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.
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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.
July 9, 2010 | 4:37 am
Posted by Tera Greene
The best part about knowing Israelis is that, despite all the drama they have to deal with, they keep a great sense of humor in life. One of my fellow Taglit-Birthright Israel trip-mates forwarded this to our group, and I just wanted to repost. Read the article. Think what you wish. But know that Israel is the best place in the world to feel free, in my opinion.
The article can be found in it’s original post here, and I’ve posted the first paragraphs below:
Dancing soldiers to star in educational video
Commander of ‘dancing’ brigade summons two officers involved in controversial video, tasks them with making educational video against similar incident in future
Published: 07.07.10, 23:17 / Israel News
The dance that rocked the net will get a sequel. Colonel Amir Abulafia, commander of the Benjamin Brigade, summoned on Wednesday two of the soldiers who participated in the IDF dance video, which was uploaded onto YouTube and became an instant hit worldwide.
Abulafia told the two squad commanders that they did not act appropriately by participating in the video while donning their uniform, armor and weapon – but because their behavior did not display any moral flaws, he decided to give them an educational assignment.
The two will star in an educational IDF video that will attempt to prevent similar incidents in the future…
Read entire article here
July 9, 2010 | 12:13 am
Posted by Sasha Perry
This came from LGBTQ Nation. Link follows.
“Gay rights advocates scored a major victory in federal court today, as a U.S. District Court judge in Boston struck down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law that defines marriage as a legal union exclusively between one man and one woman.”
The court’s reasoning?
“...the passage of DOMA marks the first time that the federal government has ever attempted to legislatively mandate a uniform federal definition of marriage–or any other core concept of domestic relations, for that matter.
Congress undertook this classification for the one purpose that lies entirely outside of legislative bounds, to disadvantage a group of which it disapproves. And such a classification, the Constitution clearly will not permit.”
Well said, in my opinion.
You can read the whole article here
As well as get pdf files to both rulings in the cases.
July 8, 2010 | 9:21 am
Posted by Naomi Goldberg
Thoughts? I sometimes wonder why Rabbi Greenberg stays some place (in Orthodox Judaism), when it objects to so many things about him, especially when other movements of Judaism are much more understanding and welcoming of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and (sometimes) transgender Jews.
July 8, 2010 | 3:04 am
Posted by Tera Greene
This past weekend, I spent 30 hours over three days celebrating my own personal Independence holiday, taking out my dreads that were five years in the making. It was freeing, it was necessary, and my hair is so beautiful. I feel like it was the coda in the symphony of precious years hence, wherein I have made so much progress, but have also felt as though my life was too effected by energies that, in hindsight, were probably not the best energies for my pure heart and soul. Taking out my dreads has truly been a blessing. As I am exactly four months away from turning 27 years old - G-D Willing - I also feel my blessing has to do with owning my Womanhood, which includes my visible Queerness, my unique Black experience, and my Judaism-by-Choiceness.
But shedding my dreads has also had me thinking about one poignant aspect of the latter:
I am NOT a “Wandering Jew”.
I used to think I am, and then the last couple of days since taking out my dreads Hashem directed me to really think - really think - about what the term “Wandering Jew” means, and how it relates to me. Or not.
So, I began researching…
From Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, wandering is defined as such:
Main Entry: wandering
Date: before 12th century
: characterized by aimless, slow, or pointless movement: as a : that winds or meanders b : not keeping a rational or sensible course : vagrant c : nomadic
d of a plant : having long runners or tendrils
v. wan·dered, wan·der·ing, wan·ders
1. To move about without a definite destination or purpose.
2. To go by an indirect route or at no set pace; amble: wander toward town.
3. To proceed in an irregular course; meander.
4. To go astray: wander from the path of righteousness.
5. To lose clarity or coherence of thought or expression.
To wander across or through: wander the forests and fields.
The act or an instance of wandering; a stroll.
