Established in 2004, JQ is the premiere LGBTQ+ Jewish organization in Los Angeles. JQ celebrates the lives of LGBTQ+ Jews and their allies by transforming Jewish communities and ensuring inclusion through community building, educational programs, and support and wellness services, promoting the healthy integration of LGBTQ+ and Jewish identities. JQ envisions a world where all LGBTQ+ Jews feel a strong sense of self, pride, and community – a place where LGBTQ+ Jews and their allies are supported by communities that embrace their needs and celebrate their unique gifts.
Our work is focused in three primary categories: community building, educational programs, and support services, creating a joyful and healthy future for individuals to connect through transformative and engaging programs, learn together to become inclusive and embracing allies, and thrive from seeking life-saving emotional and spiritual support.
JQ’s community programs offer the opportunity to connect with other LGBTQ+ Jews and allies through Shabbat dinners, holiday celebrations, and other identity enriching activities, providing a unique space for vulnerability and peer-to-peer connection, all while combating adversity, promoting leadership, and celebrating queer Jewish life.
JQ works with secular and Jewish organizations to become more welcoming and inclusive of people representing all gender identities and sexual orientations. JQ’s educational programs help organizations understand and address the needs of their LGBTQ+ and ally members through customized workshops and trainings.
JQ’s Helpline, support groups, and wellness programs provide competent and affirming resources and referrals, supporting individuals and families struggling with sexuality and gender identity, spirituality, food insecurity, and even facing homelessness. The JQ Helpline is the first resource and support line in the U.S. dedicated to serving LGBTQ+ Jews and their allies.
Chief Executive Officer and Founder
Asher Gellis, MBA, founder and CEO of JQ International earned a BA in Political Theory from UCLA and an MBA from Pepperdine University. Prior to launching JQ International in 2004, Asher served as the Regional Director for Hadassah’s Young Judaea in California, Nevada, and Hawaii. He created curriculum for the Bureau of Jewish Education in Los Angeles, and guided teen scholastic Israel tours. As JQ’s first and only ED, over the years, Asher has launched dozens of groundbreaking LGBTQ Jewish programs and services in Los Angeles affecting thousands of lives and steering the Jewish Community towards LGBTQ inclusion for generations to come. In recent years Asher was an inaugural member for the PresenTenseLA Fellowship, American Jewish World Service Global Justice Fellowship, and Eighteen:22; the global think tank of LGBTQ and ally Jewish visionaries. Currently, Asher serves on the Community Advisory Board of Southern California Media Group (PBS SoCal).
Chief Development Officer
Shana Gee-Cohen serves as JQ's first-ever Chief Development Officer. Before JQ, Shana was Bend the Arc: Jewish Action’s Major Gift Officer and has worked in the nonprofit Jewish community since 2011. Shana’s experience in fundraising is grounded in the belief that communities with wealth and privilege are accountable to transform their resources and power for systemic change. Shana believes in shifting the root causes of inequality through racial and economic justice and queer liberation.
A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Shana earned her Master’s in Social Policy and Practice and her BSW from Temple University, focusing on healthcare access for LGBTQ+ individuals. She lives in Thousand Oaks with her spouse, Beck, two fur babies, and never enough plants! She is a triple earth sign, a queer zoftig Jewitch, with an unwavering commitment to intersectional feminism and intentional community building.
Director of Community Programs
Jay Nemanpour is a proud member of the Persian Jewish community in Los Angeles. He received his BA in Jewish Studies from UCLA and his MA in Jewish Nonprofit Management from Hebrew Union College. Jay is also a Nachshon Project Graduate Fellow of The Legacy Heritage Foundation. At JQ International, Jay is the Director of Community Programs working closely with community members and partner institutions to expand the reach and impact of JQ International's crucial and life-saving work.
JQ Executive Assistant & Volunteer Manager
Sidney Anne Harrison (She/Her) is a mixed-race nerd and ally who was born and raised in Los Angeles. After graduating from NYU's Gallatin School of Individualized Studies, Sidney spent her early twenties traveling and working several jobs in administration and education, including teaching abroad in South Korea. Now that she's a little older and a little more settled, Sidney is excited to start working with JQ and supporting the valuable work of the organization's mission because she is passionate about community program creation and support services, for underserved populations.
