JQY Drop-In Center for LGBTQ at-risk Jewish youth
In the spring of 2016 JQY launched America's first and only weekly Drop-In Center for at-risk
LGBTQ Jewish youth. The Drop-In Program is part of JQY’s expansion of their teen program, enabled
by a 2015 $12,000 Natan Grant for ROI Entrepreneurs. JQY Drop-In Center is a professional, welcoming and
Jewish safe space for all LGBTQ youth ages 13-23. The program offers weekly multiple programming
tailored toward the many specific and unique needs of at-risk LGBTQ Jewish youth, including trans support,
STD safety, suicide intervention, and specialized interventions for those coming from Orthodox,
Hassidic and Sephardic communities.
Last year's Natan Grant enabled us to demonstrate the need, viability, costs and structure of running a working Drop-In Center for LGBTQ Jewish youth in NYC. With the success of the pilot program, which ended in June 2016, JQY plans to re-launch the Drop-In Center in November 2016. We have established that responsibly running the Drop-In Center costs approximately $12,000 a month. Our hope is to keep this project running throughout the upcoming 2016-2017 school year.
What is the mission and purpose of this program?
The mission of the Drop-In Center is to provide at-risk LGBTQ Jewish youth with a weekly resource to go to where they can feel safe, welcomed and celebrated. In addition to providing a judgment-free safe space, the purpose of the Drop-In center is also to offer at-risk LGBTQ Jewish Youth an opportunity to meet others like them, and enable them with the chance to check in with supportive licenced mental health professionals who are culturally competent with their backgrounds. This is especially important when dealing with LGBTQ Jews from Orthodox, Hassidic and Sephardi communities. The theoretical framework we ascribe to is a strength-based multi-systemic approach. We aim to first address any emergency needs like suicidality, housing issues, abuse, mental health risks and sexual health. Communal and family rejection can cause serious health risks. JQY Drop-In Center is licensed by the state of New York to offer clinical social work care. The clinical social work goal is to cultivate in our clients a sense of collective self esteem about both their Jewish and LGBTQ Identities. Collective Self esteem has been found to be the most effective intervention against Minority Stress Syndrome and internalized shame (Meyer, 2003).
JQY Drop-In Center is based in Congregation Beth Simchat Torah’s brand new
building on 130 west 30th st in Manhattan. This location is a block from Penn Station, so it is perfectly
located to be accessible from subways, Amtrak, LIRR and New Jersey Transit. JQY hires and trains licensed social workers and administrators to run the Drop-In Center
safely and professionally. Currently, the Drop-In Center is scheduled to be open to youth weekly on Thursday evenings, and one Sunday afternoon a month. A second monthly Sunday teen support program is run remotely in Long Island. We serve self-identified Jewish youth ages 13 to 23. Clients can come to the Drop-In Center any time during our open hours.
Upon entering Congregation Beth Simchat Torah (CBST) youth are immediately greeted by volunteers at the front door who direct them downstairs to check in. At check in, our administrator gives new members a written intake form to fill out, and schedules an intake interview with one of our social workers. The admin will explain the Drop-In program to the youth and guide them to one of our activity rooms. The Drop-In Center has 3 activity rooms and a check-in office. Usually only two activity rooms are open at a time because each room is monitored by a JQY trained social worker. The Rec Room is a place to informally hang out, go online, or play games. The Kitchen is a place to eat and schmooze. The Group room is where we run our support and affinity groups. The office is for intake interviews, private check-in's, HIV screenings. At any given time youth can schedule a private
check-in with a social worker, take part in a group activity, hang out in the Rec Room,
or enjoy a hot kosher meal. The Center provides a warm welcoming environment where youth from
rejecting communities can feel accepted, celebrated, and finally not alone.
Gay and Lesbian teens who come from highly rejecting communities are 8.4 times more likely to have attempted suicide than their peers who reported low levels of rejection (Family Acceptance Project, 2009).
