Posted by Chanel Dubofsky
One weekend during high school, my mother, grandmother, a friend of mine, and I drove to Northampton, Massachusetts. Northampton is about 45 minutes from where I grew up, and yet until that weekend, I’d never been there, and was only marginally aware that it even existed. When I returned to school that Monday and reported my weekend adventures to a friend, she said, shocked, “Isn’t that where all the gay people live?”
I have no idea what my response was. I didn’t remember thinking Northampton seemed particulary anything, except for lovely and idyllic, an impression I would keep and return to when it came to choosing a college three years later. This visit happened before I’d really begun to think about sexuality in any deep way, but not before I had an understanding of feminism and began to use the word to characterize myself and my politics. I didn’t associate allyship with feminism, or with anything, really. I didn’t have the word, I only knew that this new town felt safe and inspiring, and that I had been looking for a place like it without being aware of it.
Years later, I still return to Northampton. It’s where my friends live, and the place that made me who I am, or created the space, at the very least, for me to start to become her. I think of that question often, though:“Isn’t that where all the gay people live?” In some ways, it was that question that started so many things going in my brain, including, what kind of question was that? So what if gay people lived there? (My friend seemed to not understand that there were gay people in our high school and also in our group of friends.) How was I supposed to feel about that? Did other people think I was gay if I went there? Should I be fearful of that? Why? What did it mean that I wasn’t?
I’ve been thinking a lot about allyship lately-namely that a lack of fear and the presence of ambivalence (“I don’t care what those people do,”) does not an ally make. What’s hard about the concept of allyship is the fact that it requires putting oneself in an uncomfortable position and why would you ever do that when you could remain safely ensconced in the world created and maintained by your own privilege? The answer is different for everyone, of course, who chooses to be an ally. The story of the town I’ve come to think of as mine, as the beginning of myself, is only the start of understanding my motivations. Without knowing the story, and without telling it, maintaining the momentum to work for justice is much harder.
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March 24, 2011 | 12:51 am
Posted by Tera Greene
I was just about to go to bed. I’ve been on a great 7 hours of sleep a night run with the help of a mentor.
Another mentor has been coaching me with my finances.
And a whole slue of mentors in my life, working together (though not all of them know each other - yet) are helping me to expand my comfort zone.
So, when I intended this week to expand myself by 2xs, I didn’t realize I’d get this task.
But, today is my day to post, and as I take a deep breath, I will just go with it and put my faith in the goodness of my heart.
In my micro-cosmic world, I am flying high. But in the macro-cosmic world, Liz Taylor has just died, Celebrities are unraveling, unrests are uprising and radioactive worlds are colliding.
And I check my email before bed to read the following:
Subject: “Fwd: Jew hatred on a Facebook page..IMPORTANT”
I received this message to forward:
A Facebook page was created calling for a 3rd “Intifada” on Israel.
For those unfamiliar with this term they are calling for the Arab world to take over Israel by force. The last Intifada resulted in 18 deadly terror bombings and hundreds of Israelis (both Jews and Arabs) maimed and murdered.
The number of people clicking on the “Like” button is increasing every hour (this evening they had 229,288 likes).
We MUST ensure Facebook is aware of this page.
Please click on the link below and scroll down the left side of the page where you will see (under where it shows how many people like it) a “Report Page” link. Select that option and choose “Contains hate speech”. There is also another one option - reporting violence and incitement to violence. FB might be more willing to look at that option.
If you don’t have a Facebook account, please forward this to others.”
As it is two minutes before my bedtime, all I can say is, do the right thing.
Love, Light and most importantly, Peace upon us all.
I’m not the bravest, but I damn sure was not raised to stand idly by.
I’m Expanding my Comfort Zone to Stop Hate…
Thank you for reading.
March 21, 2011 | 10:46 pm
Posted by Lia Mandelbaum
On March 1, I received a message from a dear friend, asking me if I would be interested in getting a part time job visiting Jewish inmates in jail and prison as a field rep and counselor. Although I had plans to be a full-time student, I wanted to apply because it would be an incredibly powerful experience. The more I thought about the possibility, the more passionate I felt about the potential of my experience. Over the past 4 years I have heard many fascinating stories and experiences from people who have been incarcerated.
