Posted by Chanel Dubofsky
When I’m in Israel, I photograph graffiti- the political, the religious, the secular, the confusing, the desperate, manic scribblings on mailboxes and bus stops. A lot of it is new, some endures from years ago, like “homo=ill.”
I’m not surprised to see it, its Jerusalem, after all. Since I’ve been here, Anat Hoffman has been arrested for carrying a sefer Torah across the Kotel plaza. The other day, when a friend offered to teach me how to wrap tefillin, she told me for our own safety, it was better to do it behind closed doors in her apartment. At the same time as I’m desperately sad to leave, I’m finding myself frustrated by this city in a way I don’t remember before. Where are the progressives, the radical lefties? Where are the secular change makers? What would I do if I lived here? Who would be my people?
This Saturday marks the 1 year anniversary of the attack on the Tel Aviv Gay and Lesbian Association in which 2 people died and 13 were injured. It will be commemorated with a march and a unique dialogue-Israelis will travel to Berlin to meet with folks from a German gay youth center to hear one another’s stories, and strategize around protecting queer communities.
Tomorrow is also Jerusalem Pride. The strangeness of these two events happening in the same week is remarkable, the anniversary of a hate crime and a celebration of pride and strength. My flight from Israel to the States leaves just in time for me to miss Jerusalem Pride, and for that, I feel enormous regret. I want to be marching, I want to be part of building a better Jerusalem. I want new graffiti.
11.30.13 at 3:33 am | A little more Self during the holidays can go a. . .
10.30.13 at 1:26 pm | Oy Gay will be regularly updated starting in. . .
7.26.13 at 1:56 am | July 27th - 4th Annual Nat'l Dance Day. . .
7.9.13 at 10:16 pm | I recently contributed a piece to the Jewish. . .
6.5.13 at 11:48 am | LA Pride Kicks off with the Purple Party June 7. . .
2.17.13 at 10:04 am | Registration for the May 2013 trip is NOW OPEN!. . .
7.23.10 at 12:09 pm | "our obligation [is] to treat human beings with. . . (46)
11.30.13 at 3:33 am | A little more Self during the holidays can go a. . . (22)
7.17.12 at 10:05 pm | Each and every day, with open eyes, we can. . . (8)
July 23, 2010 | 12:09 pm
Posted by Janelle Eagle
Statement of Principles on the Place of Jews with a
Homosexual Orientation in Our Community
For the last six months a number of Orthodox rabbis and educators have been preparing a statement of principles on the place of our brothers and sisters in our community who have a homosexual orientation.
The original draft was prepared by Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot. It was then commented upon by and revised based on the input from dozens of talmidei chachamim, educators, communal rabbis, mental health professionals and a number of individuals in our community who are homosexual in orientation.
Significant revisions were made based upon the input of Rabbi Aryeh Klapper and Rabbi Yitzchak Blau who were intimately involved in the process of editing and improving the document during the last three months.
The statement below is a consensus document arrived at after hundreds of hours of discussion,debate and editing. At the bottom, is the initial cohort of signators.
If you are an Orthodox rabbi, educator, or mental health professional and would like to add your signature to the current list, please send a short e-mail to:
firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, address, cell phone number, and professional affiliation.
Statement of Principles on the Place of Jews with a
Homosexual Orientation in Our Community
We, the undersigned Orthodox rabbis, rashei yeshiva, ramim, Jewish educators and communal leaders affirm the following principles with regard to the place of Jews with a homosexual orientation in our community:
1. All human beings are created in the image of God and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect (kevod haberiyot). Every Jew is obligated to fulfill the entire range of mitzvot between person and person in relation to persons who are homosexual or have feelings of same sex attraction. Embarrassing, harassing or demeaning someone with a homosexual orientation or same-sex attraction is a violation of Torah prohibitions that embody the deepest values of Judaism.
