The Family Connector Fellowship Program through MazelTogether is a catalyst, connector, and concierge for Denver families with young children newborn to 5 years old. Acting as a way to help families find their people, their path, and their place in Jewish life, they believe that community is built through personalized experiences and relationships.
“We meet with different parents and families who have infants and toddlers who are seeking meaningful connections within the Jewish community,” said Rachel Braver, digital storyteller and catalyst for MazelTogether. “We have a concierge who is available to speak to anyone. If people are new to parenthood, if people are new to the community, and they’re just looking for ways to get involved in Jewish life, we contact them through our concierge.”
From finding tot shabbats to locating playdates with other community members, the catalyst can get young families connected. Now, with the partnership through PJ Library, an organization that provides Jewish content through literary books, they are now widening the important resources of MazelTogether to LGBTQ families.
“One thing that really drew me to this program is that my family doesn’t live here; most of them are in Israel, and I felt this void. So, I’m always after finding more LGBTQ families that I can relate to,” said Yael Shalom-Ashford, family connector fellow with MazelTogether.
Shalom-Ashford, her wife Amy, and their son Geffen really hope to grow the presence of MazelTogether in Denver, connect with families like theirs, and have a safe community which their kids can grow up in. They also want to preserve Jewish traditions.
“I want my son to have everything that he can, especially with the Jewish heritage, and I believe that other queer families that are Jewish would want the same for their children,” she said.
It wasn’t always easy for Shalom-Ashford, and she said that she was not always met with open arms growing up queer and Jewish. However, in 2019 and especially in Denver, that is changing.
“It’s much different today than it was 50 or 60 years ago, especially in America, and in Israel as well. But, I feel like we need to make our own prints that say, ‘We’re here and we’re part of this, and we’re not different from anybody,'” Shalom-Ashford said.
For families like hers, MazelTogether is so important because it shines a light on their unique differences while also being an inclusive way of creating space within the faith-based community. For her sake, and for her son’s sake, the societal shift in acceptance provides opportunities to not only be a part of, but give back to, in a meaningful and necessary way.
From community gatherings and social events to creating care packages for LGBTQ centers and organizations, MazelTogether is really about creating experiences and growing closer through time and activities.
“I feel like there are LGBTQI families out there, and [the fact] that MazelTogether is even offering to sponsor this kind of thing shows you how much they really want LGBTQ families to be a part of it. Being a queer family, I feel very supported by my synagogue and my community,” Shalom-Ashford said.
This LGBTQ Jewish community connection is currently unique to the greater Denver area; however, both Shalom-Ashford and her fellow family connector Rafi Daugherty see this becoming something that other synagogues can use as an example of being more inclusive to the Jewish, LGBTQ families in their communities.
Every month is different, and events are constantly shifting and changing based on the families involved and the time of year, happenings, opportunities, and all things relevant to LGBTQ folks. Parents with young children in the Jewish community can participate by checking out their Facebook page and reaching out directly to MazelTogether.