Posted by Tera Greene
On May 5th, 2011, I jumped at the sound of my grandpa calling my name. It only took one call of my name for me to leap from my bed at 7am.
But it took grandpa 5 hours hence to wake me up as he struggled to get to the bathroom, falling over and unable to walk because, as we’d find out later that day,
He was having his first major illness right before my eyes.
Now I know where I get my stubborn, “I don’t want to bother anyone to help me” attitude from.
This first day that changed my outlook on life - corrected it in many ways, I’d dare contend - came not 12 hours after I’d just met with a mentor and told her that I was feeling balance and that now that I was set on my career goals and entrepreneurial projects (90 Day Challenge, World DJ, GenToGen), I was ready to balance out the pendulum, the scale, and start dating and focusing on my family and personal life.
I guess it was truly time for me to focus on my personal life, but I didn’t mean to invoke a stroke upon my best friend.
Luckily, it was a mild one, but for the last 20 days, I’ve been thrust into taking the leadership in my family as the youngest surviving member in my bloodline whom inevitably stayed alive all these years so that I could participate fully in Beit Zekenim, the caring of the old… and not just any elder, but the the eldest surviving member in my family.
The one whom has supported me, consoled me after heartbreaks, fed, clothed and bathed me.
The one whom has given me unwavering security, more than I could ever imagine until I had to find out just how much security he’s been storing away for me in the ER room as I held his hand and told him that I had his back… And that everything would be OK.
All these years, I’ve been working hard to leave a legacy for my grandpa, so that I could pay respect to his life and legacy, and little did I know that he, too, had been thinking of the same for me. When time is of the essence, the truth comes out, that’s for certain. But, boy, does life have a funny way of presenting itself sometimes.
I am so thankful that my grandpa is my grandpa. We were made for each other.
And though I’m tired as all get all, everyday visiting him at the rehab center to see just how much of his right side of his body will come back to him after his temporary paralysis, I know that if the wind were to have been blowing differently (and believe me it has many, many times), Grandpa Greene would do the same for me.
And he has.
We spend so much time rippin’ and runnin’, and not stopping to see what is right in front of us. People forget to say thank you, to say I love you and to not be total buttheads, err, I mean selfish humans.
I spend so much time rippin’ and runnin’, carrying the load for others, checking in with others, caring for others’ pets and wrangling celebrities, worrying that no one would care for me in an emergency like this.
Oh, how our minds work! So silly. So… silly.
There is so much change in the wind. I feel loved, I feel supported. No, wait, scratch that, I am loved. I am supported.
I am precious.
There is so much change in the wind. The winds of change are whispering and nudging me gently along the lines of life though I am open and vulnerable and completely out of my comfort zone… about to head back to Israel for the second time after I set the intention last year to be back in a year.
Talk about timing. This time last year I was fretting about leaving him. And this time I have a total reason to. But, like then, I have to trust in my heart of hearts that if he were ever to need me, I’d be there. We seem to be connected like that. I laugh when I walk into the hospital and he’s all smiling bigly saying, “BOY! Right on the button! I was just thinking of you.”
That’s ‘cuz I’m always thinking of him, I think. Synchronicity don’t have no mistakes in its timing when love is in the atmosphere.
Grandpa will be OK. And, if nothing else, I have to remember to listen to the advice that I speak to him everyday:
“Don’t worry about a thing. Just take it day by day.” *gentle kiss on the head*
Update (May 25, 2011 9:35am PST): I just got a call from a case worker. Grandpa Greene will be coming home in a week! What a difference 12 hours seemingly makes. The next chapter awaits us all… Be kind to one another.
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April 28, 2011 | 1:07 pm
Posted by Chanel Dubofsky
In this latest dispatch from my brain, I’m thinking about appearance and power. A good friend of mine has been reporting getting harassed on her street a lot lately, and wondering it’s happening to her. In my head, there are two main themes in regard to this. The first is the power men claim and exercise over women’s bodies, in this case manifesting in cat calling, staring and shouting at women as they walk down the street. You are mine to be consumed, this says. Your body is not your own property and I can’t/won’t control myself, even for the three seconds in which you are passing me on the sidewalk, from reminding you of that.
The second piece is more formidable and complicated. Once, I was on the street with a friend of mine who, in my mind, is empirically beautiful. As we passed a group of men, they hollered, sucked their teeth, and leered. My friend ignored them and kept walking, and while I resisted my urge to turn and scream at them. At the same time, I thought, why aren’t they leering at me?