2. The question of whether sexual orientation is primarily genetic, or rather environmentally generated, is irrelevant to our obligation to treat human beings with same-sex attractions and orientations with dignity and respect.
3. Halakhah sees heterosexual marriage as the ideal model and sole legitimate outlet for human sexual expression. The sensitivity and understanding we properly express for human beings with other sexual orientations does not diminish our commitment to that principle.
4. Halakhic Judaism views all male and female same-sex sexual interactions as prohibited. The question of whether sexual orientation is primarily genetic, or rather environmentally generated, is irrelevant to this prohibition. While halakha categorizes various homosexual acts with different degrees of severity and opprobrium, including toeivah, this does not in any way imply that lesser acts are permitted. But it is critical to emphasize that halakha only prohibits homosexual acts; it does not prohibit orientation or feelings of same-sex attraction, and nothing in the Torah devalues the human beings who struggle with them. (We do not here address the issue of hirhurei aveirah, a halakhic category that goes beyond mere feelings and applies to all forms of sexuality and requires precise halakhic definition.)
5. Whatever the origin or cause of homosexual orientation, many individuals believe that for most people this orientation cannot be changed. Others believe that for most people it is a matter of free will. Similarly, while some mental health professionals and rabbis in the community strongly believe in the efficacy of “change therapies”, most of the mental health community, many rabbis, and most people with a homosexual orientation feel that some of these therapies are either ineffective or potentially damaging psychologically for many patients.
We affirm the religious right of those with a homosexual orientation to reject
therapeutic approaches they reasonably see as useless or dangerous.
6. Jews with a homosexual orientation who live in the Orthodox community confront serious emotional, communal and psychological challenges that cause them and their families great pain and suffering. For example, homosexual orientation may greatly increase the risk of suicide among teenagers in our community. Rabbis and communities need to be sensitive and empathetic to that reality. Rabbis and mental health professionals must provide responsible and ethical assistance to congregants and clients dealing with those human challenges.
7. Jews struggling to live their lives in accordance with halakhic values need and deserve our support. Accordingly, we believe that the decision as to whether to be open about one’s sexual orientation should be left to such individuals, who should consider their own needs and those of the community. We are opposed on ethical and moral grounds to both the “outing” of individuals who want to remain private and to coercing those who desire to be open about their orientation to keep it hidden.
8. Accordingly, Jews with homosexual orientations or same sex-attractions should be welcomed as full members of the synagogue and school community. As appropriate with regard to gender and lineage, they should participate and count ritually, be eligible for ritual synagogue honors, and generally be treated in the same fashion and under the same halakhic and hashkafic framework as any other member of the synagogue they join. Conversely, they must accept and fulfill all the responsibilities of such membership, including those generated by communal norms or broad Jewish principles that go beyond formal halakhah.
We do not here address what synagogues should do about accepting members
who are openly practicing homosexuals and/or living with a same-sex partner.
Each synagogue together with its rabbi must establish its own standard with
regard to membership for open violators of halakha.
Those standards should be applied fairly and objectively.
9. Halakha articulates very exacting criteria and standards of eligibility for particular religious offices, such as officially appointed cantor during the year or baal tefillah on the High Holidays. Among the most important of those criteria is that the entire congregation must be fully comfortable with having that person serve as its representative. This legitimately prevents even the most admirable individuals, who are otherwise perfectly fit halakhically, from serving in those roles. It is the responsibility of the lay and rabbinic leadership in each individual community to determine eligibility for those offices in line with those principles, the importance of maintaining communal harmony, and the unique context of its community culture.
10. Jews with a homosexual orientation or same sex attraction, even if they engage in same sex interactions, should be encouraged to fulfill mitzvot to the best of their ability. All Jews are challenged to fulfill mitzvot to the best of their ability, and the attitude of “all or nothing” was not the traditional approach adopted by the majority of halakhic thinkers and poskim throughout the ages.
