On Saturday and Sunday, March 5 and 6, Keneseth Israel Congregation hosted Scott Fried, a motivational speaker and author, as its first scholar-in-residence of the year.
Fried spoke at KI after Shabbat services about his identity as a Jewish gay man. He recounted the history of the gay rights movement through gripping stories from his own life, including the painful stories of how he contracted the HIV virus and how he told his mom and dad about it.
Although the overall topics of Fried’s speech were about the LGBT movement and his own story as a gay Jewish man, his underlying message centered around the importance of finding your own self-worth, and finding people who will be loving towards you, no matter who you are. On Sunday, Fried met with parents at Louisville Beit Sefer Yachad (LBSY). His talk was entitled, “How to Have a Conversation with Your Teenager.” Fried revealed the secrets most teens would like to keep from their parents, giving detailed personal accounts of teens from around the world.
He offered specific ideas and techniques on communicating with a teenager through the often difficult time of adolescent angst and their experience as the newest members of the sexual community. Scott’s message was a gentle reminder of what every teen wants more than anything else: the tender presence of a loving other and permission to be whomever they are becoming.
That same afternoon, he visited the 8th, 9th, and 10th graders at the High School of Jewish Studies where he recounted his coming out story and related it to the sometimes painful and potentially destructive secrets that many teens have, and methods they use to survive adolescence.
His workshop taught them to embrace the difficult issues that arise as they grow to adulthood. “I’m here to remind you of what you intrinsically thought as little kids,” Fried said to them. “You are enough.”
Fried told the students that they need to be true to themselves. He said the moment we give ourselves the permission to be who we are, we become the person we want to be. If someone does not do that, then that person can never truly be happy with him/herself. He also mentioned how humans, by nature, have a lot of inconsistencies within themselves. “We don’t make sense. We are contradictions,” he said.
This scholar in residence weekend featuring Scott Fried was made possible in part by a generous grant from the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence. This grant enabled KI to bring in such a high caliber speaker and to invite everyone in the community to attend his talks at no cost.