It’s disgusting, I know. Street harassment, or any harassment for that matter, isn’t about finding someone attractive, it’s about power. This trope, this weird, depressing longing, is such a great example of how women evaluate themselves via the gaze and attention of men. I’ve experienced quite a bit of harassment on the street, and every time it’s happened, I’ve wanted to run, sob, throw things, and scream. Once, in college, I got into an elevator in the library that had a group of men in it. They stared at each other, then me, and began to close in so that I would have been pinned against the wall of the elevator had the doors not opened on the next floor. As I ran down the stairs, I was not thinking, I’m so glad they found me attractive enough to possibly rape.
Women’s appearance and sexuality, like it or not, is for consumption, and the experience of being vulnerable to that consumption has been, for me, unnerving. It’s not solely based in the gaze of men, women have absorbed this power as well, although it manifests in a very different way. I’m thinking specifically to the way my sexuality is evaluated, as in, what sexuality people think I am because of what I am or am not wearing (my gender presentation, if you will). People are generally confused by me. I do not shave body hair. I wear lipstick and glasses. I like cardigans and Chuck Taylors and my hair, which is longish (and unwieldy, since I cut it myself) is usually pulled back. I wear the same pants day after day. I’m not skinny, or tall, and I have what my other Jewish female friends and I recognize as stereotypically large Jewish breasts. In other words, I dress so that I feel comfortable, and if I’m comfortable, I feel good, most of the time. I do not dress to impress men, which for most of my life, was not something I even thought was important, until I reached a certain age and consciousness.
Recently, I was at a gathering of Jewish radical feminists, folks who were involved in organizations like SNCC, Red Stockings, the Weathermen, New York Radical Feminists, and the Jane Collective. I thought about the ideas of these women as being dowdy, unkempt, and unattractive, how their work was often derided and minimized because they didn’t wear make up or dress up. Their energy was elsewhere, to be sure, but there was also most certainly a political agenda behind it, one that made the mainstream and patriarchy crazy. If, as a woman, you aren’t devoting at least a portion of your energy to getting and holding the attention of men, your heterosexuality is considered suspect. The question is, what’s at stake? Among many things, the ability to be our authentic selves while moving through the world with our safety and livelihood in tact.
April 20, 2011 | 12:59 pm
Posted by Lia Mandelbaum
I’ve started my first quarter at Cal State LA, and so far I feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be. I really like the energy on campus, the diversity amongst the students and the quality of teaching by my professors. One of my classes is PHI 327, Philosophy, Gender and Culture. We’re currently reading Anti-Semite and Jew: An Exploration of the Etiology of Hate by Jean-Paul Sartre. When I first started reading Sartre’s in depth analysis of the character traits found within the anti-Semite, I was becoming emotionally charged with anger, and felt a heavy pain in my chest. My head was spinning and I was struggling to absorb and process the material. Fortunately I was able to have a moment to step back and witness how powerful anger is. Anger can easily trap your mind and remove you from being aware of your surroundings. I realized that anger is like a drug, and in that moment I had to rip myself away from it. I knew that this was exactly the same drug that fuels Anti-Semites, but their dose is far more potent. In the same way that people escape themselves through drugs and alcohol, the anti-Semite escapes themselves through their hatred for Jews.
There is a line in the book that made me stop and think about how I would interpret it. Sartre says if the Jew did not exist, the anti-Semite would invent him. That line tells me that really, the anti-Semites hatred for Jews has nothing to do with Jews. It tells me that the anti-Semite needs someone outside of himself to use as means of forming an identity because without them they have no sense of self. They also use their hatred for Jews as a way to interpret history, economics, global relations, etc. Sartre also says “The anti-Semite is in the unhappy position of having a vital need for the very enemy he wishes to destroy.”
What stood out to me in my professor’s lecture today, was when he interpreted Sartre’s view of what a coward is, and then how he expanded on it. A coward exits the process of truth, rationality, politics and ethics, because they are running from themselves and what it means to exist. A rational person with an allegiance to the truth, passionately wants to understand the world and recognizes that there are many things they don’t know. They are open to understanding when their interpretations are actually wrong, flawed or could be a lot stronger. Understanding the world is a never-ending process that lasts until the day you die.
I was thinking about how I could apply these lessons to Passover, and I found that the life of the anti-Semite could easily be related towards the theme of the exodus from slavery in Egypt. My best defense against anti-Semitism is by not living like those who are trapped by hatred and a delusional sense of self and the world around them. I must make the obligation everyday to make an exodus from any beliefs I have that may trap me and detach me from my dignity, essence, truth, integrity and G-d. Also, the anti-Semite feeds off of people’s anger towards them, and I do not want to give them that gratification. I must be the rational person with an allegiance to the truth, and interpret the world around me with educated eyes. Confucius said, “Among truly educated persons there is no discrimination.”