Sidney's hobbies usually fall under two categories: nerdy or outdoorsy. She enjoys playing video games and board games, watching horror movies, hiking, spending quiet time at the beach or in a forest, and, of course, reading every book she can get her hands on. She's also a newly dedicated yogi and hopes to continue writing creative fiction and nonfiction in her spare time. She is thrilled to become a part of the JQ International team and to start working with them to provide resources and create equitable, affirming spaces for the Jewish LGBTQ+ community!
Director of Support & Wellness
Digital Marketing Coordinator
Anna Goodman graduated with a bachelor's degree in media and communications from Ohio University in 2011, and has since worked in a variety of fields ranging from event production and development, media and graphic design, to sales and customer care. With a passion for activism and the LGBTQ+ community, Anna has taken her Jewish identity, queer identity, and career experience to JQ to bring awareness and safe, affirming spaces to all LGBTQ+ Jews. You can also find her performing on stage as her alter ego /Drag King identity, Dandy Frank, as well as hosting various lesbian and queer events for young adults throughout Los Angeles.
Director of Finance
Helpline & Support Group Clinical Supervisor
License No. LCSW 23095
Mastaneh Moghadam, LCSW., is the co-founder and executive director of the non-profit organization, Cross-Cultural Expressions, in Encino, CA. Mastaneh has worked with the Iranian LGBTQ community for over 15 years, providing therapy to Iranian Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender individuals and their families. In January of 2015 Mastaneh started “We Do Care: Iranian American Parents of LGBTQ” support, advocacy and leadership groups. In July of 2017 Mastaneh collaborated with Raha International in establishing the Iranian- American LGBTQ support and leadership groups. In 2016, Mastaneh was hon- ored with the JQ International Inspiration Award for bringing the Persian LGBTQ community into the forefront, while giving a voice and support to Per- sian parents of LGBTQ children. In 2018, CCE was awarded a contract from Los Angeles Department of Mental Health to conduct a year long campaign focus- ing on reducing stigma's and providing education on LGBTQ issues within the Iranian community of Los Angeles.
Jordan Held, LCSW
Support Group Facilitator
Jordan Held MSW, MS (he/him/his) is a Clinical Social Worker at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles in the Center for Trans Youth Health and Development. As a queer identified, transgender man, Jordan brings a dual perspective to the needs and realities of the trans community.
Transgender and Nonbinary Support Group Facilitator
Registered Associate Marriage and Family Therapist
Employed by JQ International
Supervised by Mastaneh Moghadam,
License No. LCSW 23095
Michael (they/them) received their MA in clinical psychology at Antioch University. They are from Oakland, California, and graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 2007 with concentrations in child psychology and theater. Michael is passionate about Jewish education and speaking out about gender issues, and leads youth groups through a program called Moving Traditions, as well as support and community groups through JQ International. They are also a published author of three books, including one titled, All The Feelings.
JQ BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Todd Shotz, a long-time member of JQ and JQ’s current Board Chair. He is a film producer and the creator of Hebrew Helpers a national B’nai Mitzvah education service. Todd has served on many start-up and second tier non profit boards.
Neil Spears serves as Executive Director of the Silverlake Independent Jewish Community Center after eight years as Regional and Executive Director at Power MyLearning. Neil has a BA from University of California San Diego and a Master of Education from Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Amy Elizabeth Alterman (MPH) is a PhD candidate in Culture and Performance. Working at the nexus of performance studies, gender studies, anthropology, and public health, she applies feminist and performance theory to current sexual and reproductive health problems. Based on two years of ethnographic research, her dissertation analyzes the obstacles, resiliencies, and support networks associated with independent abortion clinics in the United States—spotlighting the Abortion Access Front comedy show as an arts-based public health intervention. Her work has been published in Contraception, The Journal of Adolescent Health, and other publications.
Deborah Engel Kollin is an educator and parent of a queer young adult (now college student who was active in JQ’s Teen JQSA program.) Her passion for JQ lies in her desire to make the most inclusive Jewish community possible to ensure her child is embraced as an LGBTQ+ Jew. Deb is the Relationship Manager for the Miller Introduction to Judaism Program at American Jewish University and was the Director of Operations of the Rabbi Jacob Pressman Academy of Temple Beth Am for 12 years.