Nearly half of Transgender teens have seriously thought about taking their lives. One quarter report having attempted (Grossman A.H. & D'Augelli A.R. 2007)
LGBT Jews from Orthodox Jewish communities face higher levels of homophobia as well as family and communal rejection (Safran, 2012). This makes LGBT
Orthodox Jewish youth at significantly higher risk for experiencing low levels self worth (Sullivan & Wodarsky, 2002), pain, isolation and drug abuse (Lyness &
Izenberg, 2010), stress and anxiety (Meyer, 2003), mental health disturbances (Harari, 2012), self harm and attempted suicide (Ryan, 2009), and suicide (Bar
Jewish demographics show a huge increase in Orthodox youth. 74% of all Jewish children in New York City are growing up in Orthodox families (NYTImes,
2012). As LGBT youth are coming out at younger ages, there is an exponential increase in need for resources catered toward LGBT Orthodox youth. Their needs
are different, the risks are different, and the interventions must be culturally competent in order to have successful impact.
When running our pilot Drop-In program this spring, we found that the average client at the JQY DropIn Center was significantly more at-risk than those
who attend JQY’s monthly support groups. Social workers dealt with a higher percentage of homeless
youth, HIV at-risk youth, and youth in extremely vulnerable family situation. While we have over 10
years experience in providing services to LGBTQ youth in the Orthodox community, even we were
surprised, shocked and saddened by the level of risk and the lack of any other support resources for
this cohort. Many of our clients were not even able to provide one adult name in case of emergency.
An ongoing challenge of this project has been the realization that the needs of the population are far
greater than scope of this grant can supply. It was distressing to have to tell our youth that the Drop-In Center would close at
the end of June. Most of these youth have nowhere else that they can go to feel supported. The
creation of the Drop-In Center established a much needed safety net. It is terrifying to think who may
fall through the cracks while this resource is not there
We believe the program has been incredibly successful and now serves as lifeline for one of the most vulnerable
populations of Jews.
-The Drop-In Center has had 85 intakes since its opening. The youth range from 13 to 23, but the mean
age is 17.
-Currently 10% of our youth clientele identify as trans, genderqueer or non-binary.
-Clients include youth from every denomination of Judaism at our Drop-In, however the majority of Drop-In clients
come from Orthodox, Hassidic or Sephardi families.
-In June we held our annual LGBTQ Jewish Teen Prom at DropIn, as well as a
special vigil for the lives lost in the Orlando shooting tragedy.
Some notable accomplishments include:
● We were able to secure emergency shelter and temporary housing for one trans 18 year old
who was kicked out of his Orthodox home.
● One of our clients, a 14 year old boy from a hasidic family in Borogh Park, was secretly brought
in by his mother. His mother was the only person he was out to, and his father was severely
homophobic. Tragically his mother died unexpectedly. JQY was able to organize a special
funeral for him to mourn amongst supportive friends. We also were able to facilitate him
coming out to his mother’s parents who were then able to take him into custody away from
his father, so that he could grow up in a more supportive environment.
● In response to the large number of minors who were reporting high levels of
unsafe sexual behavior, JQY social workers were able to administer emergency HIV rapid
response tests, and accompanied minors to local cooperating LGBTQ medical clinic (Callen Lorde Clinic). These interventions were likely life saving and may have never been addressed had the Drop-In Center not existed.
How do you measure the success of your program?
Success measures for the Drop-In center were both quantitative and qualitative.
Number of clients served: 85 clients exceeded our expectations
Targeting clients who are most at-risk: Clients include youth from every denomination of Judaism, however the majority of Drop-In clients came from Orthodox, Hassidic or Sephardi families. Given that Orthodox, Hassidic and Sephardi backgrounds represent the highest risk, we have succeeded in this measure.
Sexual and Gender Diversity of clients: 50% Male CisMale Identified, 40% CisFemale, 10% Trans, Genderqueer andNon Binary. This breakdown is successfully representative of percentages measured in society.
Emotional well-being of youth clientele: When comparing well-being measures in initial intake forms to end-of-program evaluation forms, there is a significant increase in levels of "Feeling safe", "Feeling good". There was a decrease in levels of "Feeling lonely" and "Feeling hopeless".
Feedback: Nearly all feedback from clients in evaluations, and interviews have been positive.