Now, I don’t mind a leisure stroll, especially on Shabbas, and especially with someone you love; and being human, I lose my train of thought at times. By the same token, I am quite nomadic in nature. But, I am someone who knows what she wants, knows how to manifest what she wants because of clear mind and a direct-line to Hashem, and my direct course of action may change because life happens. Things change.
I kept researching…
There’s a Brazilian Wandering Spider, a Wandering Jew Plant [common name for several creeping plants of the genus Tradescantia (including Zebrina ) in the spiderwort family. T. pendula is most commonly cultivated in window boxes and hanging pots. Wandering jew is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Liliopsida, order Commelinales, family Commelinaceae; The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition | 2008], and “wandering” is a term for those with dementia/alzheimers [It is common for a person with dementia to wander and become lost; many do repeatedly. In fact, over 60 percent of those with dementia will wander at some point]. There’s even a blogger and website called Wandering Chopsticks, which is home to Vietnamese recipes.
In every aspect, wandering deals with creeping, irregularity, no purpose, confusion, and that’s quite unlike who I am.
I’m terrified of spiders, I love plants and chopsticks, but wandering? Nah…
In the most negative sense, the “Wandering Jew” has most grossly been depicted in the German Nazi propaganda film, The Eternal Jew (1940), an antisemitic “documentary” with the title in German, Der ewige Jude, which is the term for the character of the “Wandering Jew” in medieval, and Christian, folklore. (Wikipedia - Eternal Jew)
Why would anyone want to take on a term that was once depicted in such a slanted and skewed form? Why would anyone consider themselves a wanderer, in any sense? Spiders, plants and chopsticks wander, and the falsification of a group of Human Beings wander… What good does it do to brand ourselves with such terms that are not positive, not progressive in nature?
Which brings me to the ideals of “Wandering Jew” as it applies to folklore. I recall hearing once the story of where the term came from. The story was that of a local citizen of Jerusalem watching Jesus heading to be crucified who saw Jesus get tired on his home wall, and the local told Jesus to basically keep steppin’... and Jesus retorted back to the local to also keep steppin’... (and I paraphrase) “for all of eternity on Earth” until Jesus came back ‘round (people call it the 2nd coming).
Now, I don’t know about you, but a) why would a Jew call themselves a term that had to deal with the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ (though, yes, Jesus was a Jew) and b) even if you thought he was coming back - hypothetically - is not that a Christian view based on the New Testament? I don’t know everything, but being a Jew, to me, has nothing to do with the New Testament. More over, I personally don’t believe that G-D is a punishing G-D, and though oftentimes I have gotten fed up with people and their selfishness and wanted to become a hermit, I don’t honestly believe that me or any Jew, or any person, is condemned to being a hermit, left to wander aimlessly.
I do, however, believe that my role as a Jew is to go out and be of action. To be focused and to BE who I am and question things, lead and be of good example. To live! To be a light source. I found an article recently that was quite fascinating, found on Aish.com, which at the end stated:
As we embark on the various journeys that create the tapestry of our lives, it is important to remain focused on the exciting goals we are moving towards. In that way, with God’s help, we will find the strength and courage to stand up to the myriad of challenges life may present.
I’m not asking you to deal with G-D how I relate to G-D, nor do I believe that all who wander are lost. Oftentimes wandering is healthy while you hone what it is you want in, and out, of life, and sometimes questioning your relationship to and with G-D is also healthy. But just to wander aimlessly, or to adapt a life of going hither and thither with no direction at all, not knowing an inclination of what one wants in life, even slightly, is not only disruptive to those around you, but it can be dangerous to one’s self, especially in the case of dementia. To wander, and to be a “Wandering Jew”, are terms that I am finding are offensive and backwards, archaic even, like the usage of the word “Gyp” to define when one has been shortchanged; or “Lame”, a term used by many - especially teens - when something is not cool. Sure, we get thrown off course sometimes, and life happens totally not how we expect, but to cut ourselves short by labeling ourselves with terms that are not beneficial? Well, that’s just not cool.
