Is Nehirim for Me?
Nehirim builds community for LGBT Jews, partners, and allies. We celebrate LGBT Jewish culture and spirituality at weekend retreats and local programs around the country.
Many people wonder: Is Nehirim for me? What’s it like to spend a weekend in the country with 120 LGBT Jews (plus non-Jewish partners and some straight allies), many of whom you may not know? The pages in this category are meant to convey a little bit about our community, so that you can make the right decision for yourself. Please also visit the Testimonials page, where you can hear from Nehirim participants.
Nehirim is a very diverse community. Our retreats are not strictly Orthodox environments. At our East Coast retreats, all food is kosher and the Isabella Freedman site has an eruv. But some davening is not Orthodox, and many participants are not Shomer Shabbos. At the same time, we have manyÂÂÂÂ frum Jews attend our retreats, and we also provide very detailedÂÂÂÂ halachic information so that you can ensure that your Shabbat and Kashrut needs are met. Most importantly, Nehirim is a pluralistic organizationÂÂÂâ€”and that includes Orthodoxy too. Our staff includes Orthodox and formerly-Orthodox Jews who understand the issues, and are committed to making everyone as comfortable as possible.
Nehirim is diverse in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, and geographical background. Our retreats generally have an even distribution of attendees in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s, with some in their 60s, 70s, and some teens as well. (Children under 18 may attend with a parent/guardian, and many of our retreats have full childrens programs; check the individual retreat pages for information.)
We have nice Jewish boys who happen to be gay, queer dykes who happen to be Jewish, Jewish men who happen to be trans, lesbians, bisexuals, Butches, Femmes, Bears and twinks, and many genderqueers and others who prefer not to be labeled at all. We have people of all physical abilities, classes, and political persuasions. We are the most diverse Jewish community any of us have seenÂÂÂâ€”and our faculty, programming, and staff reflect this. Within the demographic trends of the Jewish community, Nehirim is ethnically diverse, and committed to full, warm inclusion. And we come from all over the country. Naturally, our Northeast and West Coast retreats draw primarily from those geographic areas, but we’ve had folks come from Canada, Denmark, Israel, South America, and most of the states in the Union.
In other words, you’ll find people like yourself at NehirimÂÂÂâ€”and also likely run across people unlike any you’ve met before. So, if you believe that diversity is exciting, enriching and fun, you’re in the right place. Coming to Nehirim means living respectfully and having fun with a diverse group of people, and is an invitation to question assumptions and expand your horizonsÂÂÂâ€”while, of course, eating delicious food, singing Shabbat songs, and relaxing by a lake in the country during our rural retreats, or having an evening out in the city together during our urban retreats.
Nehirim does have the word “spirituality” in its tagline, and we believe that spiritual practice is an essential part of being human. What that means, of course, is up to you. For some people, spirituality means a connection with GodÂÂÂâ€”and we offer amazing, ecstatic davening (prayer services) to enable that. For others, it might mean taking time to walk in the woods, or trying yoga, or learning a Jewish text, or forming an intimate connection with another personÂÂÂâ€”and there are plenty of opportunities for all of those.
As far as “touchy feely”ÂÂÂâ€”with our Nehirim community, you will find aspects of our spiritual programs that are very comfortable, some aspects which will be new, and some aspects might even provide a challenge. Because we are such a diverse community, our spiritual practices are also diverse. Yes, some of what we do is “touch feely”; many of our workshops and services explore emotional subjects, invite participants to share from the heart, and encourage folks to open up to one another. At the same time, much of what we do is not “touchy-feely” at all; we have intellectual workshops, political workshops, traditional prayer services, and plenty of unstructured time. Most of all, almost nothing is mandatory. All our retreats are “choose your own adventure” in format. Some participants barely attend any workshops, preferring to relax and take walks by the pond. Great! Others set intentions for spiritual growth during their time at Nehirim. Also great! We invite your active participation, and your ideas, and we also encourage you to carve out your own spot at Nehirim.
People come to us at all stages of their life journeys. Some have been out for forty years. Others may still be coming outÂÂÂâ€”and some are still in the closet in their home communities, or their families. Some “pass,” some don’t; some want to, and some don’t. Nehirim is a safe space for everyone. We offer support and resources for people going through these difficult transitions (if you’re just coming out, click here for some of those), and if you’re out, loud, and proud already, we offer the kind of queer community that many people have been waiting their whole lives for. Just read some of our testimonials.
What’s the point of Nehirim?
Nehirim started as a grass-roots,volunteer project, founded by people who wanted a community where they could be fully “out”ÂÂÂâ€”as Jews, as LGBT people, and as people interested in spiritual growth. Over the years, we’ve broadened our mission and the range of people who come to our programs. But basically, we here to offer you tools to take the next steps on your Jewish journey, whatever that is. We at Nehirim do not have a particular destination in mind for you; just the desire to share and create community.
Nehirim does all of this because we think being queer and Jewish is a gift, not a predicament. We are not a political or advocacy organization, we’re not here to convert you (in any way), and we’re also not here to be assimilated into a mythical Jewish monolith. We think that by celebrating who we are, in life-affirming and rich ways, we enrich our own lives, and, in turn, also enrich the Jewish community as a whole.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us, and if you like, we can put you in touch with another 43 year old Reform Jewish lesbian from Park Slope, or another frum transguy, or another person who shares your background and, like you, took the leap of faith and came to their first Nehirim retreat.
We hope to see you soon!