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Nehirim Queer Jewish Student Retreat 2015

Come get your Queer Jew on at Nehirim’­­s Queer Jewish Student Retreat!


February 13-15, 2015

Join 80—100 LGBTQ Jewish students, plus friends and ­­­ allies, for a weekend of fun, learning, connection, and Judaism. Registration is live and a sample schedule available below – more updated 2015 to come. Email if you are interested in being a student retreat chair (help organize this year’s programs).

WHEN? ­­­ Friday to Sunday, February 13-15, 2015

WHO? ­­­  We expect between 80-100 LGBTQ Jewish students, plus allies, from across the religious-ideological spectrum and with a wide variety of gender and sexual orientation identities. ­­­ This retreat is limited to active or recently graduated (within two-three months) students under the age of 30 only.

PARTICIPATE:­­­ Directed by volunteers, this Retreat is largely community-led and teaching opportunities are available. What would you like to teach or share?­­­ Email us at to get in touch.

HOW MUCH? ­­­ $99 for the Early Bird rate, ending December 31, 2014. $130 is the Student Rate from January 1, 2015-Feb.12, 2014

WHERE?­­­ The Retreat is taking place at Boston University Hillel (213 Bay State Road) in Boston, MA . Free housing with students will be available ­­­— please bring your own sleeping bag and be prepared to sleep on the floor!


Register Now!


2014 Schedule (2015 tbd) 

Friday, February 14
3:00—5:00 Registration & Snacks
5:00 Opening Program & Shabbat Candle Lighting
6:15 Friday Night Services with BU
— Reform (with music and instruments)
— Conservative (egalitarian, no instruments)
— Orthodox (mechitza)
— Alternative: Shmooze
7:30 Shabbat Dinner!
8:45—9:45 Michpacha Groups
10:00 Evening Program

Saturday, February 15
10:00 Shabbat Morning Services with BU
— Conservative (egalitarian)
— Orthodox (mechitza)
— 11:30: Meditation
— Chill out space
12:00 Kiddush & Shmooze
12:30 Lunch
1:40—2:40 Afternoon Session 1
2:50-3:50 Afternoon Session 2
3:50-4:00 Break/Shmooze

4:05—5:00 Afternoon Session 3
5:00-6:00 Mishpacha Groups
6:15 Havdalah and Dancing
6:45 Light dinner
7:45-8:45 Break: Nap, Relax, Change for Evening Program
9:00 Evening Program


Sunday, February 16
10:00 Brunch is served
10:30 Brunch Talk
11:45 Closing Program/Reflection Time
1:00 Adieu!


Check out these workshops for the 2015 retreat:

For You Know the Heart of a Stranger, Joy Ladin

 Life at the Intersection of Jewish and Queer Identities. That quote is from the parshah, which simultaneously gives lots of laws that assume heteronormative identities, but also insists that Jews stay actively in touch with our experience of being different in the land of Egypt, and draw on our experiences of estrangement, marginality, vulnerability in order to make Jewish community what it should be. I plan to draw on my personal experiences as a trans person, and what I have learned from speaking to Jewish communities about Jewish and trans identities, to explore what it means to “know the heart of a stranger” by virtue of being queer. I want to reflect on how the Torah teaches us to value the understanding that comes from our queerness, and challenges us to create communities that are enriched by queer perspectives. I expect this will lay the ground for a discussion of the real-life difficulties of openly living queer Jewish identities.

Register Now!


Directors: ­­­ ­­­ Email me at to become a student leader for this event.

Rachel Stein, Director of Student Programming & Registrar

Rachel Stein is a passionate Jewish life educator and excited to return to Nehirim. In 2013, she co-chaired the Nehirim Student Retreat at Boston University. She has spent time working at the University of Michigan Hillel and Hazon. She is a graduate of The George Washington University where she studied psychology and explored the nation’s capital. In her junior year, Rachel traveled most of Israel while studying at the University of Haifa. She is currently pursuing her Master in Social Work at Fordham University. She resides in New York City.


