enrich our time together.

At lunch, we were broken into smaller groupings and learned about the mentorship aspect of the Pathways program: we will each have an ongoing relationship with a mentor from our field of interest, who will provide one-on-one guidance and coaching throughout the year.

To fill out an already full day(!), we had some Torah study with Arthur Slepian, who had returned hours before from a trip to Israel with “A Wider Bridge,” and gained some historical perspective from Sharon Saslafsky, who shared historical gems like spending many an evening in Harvey Milk’s camera shop, engaged in engrossing political discussions – very inspiring for us youngsters!

While there is a little mystery that still remains – one can’t empty the entire black hat all at once – the orientation provided a welcome glimpse into what’s to come, and I’m very much looking forward to this journey with the class of 2015!

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

Categories: LGBTQIA+, Leadership


December 08, 2014


Daniel Barash