Ability to use pilot program for fundraising a sustainable program: JQY launched a crowd funding campaign featuring the Drop-In Program and in less than 20 days have raised nearly $15,000 for the continuation of this program. This represents a sharp increase in fundraising ability. See campaign at :https://www.generosity.com/community-fundraising/j...
According to all of these measures we believe the JQY Drop-In Center has been a resounding success.
JQY Teen Program: expansion
JQY runs the first and only LGBT Orthodox high school teen support program in the USA. Devised and facilitated by licensed mental health professionals with expertise and experience working in the Orthodox community, JQY's teen initiative offers multiple levels of support including online, phone, in person, crisis and group programming. We work with leading Orthodox rabbis in the community on making sure that LGBT Orthodox youth feel safe, welcomed and stay healthy.
Currently, JQY high school teen group meetings meet once a month at the JCC 5 towns, Cedarhurst NY. Group meetings are run by a JQY trained social worker, an assistant and two interns. Supplementing the in-person meetings are monthly phone and online support meetings where constituents can choose the level of anonymity and confidentiality they deem safest. The Teen Program director schedules private support phone meetings with teen members, as well as parent and family interventions when needed. In addition to support events, JQY offers holiday and seasonal LGBT Jewish Teen social events such as BBQ's, Picnics, Bowling, and an Annual LGBT Jewish Teen Pride Prom. Our JQY teen social events are open to LGBT Jewish Teens of all denominations, creating new points of connection between LGBT Jewish teens and allies.
With the success of our Long Island one a month group and the exponential increase in the amount of LGBT Jewish Teens coming out, the numbers of teens that have reached out to JQY for support has outweighed our capacity to provide responsible help. Furthermore, there are many JQY teen members who do not live in Long Island and can not attend the monthly Long Island meetings. Consequently, in 2016 JQY is planning an expansion of our teen program to include:
1. More phone support hours between JQY Social workers and LGBT Teens and their families
2. Weekly Drop In Hours in a rented Manhattan location, for LGBT at-risk Jewish Teens, where teens can come, hang out, meet others like them, take part in support groups, learn about health and safety, access STD screenings, and check in 'one-on-one' with a JQY social worker.
3. Training and hiring an extra JQY Social worker to work under the Teen Program Director and help with the increasing number of Teen members.
4. Purchasing liability insurance so that JQY can more responsibly engage in support programs for at-risk minors.
5. Increase professional documenting capacity and supervision hours for JQY staff and counselors to ensure professional accountability
What is the mission and purpose of this program?
JQY - TEMICHA's primary mission is to provide support, crisis and educational resources on behalf of at-risk LGBT youth and their families in traditional Jewish communities.
JQY aims to create culturally competent programming that is sensitive and tailored to Orthodox, Hasidic and Sephardic populations. Our goal is to address the unique needs of LGBT Orthodox Jewish youth. To that end, JQY is dedicated to cultivating an expansive Jewish community where no one feels alone, bullied or silenced because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.JQY Teen Program's purpose is to cultivate a sense of collective self esteem in our members about both their Jewish and LGBT Identities. Collective Self esteem has been found to be the most effective intervention against Minority Stress (Meyer, 2003).
JQY hopes to provide this support by:
- Providing at-risk LGBT Jewish teens to professionally run support groups
- Connecting at-risk LGBT Jewish teens to other LGBT Jewish teens to combat feelings of isolation and gain a sense of community and normalizing
- Giving LGBT Jewish teens an opportunity for one-on-one support with a trained and experienced social worker
- Becoming a resource for parents and family members of at-risk LGBT Jewish teens who may have questions or seek guidance
New for 2016:
- The JQY Teen Drop In Hours will offer at-risk LGBT Jewish teens a weekly safe and supportive space to be their whole selves
- Connect at-risk LGBT Jewish teens with safety and health information and opportunities for free STD Screenings
