By Hana Halff ‘21
The Gender and Sexuality Alliance Club (GSA) has recently made great strides in expanding their audience and shifting the culture of our school. Led in the past year by senior Elana Nussbaum Cohen and sophomore Ayelet Kaminer, GSA is a safe space for LGBTQ+ students and allies to socialize and learn. Most recently, the club learned about the life of Heschel alum and LGBTQ+ rights activist, Emet Tauber, who tragically passed away this year. Members of the club wrote messages to Tauber’s family and honored the large impact of his activism work. Reflecting on one of the most difficult aspects of co-leading GSA, Kaminer said, “We always aim to strike a really good balance between learning about some of the more unfortunate aspects of LGBTQ+ life in America and some of the really phenomenal and uplifting ones.”
Despite the many LGBTQ+ related tragedies that occur around the world, the Gender and Sexuality Club definitely has reason to celebrate. Their list of accomplishments is long. This year alone, the club has dedicated a bookshelf on the 3rd floor to LGBTQ+ resources and organized a school-wide panel discussion about the experiences of LGBTQ+ identifying Heschel teachers. Kaminer believes that “the mere fact there is a thriving GSA at Heschel and that new people attend every week is an accomplishment.”
However, according to Nussbaum Cohen and Kaminer, the stigma that persists surrounding LGBTQ+ topics and identities in our student body is a major obstacle in achieving all of their goals. “Heschel, though in many ways a very open and accepting community, can do so much more to affirm our commitment to continued support and protection of LGBTQ+ students and identities.” To confront these attitudes, GSA plans to work on creating a more inclusive sex Ed curriculum, organizing frequent Heschel events, making resources widely available, and ensuring that those attending GSA feel as welcome as possible.
When asked if the GSA was actively seeking new members, Kaminer responded, “The GSA doesn’t really have ‘members.’ It’s a space that exists for everyone and anyone who wants to eat cookies and spend time discussing interesting topics in a safe, welcoming space. In addition, identities shared in GSA do not leave room 229. One can be out in GSA And completely closeted elsewhere.” GSA is open to everyone and anyone.