This year has been an absolute nightmare for the world. We started it off thinking we were starting World War 3, and then we were all quarantined for months, away from family and friends, because of a viral pandemic called “Covid-19”. The struggle for attention and friendship has only been strengthened by this virus. For people like me, who didn’t have many people to talk to before this pandemic, this was one of the loneliest years of my life. And I’m not alone in that sense, either.

There are so many teens in the State of Georgia who can’t come out to anyone because they are afraid of how their life will change, or who have no friends, because nobody can accept the fact that they are different. There are some people who are too shy to make friends, and stay hidden in the background. The pandemic has greatly magnified the effect of this issue, causing widespread depression and loneliness in the LGBTQ+ community, which is sending teens to toxic parts of the internet for positive attention, only to get the opposite. To make matters worse, most pflag organizations based out of Georgia only do support groups, and do social gatherings once every month. 

For this reason, and many more, this is why I decided 1 month ago that I would create ‘The Closet’. I know the name might be silly, and definitely more than a bit queer, but it provides exactly what everyone needs right now. Every Friday and Saturday, for 1 to 1 ½ hours, I provide a safe space supervised by adults for LGBTQ+ teens ages 13-18 to hang out and just be themselves.

I know the question everyone has now is, “How is this any different from other organizations doing the exact same thing.” Instead of being an organization run by adults, I wanted something different, which was an organization that was run by teens. I did this because I truly believe the only way to truly appeal to teens, is to be teens. So instead of adults trying to be teens, we are teens. Of course, I’m not introducing chapters for a long time, but when I do, those state’s chapters will also be ran by teens.

We’re just starting out- in fact, this is only our second week, but we would love new members. All of our meetings are free, and donations are accepted and greatly appreciated, but they are not required. If you aren’t in the LGBTQ+ community, but you know someone who is, or is thinking about it, please spread the word of our organization! 
You can find more information about us and how you can help on our website, https://thecloset.ga. If you are interested in supervising our events, please let me know! I’m always looking for more people to help out. You can reach me at erubenstein577@gmail.com

While JumpSpark was virtually road tripping around the country exploring colleges and universities, the world changed. Important conversations have started about the need for cis-gender, straight, white Americans to educate themselves about the systemic racism and discrimination our country was built on. Jewish Americans are not exempt from this work.

As an organization committed to helping each Jewish teen find an authentic expression of their Judaism, that also has thousands of social media followers, JumpSpark recognizes the privilege of our platform. So, for the month of July, and forever after, JumpSpark is committed to using its social media and programming as a platform to amplify the voices in our community that have been silenced or excluded from communal conversations. We are committing to passing the mic.

Drawing from Encounter’s Communication Agreement, we invite everyone to join us in the radical act of ‘resilient listening’. “Listening does not mean that we endorse a viewpoint or an interpretation of facts, nor validate the facts a person chooses to present or omit. ‘Resilient listening’ allows a person and/or a community to live with tension, to hold multiple perspectives at the same time, and to continue to be open to learning new rather than guarding against and shutting down. Only when we can learn from those with whom we disagree can we be more effective and solution-oriented advocates and change-agents.”

When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand… Listening, not talking is the gifted and great role… So try listening. Listen to your wife, your husband, your father, your mother, your children, your friends, to those who love you and those who don’t, to those who bore you, to your enemies. It will work a small miracle. And perhaps a great one. — Brenda Ueland, from The Art of Listening

During July, you can expect: 

  • Curated articles from teen voices published across the country from sources including Jewish Women’s Archive Rising VoicesJGirls Magazine, and Project HereNow 
  • Local Atlanta teen voices from our partner VOX ATL, Atlanta’s home for uncensored teen publishing and self-expression 
  • Instagram takeovers from Atlanta Jewish teens and young adults on their personal relationships with Judaism 
  • Features from SOJOURN’s Sex Ed Queeries video series and special segments for JumpSpark followers from the creators themselves