So, as I am being more apt to my sincere expression of my Womanhood, and challenging terms that I have even considered myself at one time, I behoove us all to rethink how we define our Being. I mean, what’s in a name? Instead of wandering, how about living life with intention, purpose and the vulnerability and humbleness of knowing that life can change on a dime, and that we are not perfect. We owe it to ourselves as a Peoplehood to do our best and move forward with focus and faith. I owe it to myself as someone whose completeness, her Shalomness, is comprised of four major categories of minority groups to live without fear, but with a full grasp of clarity of vision, because wandering can only dilute my identity more than what history has tried to do already.
I repeat: I believe in the adage “not all who wander are lost”. But I also firmly believe that we people whom may consider ourselves as wandering may just have a lovely case of wanderlust, with spirits bursting with an energy and need to travel. And that, my friends, is fine by me and so much better.
July 7, 2010 | 3:18 pm
Posted by Janelle Eagle
Jewish LGBT Leaders Meet, But Can’t Yet Find a Vision Shared by All
By Jo Ellen Green Kaiser
Published June 30, 2010, issue of July 09, 2010.
Berkeley, Calif. — A social justice activist from Oakland, Calif. A party planner from New York. The leader of a small havurah in Detroit. These were some of the 93 people who were invited to Berkeley, Calif., to help build a more cohesive movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Jews.
This first-ever gathering, held in late June, had lofty goals. Funded primarily by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, with support from the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, the aim was to “forge a strategic vision to inspire and guide our actions over the next three years.”
The four national Jewish LGBT organizations that created the gathering had already done some moving on their own, merging into two. In May, the National Union of Jewish LGBTQ Students merged with Nehirim, which offers retreats and Jewish spiritual programming. In June, Jewish Mosaic, with its focus on research and education, merged with Keshet, an advocacy organization for LGBT inclusion in Jewish life.
The incentive for all the groups to arrive at a shared vision was in the room: The primary funders of this work would prefer to be solicited from fewer organizations with a common agenda. That did not happen. After days of wide-ranging discussions, organizers Gregg Drinkwater and Idit Klein hoped participants would be able to articulate common goals in one final four-hour session. Instead, the conversation broke down, as many participants expressed a need for more time to build relationships. But time had run out.
The idea that four organizations that had never before met face to face would emerge from a three-day event with a common vision and full-fledged action plan proved optimistic, and spoke to the inexperience of the organizers in building a movement (as opposed to building an organization or campaign). That doesn’t mean, however, that the convening failed. In fact, in its most important work — relationship building — it succeeded.
For those not familiar with the Jewish LGBT community, two days may have seemed plenty of time to pull together a common vision. In many Jewish communities across the United States, these Jews are invisible. And where they are not, they often are, or feel, excluded. Calling for inclusion and visibility is a baseline that all activists share.
Mordechai Levovitz, who is now co-executive director of the Orthodox group Jewish Queer Youth — which he founded 10 years ago when he was 21 — explained: “The organizations that exist today would have saved me a lot of tears [as a gay Orthodox teen]. We need more resources for [visibility] funding for Orthodox kids.”
Judy Lewis came to the convening from Detroit, where she helps run a LGBT havurah. For her, as for many of the participants from the middle of the country, just being at the convening was “empowering.”
Janelle Eagle of Los Angeles’s transdenominational LGBT organization, JQ International, agreed that the convening offered “a unique collaborative moment.” She spoke for many who had been working in this area for some time and felt that, “finally we are not fighting to say this is important. We don’t have to defend what we do. We can just dream.”
To dream in unison, however, organizations and leaders must first share a collective framework and sense of identity.
Noach Dzmura, leader of the first national organization for Jewish transpeople, Jewish Transitions, felt his own difference. “We are not an alphabet soup. Our distinctive values need to be articulated and heard. The ways a gay man, a lesbian, a transman, a transwoman or a genderqueer approach Jewish life and living are different. We can work together, but we are distinct.”