Jonathan Epstein is an entertainment publicist with a focus on film theatrical, series launch and awards strategy campaigns. He began his career in the NY office of Strategy PR/Consulting, working on Oscar winning films such as David Fincher’s THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, Ben Affleck’s ARGO, and Richard Linklater’s BOYHOOD.
After a stint in the publicity departments of The Weinstein Company and Lionsgate’s NY offices, Jonathan made his way to LA and back to Strategy PR/Consulting, where he currently helps spearhead campaigns on behalf of all of the agency’s clients. His latest campaigns include films such as Ryan Coogler’s BLACK PANTHER, Quentin Tarantino’s ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD and Paul Thomas Anderson’s PHANTOM THREAD, in addition to streaming series such as Disney +’s WANDAVISION, Hulu’s THE HANDMAID’S TALE and Apple TV+’s TED LASSO.
Murray Levin is a CPA and CFO in the nonprofit sector. Murray is a longtime member of the JQ community and has over 35 years of experience in financial planning and accounting.
Meir Kojman is a Building Performance Engineer, working for a multi-national, multi-disciplinary engineering consultancy firm. Meir gained a Master of Engineering degree in Architectural Engineering from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, where he lived for five years. On making Los Angeles his home in early 2018, Meir began attending JQ events, and is passionately involved in the organization.
Nate Looney is Avodah’s Manager of Racial Justice Initiatives, leading diversity strategies at Avodah, focusing on Jews of Color. He previously served as Avodah’s JOC Recruiter. Nate is also the CEO and Owner of Westside Urban Gardens, an urban agricultural company based in Los Angeles, CA. Nate is an AJU alum, entrepreneur, strategist, US Army Veteran, and Urban Farmer. Nate joined the US Army National Guard in 2003. After Bootcamp, Nate relocated to New Orleans, where he was both a military police soldier and a full-time college transfer student at Dillard University, an HBCU. Nate was part of rescue efforts during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and deployed to Iraq in 2008. Nate decided to leave the Army to finish his college education and begin his gender transition. In 2015, Nate graduated with his B.A. in Business from American Jewish University.
Alisha Pedowitz (she/her) has worked for over 20 years in the field of Jewish education, engagement, and community building. In her professional life, she has seen over and over again the importance of JQ’s work in building a more vibrant and inclusive Jewish community. In her personal life, both she and her family have participated in and been impacted by many of JQ’s programs. Alisha is currently the Director of Teen Education at Moving Traditions, an organization that educates and supports Jewish teens across North America at the intersection of Jewish identity, adolescent development, feminism, and resisting sexist gender norms and other forms of discrimination. She has proudly served on the JQ Board of Directors since 2021.
Henry Platt oversees emerging talent at Warner Music Group’s Theatrical Division. He is a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where he majored in English and minored in Jazz and Popular Music. Originally hailing from Los Angeles, Henry served as the music director for Counterparts A Cappella, a pop/jazz group at UPenn, and served as a representative on the inaugural Student Wellness Advisory Group at Upenn. Along with being a singer and musician, Henry is a proud member of the LGBTQ and Jewish communities and dedicates time to advocacy and awareness for mental wellness. Henry lives in NYC
JQ was established in 2004, by CEO and Founder, Asher Gellis. Asher, like many other queer Jews felt split at the root when having to choose between being his full Jewish self and his gay self. 2004 was a time when queer Jews were not talked about in Jewish life, and marriage equality was a decade away. Gay-Straight alliances rarely existed, and queer teens had to be closeted to participate in Jewish youth groups.
Today, JQ celebrates and strengthens queer Jewish life through community building, educational programs, and support services creating a joyful and healthy future for LGBTQ+ Jews and their loved ones. JQ works for a world where all LGBTQ+ Jews and their allies can connect, learn, and thrive.
JQ is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to celebrate and strengthen queer Jewish life through community building, educational programs, and support services creating a joyful and healthy future for LGBTQ+ Jews and their loved ones.
© 2018 JQ International. All Rights Reserved.