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Talking with #MakeItHappen Micro Grant Recipient: Ariel Vegosen!

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Ariel is proud to be a Jewish, queer, gender non-conforming activist, educator, writer and performer. Ariel is currently training to be a Hebrew Priestess as part of the Kohenet Institute. Ariel uses theater, dance and art to create positive social change.

Ariel’s idea to create a dynamic and inclusive Shabbaton for the "othered" was recently chosen to receive a $1,000 #MakeItHappen micro grant! To read more about her project and to volunteer to help her #MakeItHappen visit Ariel’s idea page.

What three hashtags would you use to describe yourself?

#awesome #courageous #epic

What inspired you to apply for a #MakeItHappen micro grant and what do you hope it will achieve?

I was inspired to apply for a #MakeItHappen grant because I often see a lack of space in the Jewish community for those of us who are in the margins because of our gender identity, sexual orientation, skin color, political viewpoints or creative expression of prayer. I always hear mainstream Jewish community using buzz words like "fully inclusive" yet their events often do not actually welcome Jews that feel "othered." This Shabbaton titled "Freaks, Geeks, Fegalahs and Others This Way Please" will be an opportunity for a celebration of diversity and for those who are considered outsiders. This event will give space for the larger Jewish community to practice total acceptance and to learn tools of community building that will engage the next generation of Jews.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

I wake up every day excited to be alive and thankful for the opportunity to do something new, creative and positive for humans and the earth. I am energized by sunshine, blue skies and living in community with other amazing people. Even on cloudy and cold days I am inspired to live life to the fullest because each day is a new opportunity for adventure, love, generosity and giving back to community. And of course a real NYC bagel with schmear.

What is one change you want to see in the world?

I want to see an end to oppression of all peoples, animals, rivers, plants and soil. I want an end to genetically engineered food, poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, agism, colonialism, war and any other harmful human invention.

What is the biggest risk you have taken and how did it pay off?

A huge risk I took was starting a collective called Gender Blender whose mission is to create safe spaces for trans and gender queer people. I took this risk because every day my gender identity is a risk, the very body and identity I live in is a risk and I was longing for community and safe spaces. Over the past five years Gender Blender has become highly successful at building community all over the world, creating safe spaces and giving people the opportunity to be their full selves.

Have you ever failed before and what lessons did you learn?

Of course I have failed before, everyone has failed, it is part of being human. I have learned to keep going, to keep taking risks, to be stronger, bolder and that much more determined.

Who are your heroes?

Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, my Dad, Rosa Parks, Gandhi, Vandana Shiva and the children of Salaam Bat in India who have overcome living in the slums to be creative, bright, amazing individuals.

Where do you find solitude?

I find solitude in nature, in the mountains, in the desert, in the forest, in the ocean.

Where do you find community?

I find community all over the world with people who are open, loving and excited to create positive social change.

If you had to give up one modern convenience what would it be and why?

I would give up cars and planes because they are a huge drain on the environment.

What is your favorite Jewish memory?

Eating dinners at my Grandma Gertie's house, celebrating Shabbat in Uganda and teaching the Jewish Gender Jam to 7th graders.

The Schusterman Philanthropic Network is proud to empower emerging leaders to explore their values, identity and new ways to strengthen their communities. We believe that as we work together to repair the world, it is important to share our diverse experiences and perspectives along the way. We encourage the expression of personal thoughts and reflections here on the Schusterman blog. Each post reflects solely the opinion of its author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Foundation, its partner organizations or all program participants.