As Pride Month closes out, we're spotlighting a program that supports Jewish and LGBTQIA+ college students: Penn Hillel's J-Bagel.

J-Bagel provides programming and safe spaces for members of the Jewish and LGBTQIA+ community at UPenn. It helps young, queer Jews to live Jewishly, make friends, and explore their identities in ways that are meaningful to them.

As one student said, "We make sure that queer, Jewish students don’t have to choose between their identities. We provide a space for students to be themselves!"

At the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, we proudly fund our local college Hillels and are also proud to support J-Bagel. We spoke to several students involved with J-Bagel and heard stories of finding mentors at Shabbat dinners, attending Purim drag shows, and more. Below is a Q+A with one of those students!


How would you describe J-Bagel and how does it fit into the Penn community?

J-Bagel sits at the intersection of being an engaging social community and a haven for students who are looking to come together to celebrate both their Jewishness and queerness. 

We feel that part of what makes Penn so special is the vast and diverse array of student groups that are distinguished by their differing values, backgrounds, and traditions. J-Bagel is a vibrant part of this mosaic of student involvement that promotes inclusivity and the celebration of uniqueness all while providing a fun, friendly space for members to make friends in the Jewish and queer community. 


How does J-Bagel relate to Jewish values?

J-Bagel embraces equality and seeks to create a safe and welcoming space for Jewish students at Penn. J-Bagel has hosted events that include Torah learning and discussion, as well as embodying the Jewish value of welcoming the stranger.

Once, I asked my grandmother what she thought of the LGBTQ community, and she told me: “To love someone is a mitzvah and to be loved is a blessing.” I think about her words often now with regards to J-Bagel. Although I think she was referring to romantic love, I think the value of loving and welcoming others is the most important thing.


Why do you think groups that serve LGBTQIA+ members of the Jewish community are important?

J-Bagel work with both Hillel and the LGBT Center to provide trainings in sensitivity and inclusion, as well as on antisemitism and queerphobia. But beyond educational purposes, J-Bagel serves a social and emotional need for students who are looking for community and cultural celebration. Groups like J-Bagel are important because we make sure that queer, Jewish students don’t have to choose between their identities; we provide that space for students to be themselves!


What would you say to donors who help support Penn Hillel and J-Bagel?

First and foremost, thank you so much for your support! Your donations make our events - ranging from coffee chats and brunches to Torah learning and Drag Purim - possible. We want you to know how much J-Bagel has meant to us, the board, and how much of an impact we can see it has made for our members. You have given us the gift of friendship and inclusion, and for that we cannot thank you enough.


When you support the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, you're supporting programs like these. Give today.