Through my experience with Beit T’Shuvah I lived and worked with people who had been inmates, and had deep and meaningful relationships with them. The truth is that when I first moved into BTS I was judgmental and naïve. I thought in black and white and good and bad…they were bad. As I lived with them and heard their stories I came to see them as people and not just as criminals. They were Jews, non-Jews, junkies, doctors, sisters, brothers, thieves, gangsters, poets, sexual offenders, con artists, businesspeople and athletes. They were a collection of contradictions. They were pet lovers, abusive, hard working family people, deceitful, strung out, possessed by addiction, violent, kind, and sensitive. They were resentful, sorrowful, hateful, ashamed, lost, willing to change their ways, not willing to change their ways, humble and narcissistic. They lived in duality, but for them the dark side over powered them to the point of needing to be removed from society. Although my story does not involve incarceration, I related to many stories. I could see myself in them. Within their struggle to live decently, I observed and found them to be some of my greatest teachers.
For a long time I felt like a prisoner in my head. I felt trapped by a belief system that told me I was stupid, unlovable, bad and worthless. I was severely depressed, angry, lost and hopeless. I felt trapped in the closet, hiding my identity as a gay woman. There had been a period of about 7 months where I was so depressed that I struggled to process these thoughts. Each of these thoughts were like the bars in a jail cell. I didn’t believe that I could ever be joyful again.
I share these personal struggles with you to highlight how after hearing their stories, my interpretation is that many people who have been incarcerated go through similar emotions. I believe that it is important to be conscious of how every human being can relate to each others vulnerabilities on some level.
I imagined being trapped in my mind, while also incarcerated in a tiny cell and I couldn’t fathom it. You are forced to face yourself and the consequences of your actions every day. You don’t have the drugs to numb you or the rush from committing crime to distract you from facing yourself and your ghosts. It blew my mind that people could survive and remain sane through that experience. There are some people who still have access to drugs while in prison and don’t face themselves. They even get arrested over and over again never learning their lesson. They do not have the desire to change and are actually comfortable being locked up.
People who use jail and prison as a way to transform their lives to live as decent human beings can potentially be some of the most humble and grateful people, with a true appreciation and joy for life. They do not take their freedom for granted. I had become friends with a woman who had spent 23 years in prison for planning a crime that led to a murder. She actually believed she would spend her entire life in prison. Today, she is someone with more integrity and compassion then most people I know. She is another person who used the experience as transformation. I have a great sense of respect for people like her.
Learning to see the humanity and experience empathy with people who have struggled and were able to overcome their situations has been my most powerful lesson. I have not experienced the loss of someone close to me by the hands of a criminal. If I did, I can understand not wanting to see the humanity in that person, but I do know that the power of forgiveness is incredibly transforming and freeing. I’m sure that anger is like being trapped in a prison, and forgiveness can set you free.
I am not making light of any crimes, I just truly believe that seeing their humanity and understanding where they may be coming from is powerful. I have healed by understanding where I come from and why I may have acted out like I did. Most criminals have a history of abuse, neglect, or other traumatic experiences in childhood.
I have heard a story about a Rabbi, told by Harriet Rossetto, who is the founder and CEO of Beit T’Shuvah, which I would like to share with you. “There was a highly regarded and well-respected Rabbi who spent a lot of his time and found the most joy in talking and studying with people who were drunks, criminals and thieves. One day, a fellow townsperson went up to the Rabbi and said “ You’re such a wonderful and holy man, how could you possibly relate to these people. You’re nothing like them.” The Rabbi responded by saying “if I feel like I cannot see a part of them in myself, then I know that I am not looking deep enough”
Seeing the humanity in those who also struggle helps me to be able to see the humanity in myself. It is these profound lessons that make me want that job. I found out that I’m a candidate for the position and it makes me very happy. Whatever happens is meant to be.
March 15, 2011 | 10:55 pm
Posted by Kalil Cohen
Be the King, Be the Queen, Be Everything in-Between!
Purim Shabbat Dinner
“A Gender Bending Celebration”
(Participants of any sexual orientation, gender identity and faith are always welcome!)
Purim has a long history as a chance to explore “forbidden” persona, to embrace our shadow selves, to be free for an evening - free of social constraints, free of expectations, free of the normative culture. We are taking this tradition and applying it to gender, so come with a playful spirit.
Be the King, Be the Queen, Be Everything in-between!