11. Halakhic Judaism cannot give its blessing and imprimatur to Jewish religious
same-sex commitment ceremonies and weddings, and halakhic values proscribe individuals and communities from encouraging practices that grant religious legitimacy to gay marriage and couplehood. But communities should display sensitivity, acceptance and full embrace of the adopted or biological children of homosexually active Jews in the synagogue and school setting, and we encourage parents and family of homosexually partnered Jews to make every effort to maintain harmonious family relations and connections.
12. Jews who have an exclusively homosexual orientation should, under most circumstances, not be encouraged to marry someone of the other gender, as
this can lead to great tragedy, unrequited love, shame, dishonesty and ruined
lives. They should be directed to contribute to Jewish and general society in
other meaningful ways. Any such person who is planning to marry someone of
the opposite gender is halakhically and ethically required to fully inform their
potential spouse of their sexual orientation.
We hope and pray that by sharing these thoughts we will help the Orthodox
community to fully live out its commitment to the principles and values of
Torah and Halakha as practiced and cherished by the children of Abraham, who
our sages teach us are recognized by the qualities of being rahamanim
(merciful), bayshanim (modest), and gomelei hasadim
engaging in acts of loving-kindness).
(as of 7/23/10)
Rabbi Yosef Adler
Rabbi Elisha Anscelovits
Rabbi Hayyim Angel
Rabbi Marc Angel
Rabbi Maurice Appelbaum
Mrs. Nechama Goldman Barash
Rabbi Avi Baumol
Rabbi Dr. Shalom Berger
Rabbi Dr. Joshua Berman
Rabbi Todd Berman
Dr. David Bernstein
Rabbi David Bigman
Rabbi Yitzchak Blau
Dr. Erica Brown
Rabbi Yuval Cherlow
Rabbi Mark Dratch
Rabbi Ira Ebbin
Rabbi Rafi Eis
Mrs. Atara Eis
Rabbi Yitzhak Etshalom
Rabbi Dr. Shaul (Seth) Farber
Ms. Rachel Feingold
Rabbi Jeffrey Fox
Rabbi Aaron Frank
Rabbi Aharon Frazier
Rabbi Avidan Freedman
Rabbi Shmuel Goldin
Rabbi Mark Gottlieb
Rabbi Barry Gelman
Rabbi Benjamin Greenberg
Rabbi Zvi Grumet
Rabbi Alan Haber
Dr. Aviad Hacohen
Rabbi Tully Harcsztark
Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot
Rabbi Josh Hess
Dr. Daniel Kahn
Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky
Rabbi Jay Kellman
Rabbi Aryeh Klapper
Mrs. Judy Klitsner
Rabbi Shmuel Klitsner
Rabbi Jeff Kobrin
Dr. Aaron Koller
Rabbi Barry Kornblau
Dr. Meesh Hammer Kossoy
Rabbi Binny Krauss
Mrs. Esther Krauss
Rabbi Dr. Benny Lau
Rabbi Zvi Leshem
Rabbi Dr. Martin Lockshin
Rabbi Dr. Haskel Lookstein
Rabbi Asher Lopatin
Rabbi Chaim Marder
Rabbi Dr. Adam Mintz
Rabbi Jonathan Morgenstern
Rabbi Dr. Yaacov Nagen (Genack)
Mrs. C.B. Neugroschl
Rabbi Yossi Pollak
Dr. Caroline Pyser
Rabbi Daniel Reifman
Rabbi Avi Robinson
Rabii Chaim Sacknovitz
Rabbi Jeremy Savitsky
Rabbi Noam Shapiro
Rabbi Yehuda Seif
Rabbi Adam Schier
Ms. Lisa Schlaff
Rabbi Yehuda Septimus
Rabbi Yair Silverman
Rabbi Adam Starr
Rabbi Chaim Strauchler
Rabbi Yehuda Sussman
Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner
Rabbi Jacob Traub
Rabbi Zach Truboff
Mrs. Dara Unterberg
Rabbi Michael Unterberg
Rabbi Dr. Avie Walfish
Dr. Dina Weiner
Ms. Sara Weinerman
Rabbi David Wolkenfeld
Rabbi Elie Weinstock
Rabbi Alan Yuter
Dr. Yael Ziegler
Rabbi Dr. Stuart Zweiter
July 22, 2010 | 4:59 pm
Posted by Tera Greene
I don’t know if you guys have been keeping up with the new bill that is being proposed by the Ultra-Orthodox Shas party that will basically deny the right of a convert to make Aliyah (return back to Israel/Citizenship), but it really has me thinking of how sad it is that anyone feels they have the right to deny people so blatantly, causing rifts and unnecessary schisms amongst humans. True, I believe in screening people to insure they have the best interests of your home and Person at heart (I mean, I don’t just let anyone come into my abode), but I also subscribe to the adage of doing unto others as you’d want them to do unto you (I paraphrase The Golden Rule).
