Rachael Fried, 36, is the executive director of Jewish Queer Youth, a nonprofit that supports and empowers LGBTQ youth with a focus on those from Orthodox, Hasidic and Sephardic/Mizrahi homes. Under Fried’s leadership, the formerly volunteer-run organization has grown to a professional one with a team of seven salaried employees, a drop-in center in Times Square, and an operating budget of $1.5 million. “Many Orthodox schools are not willing to have official clubs or community-building types of groups that are LGBTQ-related,” the Yeshiva University alum, who lives in Washington Heights, told the New York Jewish Week last year. “We have become the ‘Official, Unofficial Pride Club’ for them.”
For the full list of this year’s “36ers” — which honors leaders, entrepreneurs and changemakers who are making a difference in New York’s Jewish community — click here.
Who is your New York Jewish hero?
All of the people who came before me! I stand on the shoulders of giants and I am only able to do this work now because of countless people — some of whom I know, and some of whom remain anonymous to me — who did this work before me. Working in and with the queer Jewish community used to be even more controversial than it is today and I am grateful to the people who fought for change regardless of whether it was considered acceptable or not.
What’s a fun/surprising fact about you?
A graphic I designed was once featured on “Weekend Update” on “Saturday Night Live.”
How does your Jewish identity or experience influence your work?
I wholeheartedly believe that I was put on this earth to create colorful resources for individuals who might otherwise fall through the cracks, especially queer youth from Orthodox homes. I believe it is our communal responsibility to make life better, even if just a little bit, for those who need it — and then to find those people and actually do it.
Do you have a favorite inspiring quote?
There’s a quote from Desmond Tutu that I heard recently and it resonated deeply with me: “We need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”
What is your favorite place to eat Jewish food in New York?
Any kosher restaurant that serves pizza and sushi at once
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Anything else you’d like us and our readers to know about you?
If I won the lottery and came into some free time, I would do the exact same thing I am doing today… but with more breaks in between for board games with my people.
How can people follow you online?
@therachfried on Instagram
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