The same feeling was expressed by some of the Orthodox participants, who face a different set of challenges from those in secular and progressive Jewish communities. Miryam Kabakov, a founder of New York OrthoDykes and editor of the recently published anthology “Keep Your Wives Away From Them,” said that talking about a global Jewish LGBT movement makes no more sense than talking about a “Jewish” movement. “What we do need,” she said, “is an umbrella, a place to talk, a network.”
One point of tension at the convening was between leaders of programs and leaders of institutions. From her pulpit at the world’s largest LGBT synagogue, New York’s Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum was not sure that the convening was asking the right sorts of questions. “I think it would be a mistake to look for a single collective LGBT Jewish identity. Collaborative work, coalition-building work, is great, but I don’t think there should be a one size fits all,” she said.
The groundwork was laid for that kind of collaborative work: In the last session, participants pledged to work with at least three other leaders to share information, ideas and resources.
Those who have done this before point out that the convening was a critical first step toward a Jewish LGBT movement. Jeremy Burton, an observer from Jewish Funds for Justice, pointed out that movement building begins when different parties “see the intersections” between themselves. Likewise, Rabbi Joshua Lesser of Atlanta’s Congregation Bet Haverim pointed out that the first task for any movement is “to develop a common language to understand what our common identity could be.”
The national organizations took more than a year to determine their strategic direction, including the decision to merge. For someone like Keshet’s Klein, whose lifework is to devise a strategy for the Jewish LGBT world, the vision is clear. She wants to see “a clear and understood and valued and validated place for all LGBT organizations… a day when we will have a Jewish community that will [recognize] all of us as having an equally valued place in the community.”
Other organizations and leaders have just begun down that path, however, and the voices of elders and activists who are not currently organizational leaders have yet to be heard.
Funders might want a common agenda, but that might not be what the LGBT organizations themselves need at this point. Organizational consultant Beth Zemsky was more direct. “Don’t do it,” she told the convening. “Funders want a consistent agenda, and they want to know which players are doing what. Don’t do that. Does the Jewish community in general have a unified agenda? No!”
July 7, 2010 | 7:52 am
Posted by Brandon Gellis
Well, my mother does anyhow. In this, my first effort as a Jewish, gay, 30-year-old blogger, does it really come as any surprise that I begin this exodus writing about my mother?
But, enough about my mom, we’ll get back to her soon enough, trust me. My name is Brandon and my hubby and I moved to Laramie, Wyoming in the summer of 2005. As few people know Laramie for the 1895 imprisonment of Butch Cassidy and more for the 1998 brutal slaying of Matthew Shepard, this move did not come without reservations. Going back, as a frosh in college I remember thinking, “Wow, I could never live in a place like that,” especially after growing up in L.A. Jump forward seven years, and low and behold Mark, said hubby, and I both embarked on an adventure to the Wild West that has served far more interesting than we ever could have anticipated.
Laramie is a really nice place to live. Its very family oriented, educated, you wouldn’t believe the year-round outdoor sports, and while I believe it is very libertarian, the town, the University, and the community have made great strides to overcome the atrocities of 1998 and in Matthew’s memory, are constantly working more towards acceptance and expanding civil liberties. More to come on Laramie later.
Getting back to my nickname “One Jew.” Upon announcing our move to Laramie, or the Wild West as I may refer to it from time-to-time, my mother in her Jewish motherly wisdom announced, “But you’ll be the only Jew there…” To which my brother graciously added, “…and gay. Oy!” And, so began my mother’s attempts to not so passively convince Mark it was about time to convert.
To be honest, I am not the only Jew in Laramie, or the only gay Jew. Living in Laramie has opening up my eyes to the realization, that as you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, one shouldn’t judge a whole community but the acts of a few select individuals. And, believe it or not, my mom really likes Laramie, so it must have some things going for it.
More to come from One Jew and Laramie soon. If there is anything you’d like to know, just let it out.