I look back at just how many rules of denying identity could be applied to me if they were still in effect - and some are -, and if this law were to pass, well, here’s what I’d have to offer in life, as a 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd class citizen:
As a woman, I’d definitely not be able to vote, and true to form, we still don’t have complete equal rights (and even less depending where you are in the world), but I most-certainly would only be able to be a housemaid of some sort, with no schooling or option of schooling. Just having babies, no matter how cute I think they are, would drive me crazy. Beyonce and her army of Independent Women wouldn’t last a day…
But, before being considered a woman, I’d just be Black. Never mind I have Irish and Native American blood; I’d be a slave and certainly still wouldn’t be able to vote. As someone who has worked for the Census in 2000 and 2010, when it came to the enumeration process way back when, if I were lucky, I’d maybe be part of the 3/5th of the population who were able to be counted. Yes, contrary to belief, the Constitution did not define slaves as 3/5ths of a person; instead, it counted them as 3/5ths toward representation to straddle the lines between those that wanted to count slaves as full people, and those who wanted nothing to do with a slave being represented. (The three-fifths compromise is found in Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the US Constitution). I’m curious if this was ever amended to reflect a full 100% of the population needed to be represented (though, many Blacks choose not to be counted anyway).
And what of being a homosexual? Currently Canada, The Netherlands (Holland), Belgium, Portugal, Iceland, Spain, South Africa, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, Mexico, Argentina are the only places you can legally get married as a gay individual. And there are other places that will at least recognize same sex couples, including the UK, Germany, Norway, Iceland, and Israel. I’ve purposely left out California, though I live here now, because come November, if marijuana passes it’s legality of rights, I’ll be really perturbed that a dang plant has more acknowledgement that me in this state called Cali. And I’m a vegetarian, for pete’s sake, with funny hair and the last name of Greene! Joking aside, and outside of the idea of subscribing to the institution marriage, as a homosexual, there are still utter bigots who kill, bludgeon and bully LGBTQ individuals, no matter their age, status or religious/spiritual views and practices.
So, how much more identity denying could there possibly be, you ask? Well, as a convert, with Israel’s new bill, I would be denied a place to live that I feel is so beautiful and so my vibe, if I were to choose to want to make Aliyah one day (and I’ve thought of it). It’s offensive on so many levels, starting with the foundations of Judaism resting upon G-d, Torah and Israel. Torah, specifically, you have the whole entire Book of Ruth, but more basically, Jews were the first to proselytize for Converts. (See also Genesis 12.5 in the Tanakh, “..., and the persons that they had acquired in Haran”, which speaks of the people they had acquired, which means converted; and Book of Ruth 1.14, “,... and your G-d, my G-d”, which tells of how back in day, all you had to profess was that the ethical monotheistic One G-d was your G-d to be accepted into the fold).
