Valerian Weinzweig (he/she)

Title: Class of 2025

“I was very involved in the Jewish community in Reno prior to the pandemic, but the congregation I was part of began to dissolve, and I lost a lot of that connection. The same year the synagogue dissolved, I started transitioning. I had to figure out how Judaism would play out in my life, and that was both liberating and frightening. I have deliberately ignored some aspects of Jewish law out of necessity. For example, Jewish law says that Jews aren’t supposed to get tattoos, and in my family, that’s a big deal: not just because of what it says in the Torah, but also because of the Holocaust and forced tattooing. But, when I turned 18, I was having a moment where the same prohibition against tattooing was going to prevent me from seeking medical intervention for medical transition. I decided to get a tattoo so my violation of that law would have nothing to do with my seeking medical transition, which is much closer to home.

The Jewish community, especially in the US, is a lot more welcoming of queer people than other faith communities, but there still are situations where the binary structures feel like a hurdle to overcome. For a while, this situation made me feel like my identities were at odds. I felt like I had to choose between adhering to my upbringing, fitting into the Jewish community, and what I actually knew about myself, in terms of my gender identity and sexuality. 

Fortunately, being in college has granted me the time to discover more intersections between my queer and Jewish identities. I’ve also come to the conclusion that it’s incredibly difficult to be Jewish without a community, so I’ve started to put on programming to give queer Jews a reason to come together. This programming creates the space for someone who is worried that they aren’t Jewish enough, unsure if they’re queer enough, or unclear on what any of that means, to talk about it. And that has been meaningful because you can’t do Judaism in isolation.”