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Telling Your Story, Building A Community

"I felt stuck in the wrong body. Maybe some of you have felt this way too, stuck somehow . . . So, to my family, and to everyone else who has ever supported me, people in this room and people outside of this room...thank you."
—Speaker during the Sh’ma Kolenu program

Throughout the year, Gann students come together as a community to hear personal, emotional, and inspiring stories from their peers. Sh'ma Kolenu, which means "hear our voice," is one of these programs and helps to foster empathy for Gann's LGBTQ community.

"Listening, really listening with your whole self is hard," says Rabbi Sara Meirowitz, Associate Dean of Jewish Education and a co-advisor of the Gender-Sexuality Alliance (GSA) club. "Sh'ma Kolenu is an opportunity for students and faculty to come together to tell parts of their story, and for students to listen and empathize—sharing stories of coming out to family and friends, rising above bigotry and hate, and building community."

This year, two students and one teacher addressed the school. In past years, parents and alumni have offered their stories as well. Leading up to the program, participants work with faculty to craft their narratives into a moving script to create a program reminiscent of an episode of The Moth story hour. What makes Sh'ma Kolenu particularly special are the appreciations that community members offer to the speakers after hearing their stories. The end result: a more empathetic, understanding, and connected community.

Sh'ma Kolenu started in 2013 and builds on the rich history of Gann as a pluralistic high school that embraces people of different identities. Some of this history was documented in the film Hineini: Coming Out in a Jewish High School. As one of the events most anticipated by the student body, it's really a day of celebrating the LGBTQ community and building on Gann's culture of open and empathetic listening. As one student offered in an appreciation of the day, "I appreciate each of the speakers who shared their story."