JQY Teen Program Description
1. One Sunday a month JQY has a two hour support group at JCC 5 Towns in Cedarhurst NY.
2. Teen members have the option to join JQY online social support networks
- follows a JQY curriculum written by Mordechai Levovitz LMSW and Erez Harari PhD
- provides snacks and bi-annual pizza parties
- run by our Teen Director, Justin Spiro LCSW
- co-run by JQY Social Worker Sima Lichtschein MSW
- averages approximately 20 teens a meeting (grew from 4 in 2012 and grows with each meeting)
3. Teen members can schedule phone support time with JQY Teen Director or JQY Social Worker
- JQY anonymous support email list-serve
- JQY Teen Facebook group
- JQY What-app group for instant connections
- 125 teens in JQY Teen social network (grew from 12 in 2012 and grows each week)
4. Two Sundays a year JQY hosts an in-person Parent hour at JCC 5 towns facilitated by the JQY Teen Director
- Currently demand outweighs capacity to respond
- Hours will expand pending Grant in 2016
5. JQY hosts a monthly Parent "call-in" Phone support hour with facilitated by the JQY Teen Director6. Twice a year JQY holds a meeting with local Orthodox rabbis and the JCC 5 Towns to discuss communal issues with respect to at-risk LGBT teens. The meeting is facilitated by JQY Executive Director, Mordechai Levovitz LMSW7. Seasonally JQY will host LGBT JewishTeen social events like a BBQ, Picnic, Bowling, Karaoke, and Ice Skating. Events take place throughout New York and New Jersey.
- Averages 10-12 parents (grew from 3 in 2012 and grows with each consecutive meeting)
8. JQY Parent Group host LGBT Teen Holiday Parties on Succos, Chanukah and Purim9. In May JQY organizes a LGBT Jewish Teen Pride Prom at JCC Manhattan
- Averages approximately 40 teens (grew from 10 in 2012 and grows with each consecutive event)
- JQY Teen Social events are non-denominational and open to all LGBT Jewish Teens (though they must be Orthodox sensitive)
In 2016 (pending Grant)10. JQY Drop In Center: JQY Plans to open weekly Teen Drop In Hours for LGBT Jewish Teens as a pilot program in 2016
- May 2015 was our first JQY Teen Pride Prom, there were 90 participants,
- We expect attendance to double in 2016
- The Teen Pride Prom is open to all LGBT Teens under 21, The theme is LGBT Jewish Pride
- Pilot Program will be from Mid Jan 2016 to Mid June 2016, 4 hours a week
- JQY will rent three rooms at CBST (LGBT Synagogue) new building space in NYC (or JCC Manhattan as a back up)
- Drop in space will have administrator, a social worker and the Teen director there at all times
- Center will have different groups going on, different weeks (Trans group, Bisexual group, Religious group, HIV+ group, games.. etc)
- Center will also have place to hang out and use computer
- Center will have sign ups for one-on-on "check-ins" with JQY social worker
- Center will work with the Callen Lorde Clinic to coordinate their Teen Testing Van to come to Drop-In Center and provide free monthly STD and HIV Screenings
LGBT Jews from Orthodox Jewish communities face higher levels of homophobia as well as family and communal rejection (Safran, 2012). This makes LGBT Orthodox Jewish youth at significantly higher risk for experiencing low levels self worth (Sullivan & Wodarsky, 2002), pain, isolation and drug abuse (Lyness & Izenberg, 2010), stress and anxiety (Meyer, 2003), mental health disturbances (Harari, 2012), self harm and attempted suicide (Ryan, 2009), and suicide (Bar Yosef, 2012).
Jewish demographics show a huge increase in Orthodox youth. 74% of all Jewish children in New York City are growing up in Orthodox families (NYTImes, 2012). As LGBT youth are coming out at younger ages, there is an exponential increase in need for resources catered toward LGBT Orthodox youth. Their needs are different, the risks are different, and the interventions must be culturally competent in order to have successful impact. In the last two years the numbers of teens that have reached out to JQY for support has outweighed our capacity to provide responsible help.We have discovered through our programing a demand for
- more phone support hours
- 1 on 1 social work check in support
- NYC location
- weekly need for a safe space
1. JQY Teen Program:
- JQY is the 1st and only US program to offer support groups for LGBT Teens in the Orthodox, Hasidic or Sephardi community
- JQY has been able to work with local Orthodox Rabbis to gain support for the support group. The long island Teen group is supported by Rabbi Heshy Billet of Young Israel of Woodmere and Rabbi Kenneth Hain of Congregation Beth Sholom Cedarhurst
- This is the 3rd year of JQY Teen programming and we have grown from 4 teens to 20 teens in our Sunday group, from 12 teens to 125 teens in our online group and from 3 parents to 12 parents in our parents group.
