Mordechai Levovitz, JQY Founder and Clinical Director
Jewish Queer Youth (JQY)
Supporting LGBTQ Youth in the Jewish Community
June is Global Pride Month and we are excited to feature an organization that supports and empowers LGBTQ youth in the Jewish community. JQY fights to ensure the emotional and physical health and safety of these individuals, with a special focus on teens and young adults from Orthodox, Chasidic, and Sephardic communities. JQY supports unique needs of its members through social and support programming and advocacy and education efforts.
Read our interview below with Founder and Clinical Director, Mordechai Levovitz.
What is the mission of JQY?
To provide clinical, support and social resources for LGBTQ+ Jewish youth, with a focus on teens from Orthodox homes. JQY runs teen drop-in centers where teens can access mental health care, kosher food, STD testing, and the opportunity to feel that they are not alone. We also offer trainings for schools, educators and mental health professionals.
Why did you decide to start JQY?
I am queer and grew up in an ultra-Orthodox home. When I was a teen I felt alone, ostracized and that I did not belong anywhere. As I grew up, I tried to build the resource that would have helped me. My life's work has been to ensure that no child, regardless of Jewish denomination, feels rejected because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
How would you connect JQY to a Jewish value?
We are all born betzelem Elokim (in the image of G-d), so certainly we are all worthy of love, connection and dignity. While religious law, life experience, and personal ethics may sometimes present us with conflict; the Jewish value of Eilu v'Eilu (both these AND these) teaches us that we can hold multiple truths at once. JQY creates a space where your whole self, with all your intersectional identities and contradictions is validated and celebrated. At JQY we can reject the binary: "Eilu v'eilu - betzelem Elokim" (Both these AND these are created in the image of G-d).
What are some non-monetary ways for others to get involved with JQY?
We all can speak up and advocate for LGBTQ+ children and teens who are still living in Orthodox, Hasidic, and Sephardi/Mizrachi homes. They need our voices and our support. If you are an educator or a mental health professional, you can attend a JQY training to gain competency for helping LGBTQ youth in the Orthodox world. You can bring a JQY training into your school, organization, or practice. Once trained, you can volunteer on our crisis line. You can volunteer by leading a program at one of our JQY teen Drop-in Centers or host a shabbat meal where you invite queer Jewish youth to make them feel loved and valued.
Who or what has inspired you in the work that you are doing?
I am constantly inspired by the courage, strength and resiliency of the LGBTQ teens from Orthodox families who risk everything to come to the JQY Drop-in Center.
What’s a story about your organization that is meaningful to you?
I've seen teens who were kicked out of their Orthodox high schools for being queer, work hard and make their way into top colleges and become leaders in their own right.
What has surprised you about working with your organization?
I am surprised how our JQY teens care for each other, even when often they, themselves, have been so rejected by their peers, family and community.
What's the best part of your job and why?
My favorite part of my job is seeing how, with just a little bit of empowerment, queer kids blossom into their best selves.