Young leader embraces role to connect with midwestern jewish, LGBTQ youth

Meet Issac Young, the new Youth Engagement manager in the Midwest for Keshet. Keshet is a LGBT+ Jewish grassroots organization that works toward the inclusion of LGBT+ Jews in Jewish life.

“I grew up in southern Indiana, that was really similar to Iowa in a lot of ways but not quite the community I needed at the time and made me feel lonely in a lot of ways growing up. Not being around other Jewish folks, not being around other LGBTQ folks,” Young said. “Something that helped me feel less lonely growing up was having a gay youth group near by. I could meet up with other teens and we could talk about the things that were bothering us. As we continued to share what was bothering us, it often ended up being teachers or school administration.”

The Adult leader of this group went to some teacher conferences and brought up her group and the issues they were having with teachers and administrators. The administration happily accepted sensitivity training. 

“So finally we got fed up enough and said, ‘We’re gonna do it. We’re gonna make some change happen,’” Young said. “Most of my high school career followed suit, speaking my truth of ‘Hey, queer students need more support than what you’re giving, and this is how to do it.’ We ended up giving training to 2,000 teachers during my high school career.”

After that, Young went to Columbia College in Chicago for video game art.

“After high school I said, ‘You know what? I’m really tired of doing this work. It’s exhausting. People aren’t respectful. They are usually jerks, so I decided to go to college in Chicago for something completely different.’”

He moved from conservative southern Indiana to progressive Chicago where Jewish and LGBT+ pride is out there for everyone to see. It changed Young’s view on advocacy. 

“In college I joined some groups and fellowships that taught me skills I didn’t learn in high school. I started thinking about doing leadership and advocacy again in a way that didn’t end up hurting me accidentally. Those groups really taught me how to know when I need to take care of myself.” 

There are many parts of Young’s story that he realized resonate with other LGBT+ Jews and advocates. He understood the urge to sacrifice one’s own well being for others because he didn’t want anyone to feel as alone in their struggles as he did.

“What I was really tired of and frustrated with from what I was doing in high school is that I wasn’t taught certain skills that organizers learn from social programs, college or work experience, and so I didn’t know how to cope with the amount of work I was doing and how to cope with feeling invigorated by the work. It just felt really heavy to continue doing it, whereas in the correct situation and with enough self care, it is really liberating and exciting to do this work,” Young said. “By the time I graduated, I was feeling torn between these two things—the thing I just went to college for and something that felt very important to me.” 

Then the chance Young was looking for arrived. Started in Massachusetts in 2001, Keshet now has offices in Boston, New York, San Francisco and Chicago. Recently they hired a Young to be the Youth Engagement Manager for the Midwest.

“I heard about the job posting from Keshet, and it really checkmarked all the pieces of me I could use to help others because I’m Jewish, I’m LGBTQ, I’m in the Midwest. I love the Midwest. I love working with youth to make them feel empowered to do anything,” Young said.

“I believe that all humans are sacred, they sometimes make it difficult to believe in their sacredness, Young said, “but most of the time while working with Keshet it’s easy to see all of you are so important and sacred. You are the future, and it’s really important for you all to get the support you need like I got in high school and to be that support for someone else makes me really excited to get back to this work.”

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