My name is Elliot. Pronouns: they/them. Non-binary. Pansexual. INFJ. Intersectional Feminist. Jewish. Student at the University of Cincinnati. I'm an oil painter and artist.
These identities are important to me because without them I would not be fighting for social justice.
Judaism has taught me social action (or in hebrew, "tikkun olam", to repair the world. I went to Temple B'nai Shalom in Fairfax, Virginia. I went to Capital Camps (a Jewish sleep away camp in Pennsylvania) for five years. I was a member of NFTY and my youth group, BeaSTY. I attended the L'taken conference in 2013, and was a Machon Kaplan intern in 2016 through the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism (RAC).
The RAC gave me several incredibly useful skills that I continue to utilize after my time there. They gave me my first look at lobbying through the L'taken conference. Jews from around the country took a weekend to go to DC, hear about all kinds of issues and decide what issue what most important to them. We wrote speeches and the next day we read the speeches to our congresspeople (in my case, Gerry Connolly, Mark Warner, and Tim Kaine). The continuation of that experience was the L'taken conference was the Machon Kaplan internship that I participated in the summer of 2016. This is a six week program where you stay in DC and work at a nonprofit in the area, as well as have classes, seminars, and outings that reflect Judaism and social justice. This program solidified my passion for social justice, but also showed me that I would not have this passion without Judaism.
One of the highlights of Machon Kaplan was the 2016 House of Representatives Sit In. After the Orlando Massacre, the House of Reps was supposed to leave for recess. Before this recess they did not vote on any kind of gun legislation. Several democratic representatives, led by John Lewis, were not okay with ignoring such an awful event and refused to leave for recess until they voted on gun legislation. They spent over 24 hours on the floor of the House. Around 9pm, after our Judaism class, four of us decided that we would head over. We weren't sure if they'd get out before we got there, but we knew that if we didn't at least try to see this we would regret it. The scene was incredible. There was a large rally outside with representatives coming out and speaking. I talked to Gerry Connolly for a while when we were there. When we went inside there was no line and we immediately made it in to the gallery. Usually you need tickets, but with this kind of event they did not check if we had them (we didn't). It's usually a felony to talk or make any noise in the gallery, but people were clapping and chanting along with the representatives, and security did nothing. Every representative simply wanted to do their jobs and take a vote on gun regulations, but Paul Ryan would not let them take a vote. Paul Ryan was so up the ass of the NRA funds that he refused to let the reps do their jobs and take a vote on legislation.
That event is so integral to my identity because it showed me that our elected officials are trying to make an impact. They are trying to break through all this noise and make a difference in our lives. For the first time, I really had confidence in the people we voted on.
Another part of the Orlando Massacre in 2016 was that I was working at an LGBTQ nonprofit in DC, and I had several opportunities to make an impact after such an awful event. I was able to help with the weareorlando site and posting information about vigils from around the world.
That leads in to the second part of my identity; being queer. Throughout my life I have discovered and developed my queer identity. In 8th grade I began to question the idea that I had to be attracted to men. In 11th grade I began to question the idea that my genitals defined my gender. In my sophomore year of college I started using different pronouns, and Junior year I chose a name that could help me reclaim a part of my gender identity. I am still discovering this part of myself, and I am constantly writing and trying to discover this.
Being a part of the LGBTQ Community taught me about standing up for other people and what intersectional feminism looks like.
My Jewish and Queer identities are interconnected. I cannot be one without the other.
A big part of my growth as an activist involves setting goals in the perspective of where I am and what I still have to learn.
Self Evaluation, Self Empowerment
I want to find out who I am, what my values are (and be able to articulate them).
Once I am able to articulate who I am and be able to take care of myself and support my values.
This involves the blog and claiming my non-binary identity in family and friend circles.
What space am I creating? Who is in my space? Who is not? Why or why not? Are there rules that I have in my space? What boundaries do I have?
I want to be able to answer these questions and articulate the space I have created for myself.
This involves becoming confident enough in myself to stand up for myself and others in my space.
Recognizing that the space I am in has been created by me, and is for me.
Once I have really built my activism space I want to be able to celebrate within it. I want to support the community I've made for myself in any and every way I can.
Blooming Where You're Planted
Build self care into activism. Build activism into life.
Building activism into my life will come from knowing what my values are and living by them. I have to know my identity and create a community and empower that community to be able to thrive and bloom in the community I've created through knowing myself and others.