Biblical scriptures aside, in a nutshell, I’m just tired of being Denied, even if it’s just an attempt to do so that never comes to fruition. Though, history has proven that denying a People their rights somehow finds its way to light, and I ponder When will history stop repeating itself?. It’s as ridiculous to hear anyone try to say someone can not do or Be within the Jewish sect, as it is to hear that Christians follow the Commandments, because even before we get into the act of breaking the laws, the majority don’t even acknowledge the first one: “I the Lord and your G-d who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage…” (Exodus 20.1). When it’s a denying from the people that are of your own Tribe or family, it’s a big slap in the face, especially when many of those people who this specific law would not apply to were born Jewish, but don’t follow traditions, and don’t even prescribe to the foundations of Judaism, even in part. I have a lot to offer, and all these laws that we create upon each other just to feel so Big and Powerful and therefore alienate the people who will help us grow and live in longevity within our microcosm of communities and larger global society as a whole, cause me a pain in my stomach. True, not everyone will invite you to their table, and you can always be bold to invite yourself; but what’s the point of being pro anything that doesn’t want to recognize you and/or the things you contribute to its well-being as a Peoplehood? I’m not saying I’ll definitely want to live in Israel, but it’s a thought, and with this bill, I feel saddened that I could possibly be denied, yet again, simply because humans have become so Power-mongering that they forget the simple, yet more powerful might of The Golden Rule.
July 19, 2010 | 5:13 pm
Posted by Naomi Goldberg
Counting is an important concept for Jews. We count the Omer in the lead-up to Shavuot. In Numbers, the Israelites are commanded to conduct a census. As someone who does a lot of number crunching as her day job, I’m intrigued by the counting we can (and cannot) do of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities.
The most frequently asked question I get is, “How many gay (or lesbian, or bisexual, or transgender) people are there?” And, unfortunately, it isn’t an easy question to answer. Very few surveys ask about sexual orientation and even fewer ask about gender identity. Much of the counting we do comes to the US Census, which only lets us identify same-sex couples who live together. From those figures, there are about half a million same-sex couples in the US. Another survey tells us that about 4.1% of the adult population identifies at LGB – so that’s about 9 million people. And there are no good statistics about the number of transgender people in the US.
What about Jews? Anecdotally, it seems like a lot of Jews identify as LGBT. As my mom says of my own hometown and the stories the other Jewish moms tell about their LGBT kids, “There must have been something in the water!” Los Angeles has had as many as two LGBT temples and several LGBT Jewish organizations. What does the data say about The Tribe and how queer we really are?
Fortunately for someone like me who loves data, there’s a big survey that comes in handy in answering this question. The General Social Survey asks Americans lots of questions – including questions about sexual orientation and religion. In 2008, 12.6% of Jewish respondents identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. That is nearly 7.5 times as many Protestants and more than 8 times as many Catholics.
The General Social Survey can’t tell us why higher numbers of Jews identify as LGBT.
Is that Jews who identify as LGBT don’t feel as alienated from their faith as those raised in Catholic or Muslim homes, so LGBT Jews are more likely to continue to identify as Jewish instead of running from religion? Perhaps.
It is that LGBT identified non-Jews see the affirming aspects of Judaism and become Jews-by-Choice? Perhaps.
But, the “why” isn’t as important as the “how.”
How can we make the Jewish community as welcoming and affirming of LGBT Jews as possible? How can such Jews feel valued? How can we ensure that LGBT Jews feel counted?
July 19, 2010 | 3:48 am
Posted by Maital Guttman
Contrary to popular belief?
By BARRY DAVIS
In an ideal world, sexuality should be a private matter, says Bat Kol’s press officer Talya Lev. But to alleviate the hostility religious lesbians face, the group provides support.
The religious-secular divide in this country is well documented and continues to be a painful, and sometimes violent, flashpoint for many Jews in Israel and, to an extent, in the Diaspora. But there are also some deep rifts within the religious community that many find irreconcilable.