I give my gratitude to Cal State University for helping me to make my exodus by providing me with a powerful space where I can continue to grow into the best person I can be.
April 18, 2011 | 9:47 am
Posted by Naomi Goldberg
The “It Gets Better” campaign has spurred videos from presidents, rock stars, and companies around the world.
Check out this moving video from a group of gay orthodox Jews.
April 17, 2011 | 2:42 pm
Posted by Janelle Eagle
I’m a Jew and I’m a lesbian. Many of the people who read my blogs and connect with me via social media would perhaps feel unsurprised at the idea that I want equal rights and I want them now. The majority of them agree with me or they wouldn’t be in my network in the first place. But twice this past week, I was knocked off my chair with the brave choices that two people made, when they declared themselves allies to the Queer community - those who stand by in support, despite their apparent differences. Those whose networks wouldn’t assume that they want equal rights for me.
As Jews, we are regularly reminded of the tenant, “If I am not for myself, who will be.” And that is no less true when these two individuals spoke out. These two people risked their audience’s devotion and support by choosing to come out as a STRAIGHT and RELIGIOUS ally on the side of the Queer community. I want to use my monthly “Oy Gay” entry as an opportunity to introduce you to them…
The first of the two was a surprise announcement called “I now support full marriage equality” by Louis J. Marinelli. This gem of a media-mogul lead a 2010 nationwide tour of the “National Organization for Marriage (NOM),” a fervent opposer of Marriage Equality and fearfully powerful voice of propaganda that influenced much of the anti-equality votes that took place in the 2008-2010 elections across many states. His sudden and direct change of heart is quite powerful, especially if you once again consider his audience. While I appreciate Mr. Marinelli’s U-turn, I can’t help but worry that the damage he has caused to date has set us far back in our quest for equality. Alas, thank you Marinelli for being brave, now I hope you’ll work to undo all the pain that you caused.
Marinelli’s already gotten too much attention in the media. Instead of focusing on him, I’d like to introduce the Jewish Queer community to a Christian friend of mine (and yours!) whom I deeply respect, named Shannon Jarrell-Ivey. I saw a post come up in my facebook feed recently about Shannon’s upcoming foray into blogging on “A Hollywood Republican,” a site dedicated to “Opinions and commentary from Republicans in the entertainment industry.” She was going to be blogging, as a CONSERVATIVE and RELIGIOUS Christian, about the topic of GAY MARRIAGE. “Uh Oh,” I thought to myself. Was this another one of my indirect connections on facebook that I was swiftly going to have to delete?
And then I realized that she was asking for support from both her gay and Christian friends for talking points, ideas from both sides of the argument, and a frame with which to approach this divisive topic. Shannon was studying. Mind you, she’d already come to her own opinion that the LGBT community deserved equal rights, but was stumbling through how to work an argument in favor of removing the term “marriage” from the conversation. She wanted to bring important historical and biblical references in, voices from both sides, and most importantly, enter into a space that certainly was not guaranteed to welcome her POV. I wondered if she knew what she was getting herself into.
Shannon wrote her article in two parts:
The First Part is called “For the Love of Gay” and gives an in-depth look at how Christianity (loosely defined) judges homosexuality, where the conflicts are in the bible, and an account of Shannon’s own personal journey to come to the conclusion that Gay men and women should have the same rights that she and her husband do.
The commentary on her first piece is fraught with messages and responses that make me cringe. One particular woman named Mary says some of the most close-minded and horrible things that I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard quite a few. However, the conversation is also full of Conservative Christians and regular visitors to the site who voice their support of Shannon’s stance. They talk about their own journey to acceptance and a desire to reverse the trend of teen suicide for Queer Youth.
I am incredibly proud of Shannon for choosing to use her platform for such a brave choice. Despite multiple personal attacks and repeated attempts to tell her she “wasn’t Christian enough,” Shannon stayed strong, responded to each comment, and even followed through with writing her Second Blog subtitled “Mawwiage” (a reference to one of my favorite movies of all time, The Princess Bride), in which she directly addressed the issue of Marriage as a religious institution vs. a matter of legal declaration.
Many of the same arguments that Shannon made are applicable to the Jewish community. I hope that within our tribe, many more conservative Jews will be brave like Shannon and stand with those of us who long to stay loyal to our faith and our G-d and don’t want to be excluded from the Passover table, if you will.
I say “bravo!” and THANK YOU, Shannon. We won’t win this battle without brave allies like yourself willing to stand up and redefine this issue not as simply a “gay issue” that only the LGBT community is affected by. We are ALL affected by this issue and all have to stand up for one another when we are victims of injustice.
March 28, 2011 | 9:00 pm
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.
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.