Please RSVP by Thursday 3/17 to RSVP@JQInternational.org
You may choose from the following items:
A. 2 bottles of wine
B. An appetizer, side dish or salad
C. A $20 donation to JQ (to help cover the purchase of kosher entrees)
This event is sponsored by JQ’s Trans Inclusion Committee, and is open to people of all identities and backgrounds.
March 10, 2011 | 9:23 pm
Posted by Tera Greene
As many of you may know, there’s a contest going on to find - and fund - the Next Big Jewish Idea (http://www.thenextbigjewishidea.com) and fellow bloggers Kalil Cohen, Kadin Henningsen and myself have entered! There are so many great ideas, so we encourage you to view them all… and while you are at it, please also take a second to click the link below and vote for our idea, ‘GenToGen’:
Voting ends March 31st. Please vote and tell 5 others to do the same!About our Idea (in a nutshell):
GenToGen is a pluralistic and dynamic Artist initiative that provides the next generation of Jewish Artists and their peers with a way to make better their world through implementing systems to build community in both virtual and actual life. In order to create a paradigm that is sustainable, cooperative, easily duplicated and able to run, support and nurture a more permanent long-term Artist Communal Living Gathering, GenToGen’s focus is on gluing old and new ideals together alongside the strategic engagement of every generation via the Arts.
Through new and enterprising social media platforms, a live-performance/open-mic series, and two signature outreach and in-reach programs, namely the Veggie Bus Program and the GenToGen Mentorship Network, respectively, GenToGen is THE premiere Hub for Artists who understand the power and reach of the online global community as well as the importance of reaching out, and being reached out to, within their local community. Whether you are a writer, painter, singer-songwriter, rapper, composer, educator, activist, you name it, GenToGen is a vehicle for those dynamic and progressive individuals who approach life through a lens of the Arts and whom passionately feel that Art can - and will -repair the World.
Please make sure to join our FanPage with a ‘Like’ to stay up to date on how you can be involved: http://ow.ly/466f9.
Thank you for taking the time to read about our project!
Kalil, Tera and Kadin
March 5, 2011 | 7:56 pm
Posted by Lia Mandelbaum
For the past two months, I have been working with Craig Taubman, helping to put together the 6th annual “Let My People Sing” event, which this year, is called Ashkenafard. The theme of the festival is “Reuniting the Diaspora” which we hope to do by bringing together Jews from all over the world to celebrate hand in hand as one united people. It’s been amazing to witness how this creative process has manifested and how beautifully the Los Angeles Jewish community has come together to make the event possible. We would be honored for you to join us for this amazing event which includes concerts from more than 20 artists from all over the world, a “Top Chef” Charoset cook-off, a Jewish Artifacts Road Show, a variety of ethnic cuisines, a photography exhibition, and much, much more! Hope to see you there.
For more information and to purchase tickets please check out:
March 2, 2011 | 11:04 am
Posted by Naomi Goldberg
Do you donate to organizations about which you care? In Judaism, giving tzedakah (charitable contributions) is not something you do because you it makes you feel good or because you want to. Instead, it is a duty. But, how many of us take this duty seriously? It doesn’t have to be big bucks – what about $5 a month? That’s the cost of one latte at your favorite coffee shop.
Today, a new report released the Movement Advancement Project talks about the importance of donating to LGBT organizations which are fighting for the ability of LGBT people to live happy, healthy, successful lives.
Among the key findings of this report, which examines the financial health of the largest LGBT social justice organizations, is the shocking statistic that only 4% of LGBT Americans donate to LGBT organizations. How many of us donate to Jewish organizations or Jewish LGBT organizations or social justice organizations working to make the world a better place for any number of people – LGBT or not? How can we expect these organizations to carry on the fight for equal rights if we don’t financially support them?
Donating to LGBT organizations is a good investment – these organizations are highly efficient in their fundraising and program operations. They exceed the efficiency standards of both the American Institute of Philanthropy and the Better Business Bureau. An average of 79 cents of every dollar donated goes straight to programs and services. And, there are more than 550 LGBT nonprofits working in areas as diverse as HIV/AIDS, health care, community centers, arts, legal work, issue advocacy, general advocacy, federal work, state or local change, … the list goes on.
So, skip your coffee tomorrow morning, and make a donation. Every dollar is needed, and every dollar will continue the journey toward a more perfect world.