For nearly three years, a grassroots group called Makom has worked to create a place for LGBTQ Jews in the observant Jewish community to flourish by encouraging honest and educational conversations.
Makom, which means “place” in Yiddish, formed as a result of showing “Trembling Before G-d” during a film festival in February 2016 at Green Road Synagogue in Beachwood.
The film focused on the stories of gay and lesbian Orthodox and Chasidic Jews faced with the dilemma on reconciling their sexuality with their faith. Susan Borison, a member of Green Road, was on the panel following the movie to shared her son’s journey being gay and Jewish. Afterwards, people came up to her and expressed interest in continuing the conversation. Thus Borison, along with Michael Hoenig, another member of Green Road Synagogue, created the group.
“It made people realize there’s something to talk about here, there’s an issue to talk about,” Borison said. “We saw quickly there was room to continue the conversation outside of that movie setting and so we had a core group of people who met and continue to meet.”
Since its inception, the group has met every few months in a community member’s home typically around Shabbat or a holiday and reaches up to 75 people. At each meeting, the conversation keeps going through panels, talks or training that includes being an LGBTQ ally.
“We want to make a space where Jewish LGBTQ kids and adults can feel welcome,” Borison said. “They can be both Jewish and gay at the same time and in the same place.”
Hoenig saw his brother struggle to reconcile his sexuality and faith which ultimately led to his brother to leave the Orthodox community. After seeing the movie, Hoenig saw himself as a silent LGBTQ ally and realized being inactive could be just as harmful as saying something negative. Helping create Makom was a way for him to change that.
“I kind of wish we had done this 20 years ago but better late than never,” he said. “The challenge is there are plenty of people who are not out, and we want to reach out to them to let them know that we’re here for you, we exist, and it’s OK to be gay. We’re here to help you.”