- The 2015 JQY Teen Pride Prom is the only Jewish LGBT Pride prom exclusively for teens in the country.
Other JQY accomplishments and programs:
2. JQY Young Adult Program:
-Ages 18-30, approximately 800 young adults and growing weekly in JQY Young Adult Network, monthly
-JQY's original program was its young adult social/support initiative. It is the first and only US social/support resource for LGBT young adults from Orthodox, Hasidic and Sephardic communities. The Young Adults in-person meetings take place once a month at JCC Manhattan. Meetings are peer-lead and are facilitated by volunteer JQY members and topics are chosen by the volunteer facilitators. There are annual special meetings that teach STD safety, communications skills, and advocacy tools. There are currently 800 members on the JQY Young Adult Support/Discussion Email Listserve and 400 members on our secret Facebook discussion group. There are also seasonal JQY Young Adult social events throughout the year including a yearly boat cruise, BBQ, Picnics, Shabbos meals, and movie events. JQY provides new members with personalized "Coffee Meetings" with smaller groups to welcome new members, or members intimidated to attend larger events. The coffee meetings are set up by JQY volunteer interns and are subsidized by JQY.
3. JQY Women's Space:
-Ages 16-30, approximately 250 in the JQY women's network, growing weekly, Launched 2013
-The JQY Women's Space is a confidential safe space specifically for women and female identified members. In addition to an anonymous women’s discussion email group, the women's space meets bimonthly at the JCC Manhattan and offers women’s events, women's resources, and women’s learning opportunities. This group is open to all members who feel that they belong in a women's space.
4. JQY Open Beis Medrash Program:
-All Ages, approx 100 and growing, three times a year.
-Throughout the year, JQY invites Mainstream Orthodox Rabbinic leaders to lecture and share their Torah with the JQY community. This creates connections between Orthodox rabbis and our LGBT Community, as well as establishes a precedent of Orthodox rabbis entering apologetically LGBT spaces. Our Pre-Yom Kippur JQY Teshuva Shiur has become a popular community tradition garnering over 100 attendees. Past JQY Beis Medrash Program Lecturers include: Rabbi Dov Linzer (YCT), Rabbi Shaul Robinson (LSS), Elana Stein Hain (LSS), Rabbi Yosie Levine (Jewish Center), Rabbi Motty Borger (Aish Hatorah), Rabbi Stuart Shiff (Aish Center), and Rabbi Yehuda Sarna (Bronfman Center).
5. JQY Crisis Resources: (approx 200 people/year, launched in 2012, daily)
-JQY offers a JQY Hope-line: 1 (551) JQY-HOPE, that is answered by three licensed clinical therapists with experience and expertise in Orthodox Judaism, sexual orientation and gender Identity.
-JQY offers a volunteer chaperon service for members who want to go for STD screenings/testings/treatments or Transgender, Bisexual, Asexual, Intersex, Abuse Survivor, or Addiction support groups at the NYC LGBT Center, but are afraid to go alone. Members can sign up to volunteer and/or sign up to request a supportive chaperon.
-JQY is building a referral network of supportive mental health professionals with experience in both Orthodox Judaism and LGBT Issues, to be used as a clinical resource for members seeking psychotherapy.
6. JQY Speaker's Bureau and Panels:
-The JQY Speakers Bureau features an array of compelling speakers from our JQY community who are able to speak to the challenges, hopes and fears that exist around being LGBT in the frum world. JQY provides panels and speakers upon request. Our speaker's bureau consists of individuals who are willing to share their personal stories to raise awareness of the issues faced by LGBT Jews in Orthodox communities. We work together with institutions to create a program that fits the organization’s individual needs and concerns. Our speakers represent a range of experiences, ages, orientations, and gender identities. JQY Speaker's Bureau has organized and presented at panels at over 30 Campus Hillels, 20 Orthodox synagogues and schools, and most famously at Yeshiva University in what has been come to be known as the YU Gay Panel in 2010. The YU Gay Panel had a live audience of over 1000 people, and a streaming audience of over 30,000.