Out religious lesbians may sound like a contradiction in terms, but according to 27-year-old, American-born Talya Lev, there are hundreds of Orthodox women who have come out of the closet and many more who have yet to come out and are afraid to do so. Lev has been a member of the Bat Kol religious lesbian organization, founded in 2005, for two years and now acts as its press officer. The English language information on the organization’s Web site (www.bat-kol.org) declares that Bat Kol was established “to allow women to fulfill both their religious and lesbian identity; to make it possible for women to live in loving relationships, to raise children without deception but nevertheless stay committed to their religion.”
“Bat Kol is an amazing organization,” says Lev. “Its mission is to create a supportive community and a framework of mutual trust so that religious lesbians and their families can live fulfilling lives without having to compromise either their religious identity or their sexual identity.”
That, of course, is generally easier said than done. Ask most conventional religious Jews about their opinion of same-sex relationships, let alone families where both parents are women, and their response would include some eyebrow raising and total objection to even discussing the matter. A couple of years ago Channel 1 ran a report about lesbians in the haredi community, which talked about threats by husbands and other members of the family and violent opposition within the community.
Lev is, of course, aware of the fierce objection to lesbianism among religious Jews but says she does not see any contradiction between her sexual preference and her faith. “This is the way God made me,” she states, “and I wouldn’t presume to get into halachic issues of what is considered to be wrong or right. I believe God loves me for what I am, as I am.”
Lev adds that although she has certainly had her struggles – both with her family and others around her – she has had some positive experiences, too. “A few years ago I lived with a lesbian partner and we had religious people come over to our house on Shabbat. My partner would make Kiddush on Friday night, and I would do it on Shabbat morning. We never encountered any problems with other religious people.”
But many have felt trapped, and the apparent impasse has led to tragic consequences. “Last year at the gay pride parade in Jerusalem, Bat Kol had a stand. I was at the stand when I saw a young woman looking over in our direction, looking distressed. When I asked what was wrong, she said she had a religious friend who was a lesbian who had committed suicide and that if Bat Kol had existed back then, her friend might still be alive.”
At her own confession, Lev would rather not be doing what she does today for the organization, not because she doesn’t believe in it – quite the contrary. “In an ideal world, my sexuality should be my own private matter. Straight people don’t have to come out and declare they’re straight, do they? But I obviously recognize the need to provide religious lesbians with support and counseling. They need to know they are not alone in this world and that it’s OK to be both a lesbian and religious and, yes, they can have their own families. That is such a central issue in the Jewish world, and there is absolutely no reason for a religious woman, because of her sexuality, to have to sacrifice that part of her life.”
Any new organization, especially one that operates within an often hostile environment, needs funding, and that has been a problem for Bat Kol since its founding five years ago. However, now there appears to be a light at the end of that tunnel. The organization recently received financial assistance from the ROI Community for Young Jewish Innovators, created by philanthropist Lynn Schusterman. According to Lev, the money is very important to Bat Kol, but recognition by such a prestigious foundation is equally encouraging.
Bat Kol, says Lev, is trying its utmost to spread the word about homosexuality to allay fears and, indeed, homophobic tendencies among members of the general public. “Part of our aim is to educate people. There are organizations today that are trying to educate teachers or schools to remove all this misinformation about what homosexuality is. I think ignorance is a big cause of homophobia. Bat Kol doesn’t go out to schools, but there are other organizations, such as IGY [Israel Gay Youth organization], that do.”
Lev says her first encounter with Bat Kol was an uplifting and enlightening experience. “I had been wrestling with my own struggles before – I don’t want to get into my family background – and when I went to my first Bat Kol Shabbaton [weekend], I was blown away. There were around 200 religious women there, of all ages and backgrounds, and there were even kids there! I found that incredible, to see religious lesbians bringing up their own families. I suddenly felt I was no longer on my own. There was someone there I could talk to, people who shared the same views and had the same issues. Bat Kol has social events, we learn Torah together, and there is counseling too, and on-line support.”
