If the term is new to you, think of the Hebrew shabbaton as roughly a sabbatical or a retreat. It can mean different things to different people. The same could be said for the "Queer Shabbaton" taking place in D.C. this weekend.
"One thing Nehirim is really good at doing is it's a space for building community," says Alex Greenbaum of the New York-based Nehirim organization for Jewish LGBT culture and spirituality that launched the notion of Queer Shabbaton, which draws together Jews -- both cultural and religious, atheist and devout -- of all sexual orientations, though primarily LGBT, and their gentile loved ones, for a weekend of cultural, intellectual and spiritual exploration. "They bring together all parts of the LGBT community. People often just use the phrase 'LGBT,' but I like that they include everyone. It's also young and old, from college-age kids to people in their 70s. The gamut."
Having attended prior Queer Shabbaton weekends in New York, Greenbaum, vice chair of the D.C. Jewish Community Center's Kurlander Program for Gay & Lesbian Outreach and Engagement (GLOE), has been key in bringing the event to D.C., and serves as the weekend's co-director.
"Most people can find a place at a Shabbaton," says Greenbaum, explaining that at the retreats he's attended participants could largely tailor the experience to what suits them. "The invitation goes out to people who want to create queer community. Obviously, it's a Jewish organization. But I would take my ex-partner, who is not Jewish, and we had a great time. It's a very welcoming space."
While student scholarships and other aid is available, the per-person cost for the weekend ranges from $100 to $180. The Queer Shabbaton runs from Friday, Feb. 5, to Sunday, Feb. 7, at the DCJCC, 1529 16th St. NW. For more information, including a list of speakers, or to register, visit nehirim.org/qsdc.