Who The Folk?! Jayce Koester

It’s almost June, so this week we talk all things Pride with Jayce Koester, the J-Pride program coordinator at Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Minneapolis. Jayce reflects on their first year on the job, what new programs J-Pride is running to celebrate Pride this coming month, and how the organization looks to connect with its constituency year-round, on this week’s Who The Folk?! Podcast.

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A lot of what you do as J-Pride coordinator sort of points to this month right?

Yeah. It’s like this secular year turns over in January, the Jewish year turns over at Rosh Hashanah, and the queer organizer year turns over at June.

This is your first Pride as J-Pride coordinator; what’s the build-up been like?

It’s been really good and really exciting. Luckily I’ve had a full year working in the role before Pride came, so I had relationships in the community, have been working with congregations and with organizations. But I have so much deep respect for all of the organizers who ran J-Pride before me because it’s no small feat to coordinator our community. But luckily, our community is so thrilled to turn out to Pride.

What are some of the new things that you’ve been looking to start programmatically this year?

We have a really packed June; pretty much any time during June if you want something to do, we have something.  I’m really excited because this is the first time we’re holding a communally-sponsored Drag Story Hour at the Sabes JCC. PJ Library in Minneapolis and St. Paul and then the JCCs of Minneapolis and St. Paul is coming together to host a gallery reception and drag story hour. We have drag performers coming to read children’s books for families. We will also have a gallery showing up for the first few weeks of June.

The other thing that’s new this year that I’m really excited about is a Torah service at Loring Park on the Rainbow Stage on Saturday morning with the full sponsorship and support of Pride. We’re gonna bring a Torah out and we have a whole crew of people helping to plan the service. It’s going to be really exciting to honor members of our community who have been doing phenomenal work for years and years and years and then also to bring some like real Jewish flare to Loring Park this June.

Last year’s Shabbat morning service was the first time that there has been any sort of organized Jewish communal presence on Saturday of Pride because the J-Pride booth has always been dark on Saturday What was sort of the process of getting the buy-in to be able to do something that large of a scale for this year?

Rabbi Amy Ariel, who is a leader in the community and was one of the leaders of the service last year, she stepped up this year and she wanted to make it happen on the stage. I think that people are really hungry for it, and we’ve had really strong expressions that people want Jewish communal observational opportunities throughout the year. But Pride is a special time to do that really publicly.

How do you take some of the Pride activities that are going on this month and carry it through the rest of the year?

The bulk of our programming is from July through May, and then we have this blow-out celebration in June. But we do a lot of work throughout the course of the year where we host both social events and ways for people to get connected and build community. Not just happy hours but other kinds of social spaces where people can meet and connect. But then we also have space for Jewish. We held services during the High Holidays, we’ve done Shabbat services, and also we work with our Jews institutional partners throughout the Twin Cities to help them grow and be the best that they can be in being welcoming and inclusive. So really the bulk of our programming is the rest of the year and then in June we just kind of put the gas pedal all the way to go really hard for a couple of weeks with the rainbow.

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