Today, Lev says much effort is being channeled into getting the word about Bat Kol and religious lesbianism out to the world via the media and the Web.
“The Internet is a very important tool, which allows religious lesbians to look for and get help anonymously before they are ready to come out. We are also looking to connect with other Jewish religious lesbian groups and communities around the world. I am part of the new Bat Kol International initiative which is working on that, and also on engaging rabbis in dialogue. That is also very important.”
The organization’s dialogue endeavor stretches far and wide. “We are looking to share dialogue with people and parties that may not be empathetic toward us. I believe that when you get to know someone as a person, you can get past all those taboos and preconceptions.”
In addition to the ROI grant, Bat Kol is gaining ground. “The organization has grown exponentially since 2005,” says Lev. “We have over 200 members now, which is unheard of considering how terrified most girls are in the religious community to come out of the closet. So when you have an organization at your back, you start to think, ‘I don’t have to be so afraid anymore, and there are others just like me.’ I was also scared and in the closet. I had no idea what to do. We’re making progress.”
July 14, 2010 | 11:57 am
Posted by Kalil Cohen
While I was dealing with understanding and accepting myself as a transgender man, and going through the process of transitioning socially and medically, I didn’t place much importance on my Jewish identity. Although it had always been central in my life growing up, coming out was such an all-consuming process that finding trans spaces and a trans community took precedence over my need for Jewish spaces and communities for several years.
I was also worried that there would be no way of integrating a Jewish and trans identity and consigned myself to only identifying as trans, and giving up my Jewish identity.
As I became more comfortable with myself as a trans person and completed all the major changes I plan on making to my body and my life, however, I was once again interested in finding Jewish community. I feel extremely lucky that as a Jew in the United States, there are many Jewish communities that are explicitly LGBT friendly, and there is so much trans Jewish visibility that I had a trans rabbi officiate at my wedding, I have a community of trans Jewish peers and mentors, and I have access to trans Jewish art.
As an artist myself, I have found that seeking out trans Jewish art has been an important part of integrating my trans and Jewish identities in a way that feels meaningful. One of my favorite trans Jewish artists is Athens Boys Choir. Although it sounds like a large group, it is actually one Jewish transman spoken word artist and musician. In one of his most poignant pieces, Mourner’s Prayer, is on his latest album, Bar Mitzvah Superhits of the 80s 90s and Today. In Mourner’s Prayer Athens Boys Choir weaves together the words of the Kaddish with a rumination on transitioning. In the piece he is mourning the divisions in trans communities between those people who choose to or have the option to medically transition and those who cannot or do not choose to alter their bodies through surgeries or hormones. As a trans Jew, his music is particularly relevant to my own experiences, many of his cultural references being familiar and comforting.
Read more about Mourner’s Prayer here: http://newyork.timeout.com/articles/gay/52351/athens-boys-choir
Mourner’s Prayer is released on Trans-Fusions 2, an awesome compilation CD of tracks by 18 trans musicians. Check it out here: http://trans-genre.net/content/trans-genre-compilation-cd-ii/
Full disclosure – I also have a track on this album, You Don’t Really Know Me by Metahuman
July 12, 2010 | 1:12 pm
Posted by Lia Mandelbaum
For the longest time I was searching for the “perfect relationship.” She would be my soul mate and my better half. I would finally feel complete. Seeking out relationships based on these set of ideals, I found myself getting involved in lustful relationships that would eventually leave me feeling empty. I would get over the initial high of the relationship, and would begin to realize that there was not as deep of a connection between myself and the other person as I had thought. In reality, I didn’t even know them as well as I thought I did. Sometimes the relationship would seem to exist only within my mind and the reality of the situation was different from what I had initially believed. This was a form of insanity for me, and I repeated the same patterns over and over each time expecting the outcome to be different. Although I may sound as if I believe my story is unique, I know that this sort of romanticizing is quite common. Between the movies people see, the television we watch, and the books people read, we have been given some pretty unhealthy ideals of what love is.
