Philly Faces: Meet the Next Dr. Ruth

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Galia Godel
Galia Godel (Photo by Jenn Alford)

The Forward described her as “a kind of next-gen Dr. Ruth” while the Philadelphia Gay News called her “the sex educator you wish you invited to seder.”

Galia Godel, 28, succeeded Phoenix Schneider in 2018 as the LGBTQ initiative program manager at Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Greater Philadelphia. There, she organizes LGBTQ workshops and events like the “Transgender and Jewish: Conversations for a Changing Community” panel. Godel also leads the JFCS initiative J.Proud, a consortium of 32 Jewish schools, synagogues and institutions committed to supporting LGBTQ-inclusive programs and resources.

Godel, who identifies as queer, is a member of Kol Tzedek. She grew up in Cheltenham and is the granddaughter of Rabbi Simeon Maslin, who led Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park and was president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

Godel earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Temple University and a master’s degree in human sexuality education from Widener University. Outside of work, Godel operates a consultancy service under the name Cerebral Sexuality, conducting workshops with titles like “Communication in BDSM Relationships,” “Sexual Pleasure 101” and “Transgender Basics for Human Service Professionals.”

How did you get into LGBTQ advising and consulting?

It honestly started as a social project in that I lead the LGBTQ Havurah at Kol Tzedek. I realized how rewarding it was to provide support, both for the LGBTQ folks in my congregation and for the nonqueer folks that were struggling or needed more information or needed some support with being good community members.

One of the nice things about Kol Tzedek is that it’s a very, very queer-inclusive congregation. Our rabbi is trans, half the congregation is queer in some way, and so the people who aren’t are, like, there for it — they just don’t always know how. And when I realized that was such a rewarding line of work and saw that a job could exist from that, it was very exciting to me.

What is something you want the local Jewish community to know about LGBTQ people?

You can’t just say, “We like LGBTQ people, come on in.” There’s work that needs to be done to make sure those community members feel included and welcomed. Any Jewish organization that wants to improve their LGBTQ inclusion or just wants to provide more support for its members or wants to get involved with LGBTQ causes should think about joining J.Proud.

From a synagogue that has a thousand members to a project with three staff members working on it, all Jewish organizations are welcome to join in the community working toward LGBTQ Jewish inclusion.

How has Judaism influenced your work and life?

I identify as a queer Jew, and those identities are not separate from each other at all. The way that I practice my Judaism is queerly, and the way that I am queer is Jewishly. A lot of my practices, through Judaism, are with a focus that relationships and gender are not all the same, and my relationship with God can be different than someone else’s relationship with God.

My Jewish practice is always going to be deliberately inclusive and that my Jewish values inform my queer values. All of the things that I strive to do as an ethical person in this world is because of my Jewish values and because of my existence as a queer person.

[email protected]; 215-832-0751

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