Alissa Platcow, Student Chair

Alissa Platcow is a senior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a double major in Vocal Jazz and Judaic Studies.  At UMass, she co-directs an all female a cappella group, S#arp Attitude, and is very involved in the Jewish community.  She has served as the president of many organizations under the UMass Hillel including LGBTJew and Koach, the conservative group on campus.  After graduation, Alissa hopes to pursue a career as a rabbi.


Jessica Leuchter, Intern

Jessica Leuchter is extremely excited to join the Nehirim team. She holds a B.S. in chemistry with a concentration in Biochemistry from Wake Forest University. Her involvement in LGBTQ Jewish activism began on Wake Forest’s campus when she combined her roles at bith Hillel and the LGBTQ center. She has been a student chair for the 2014 student retreat. Currently Jessica is working as a research assistant at the Weizmann Institute of Technology in Rehovot, Israel. Her goal is to pursue an M.D.-Ph.D. and combine her love for LGBTQ activism with her passion for research and medicine.


Jeremy Ginsberg, Student Chair

Jeremy Ginsberg is a third year at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) where he is pursuing two B.A’s in History and in Global Studies. During his time at UCSB Jeremy is apart of many different organizations on campus. He has also served as, Co-Chair and Co-Founder of UCSB’s first LGBTQ Jewish Club (Kehset), a Founding Brother and Vice President of UCSB’s Zeta Beta Tau Gamma Xi colony, Vice President of Communications at Santa Barbara Hillel, and President of American Students for Israel at UCSB. In his almost nonexistent spare time Jeremy enjoys playing the flute, graphic design, photography and fixing computers.




Ethan Sobel, Director of Communication

Ethan Sobel is extremely excited to serve Nehirim as the part-time Director of Communication. He holds a M.S. in Public Relations from Boston University and received his B.B.A in Finance and Sport Management from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Ethan’s involvement in LGBTQ Jewish activism began as the Director of Student Programming & Development Associate for Nehirim while a graduate student. He has directed two Nehirim retreats, and worked as Retreat Manager for four. Ethan is the Director of Student Activities at Boston University Hillel and also a speaker and educator for Parents, Families, and Friends of Gays and Lesbians (PFLAG). He currently resides in Cambridge, MA.


Rabbi Toba Spitzer

Rabbi Toba Spitzer, a native of the Washington D.C. area and a 1997graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC) in Philadelphia, has served Congregation Dorshei Tzedek in West Newton, Massachusetts since 1997.  She is a Past President of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, serving from March 2007 through March 2009, and currently serves on the Executive Board of the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis.  As the first openly gay or lesbian leader of a national rabbinic organization, she was included in the “Forward 50” and Newsweek’s “Top 50 Rabbis in America.”



Professor Joy Ladin

Joy Ladin’s return to Yeshiva University as a woman after receiving tenure as a man made her the first openly transgender employee of an Orthodox Jewish institution and made page-3 news in the New York Post. Her memoir of gender transition, Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders, was a finalist for a 2012 National Jewish Book Award, and winner of a Forward Fives award, and she was named to the 2012 Forward 50 list of influential or courageous American Jews. She is also the author of six books of poetry, including Psalmsand Lambda Literary Award finalist Transmigration; her seventh collection, Impersonation, is due out in 2015. She holds the David and Ruth Gottesman Chair in English at Yeshiva University. Her work has been recognized with a Fulbright Scholarship and an American Council of Learned Societies research fellowship. She has spoken about gender identity issues around the country, and was featured on NPR’s “On Being” with Krista Tippett and other NPR programs. Sheserves on the Board of Keshet, a national organization devoted to full inclusion of LGTBQ Jews in the Jewish world.


The Nehirim Student Retreat is an immersion weekend of community, spirituality, and connection for LGBTQ”ˆJewish students and allies. It features a full program of”ˆShabbat services, workshops, learning opportunities, social programs, and teachers from a diverse range of religious, gender/sexuality, and geographical backgrounds. Nehirim is an independent nonprofit organization founded in 2003, that has been nationally recognized by the Slingshot Fund as one of the fifty most innovative Jewish organizations in the country.

Questions? Email us at! Also, connect with us on Facebook.

We are co-sponsored by Boston University Hillel.