7. The Yeshiva Inclusion Project (YIP)
- YIP providing personal consultation to prospective post high school students about which gap-year Orthodox yeshivas in Israel are safer/more welcoming to LGBT youth. YIP directors travel to Israel every year to interview faculty and staff from different yeshivas, as well as interview students about their experiences in Yeshiva. The information is organized and used to help guide LGBT high school seniors make the most informed decision about yeshiva that is right for them.
8. JQY Training Programs for Orthodox Mental Health Professionals, Educators and Rabbis.
-The 2015 JQY Mental Health Conference on Sexuality in the Orthodox Community program was attended by over 130 Orthodox rabbis, therapist, and educators including the leaders of the RCA (Rabbinical Council of America), OU (Orthodox Union), and YU (Yeshiva University). This program will continue as an annual conference accompanied by smaller training workshops for Orthodox school guidance counselors, camp staff, and youth leadership. The success of these events bellies JQY's work in building trust inside the Orthodox community, paving the way towards creating comprehensive sensitivity programs and Orthodox Sexuality and Gender curriculum aimed at training Orthodox high schools, camps, synagogues, and organizations to better care for its LGBT constituents.
9. JQY Advocacy Accomplishments
2010: JQY Organized the YU (Yeshiva University) gay panel, and successfully advocated for the event to take place on campus where it was attended by over 1000 students and faculty.
2010: JQY helps a group of over 100 progressive Orthodox rabbis put together a "Statement of Principles" calling for the welcoming and tolerance of LGBT people in the Orthodox community
2011: JQY Created the "It Gets Better" Video for Orthodox LGBT Youth,
2011: JQY is first LGBT supportive organization to be allowed to take part in the Nefesh Conference for Orthodox Mental Health Professionals
2012: JQY successfully advocates for the NY Celebrate Israel Parade to change its policy to allow openly LGBT groups to march and is the first LGBT Jewish group to march in the Israel Parade under an LGBT banner
2013: JQY successfully advocates for the RCA (Rabbinical Council of America) to take down its endorsement of JONAH (gay conversion therapy)
2014: JQY is the first and only LGBT supportive organization to be able to run an advertisement in an Orthodox Newspaper: The Jewish Press
2014: JQY testifies in front of the NJ congress and succeeds in passing a legal ban on gay conversion therapy aimed at minors
2015: JQY members successfully sue JONAH (the Orthodox conversion therapy organization) for consumer fraud and win a landmark court case, potentially making all gay conversion therapy illegal under state consumer fraud law.
10. JQY Alumni
-JQY's proudest accomplishments are the caliber and promise that our alumni show. JQY strives to empower LGBT Jewish youth so that they can move on and create their own projects and initiatives, give back, and change the word for the better. Helping people from a place of need and bringing them to a place of creation is the formula behind the magic of JQY. Some of our amazing alumni include:
Robert J Saferstein- Director of two LGBT Jewish initiatives, Friday Night Lights and the Eighteen: 22 Conference
Jayson Littman - CEO of HEBRO, a premeire nightlife and culture group for gay Jews
Oliver Rosenberg - Founder of the Or Chayim Minyan, a start up traditional congregation for LGBT Jews
How do you measure the success of your program?
For our Teen Program the objective measures of our program have been attendance, numbers in our social networks and new member requests. All of these measures have shown at least 5 fold increases since our program's launch in 2012.
As part of our Teen Program expansion project we plan to include a survey in our intake forms as a baseline in January 2016. This survey will aim to measure levels of depression, isolation, hopelessness, fear, addiction suicidal ideation, and general health and well being. after the end of 5 months we will have our members take the survey again as well as a program evaluation survey to measure both the satisfaction with the programming and the changes in baseline emotions from before and after the program. This will give us a clearer picture of our program's impact and success.
Another measure of success of the program will be in development. We will track our ability to find long term funding for the program, and eventually expand the program to more days a week.
Subjective measures of the program will be ascertained in supervision with the staff and check ins with the teen members.
- Providing at-risk LGBT Jewish teens to professionally run support groups