When I hear someone speak of their partner as their “better half” it does not sound right to me. A healthy, loving relationship is when two whole individuals come together, not when people are looking for someone else to complete them. It took me a while to realize this truth. I had come to a place in my life where I was able to recognize my pattern with unhealthy relationships and see that this was making my life unmanageable. I decided that I was going take a break from relationships for a while, get healthy, and spend some time working on myself. I struggled with old behaviors, but managed to push through them. One of my favorite quotes by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel that has become my mantra is “Self-respect it the fruit of discipline; the sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no oneself.” I spent the next 11 months getting to know and respect myself. I was striving to become a dignified woman who no longer yearned for outside distractions to fill the void I felt inside.
At the end of the eleven months I had begun to transform into a much more stable and self-confident person, and was blessed to find a healthy relationship. I could not have the relationship that I have today with myself or anyone else, without having gone through the hard work I did to become a healthier woman. I have learned that love is not a feeling. It is an action. My loving actions help support my partner and we encourage each other to continue to strive to be our highest selves, even if that means that we grow apart. If I treated my love as a feeling, I would stay in the fear of losing her and would eventually find myself acting in the non-dignified ways that had trapped me for so long. We are all creative, dynamic, ever-expanding souls whose nature is to grow, and we must embrace this. As a complete person who is no longer looking for someone else to complete me, I have an obligation to act in healthy and loving ways towards others and myself.
July 11, 2010 | 3:02 pm
Posted by Chanel Dubofsky
On the hike to Tel Dan, I lose it. “That’s so gay,” my student says, turning around to his friend to make sure he hears. We’ve been on this Birthright trip for maybe four days, and this word is already quite popular. It can apparently refer to anything: food, one’s personality, the entire Israeli Navy. This time, though, there aren’t 38 people around so the word can get lost in the crowd, there’s no closed hotel room door to serve as a buffer. There’s just me, and him, and my stark, raving madness.
“Seriously,” I say, my hands making awkward, twitchy gestures, “We are not using that word anymore on this trip.” He looked surprised. “I’m sorry if it makes you upset,” he says. “I won’t do it around you.” “That’s not the point,” I tell him. In my memory, my voice is particulary shrill. “You shouldn’t use it at all.” “My brother is gay,” he says. “He and his friends call each other faggots all the time.”
In my arsenal of thoughts about this includes commentary on internalized oppression, reclamation, homophobia, etc, but nothing I could translate into anything that didn’t sound like theory gobble-ty gook. So I just said, “It doesn’t make it okay for you to say it. You’re implying that being gay is bad.”
We floated away from each other, and I continued to flaggelate myself for the rest of the day. I remain sure that I could have handled it better. I could have taken a deep breath first, I could have processed it more quietly and productively with him. The only thing I could think of was, this has to stop. I can’t let this go on, this is what’s wrong with the world-people don’t stop bad things when they see them happening. People are too scared to confront each other. People like me.
He apologized to me, by the way, later that week on Shabbat. My co staff and I decided this was a victory-he’d thought about it and realized that something was wrong. I still don’t know what the impact was on the rest of our group, on the people who had come out earlier in the week, who probably heard him and others saying things like that, who sat next to him on the bus and shared a room with him.
I’m not generous enough sometimes. I’m too busy being angry to recognize that people can change. For a moment on that hike, I contemplated doing nothing because I didn’t think I could do the right thing, the perfect, life altering thing. I worry that this fear of screwing up, of confrontation, is going to stand between me and opportunities for change in the future. There’s so much tied up in that package: gender, stigma, the challenge of meeting someone where they’re at while trying to impact them. These are all things we can be taught to deal with in a Jewish context, and that we have to be taught, because in the insane, heteronormative world of Judaism, incidents like what I’ve described will happen again and again.As one of my favorite colleagues likes to say, there is no such thing as a missed opportunity.