Posts filed under ‘Building Queer Jewish Community’

Eshel Shabbaton: A Weekend of Spirituality and Community for Frum Gay Jews


Tirtzah is proud to be a part of Eshel, which will be hosting it’s first Orthodox LGBT community Shabbaton this January.

Eshel welcomes gay and lesbian traditional Jews to join us for this first-ever shabbaton, being held January 21-23 at the Isabella Freedman Retreat Center, two hours from New York City.   The Shabbaton will bring together Orthodox gay Jews of all kinds (including the ex-Orthodox and ‘Ortho-curious’) to an event aimed to create a community of support, learning, growth and leadership.

The shabbaton will include shiurim, zmiros, sessions on relevant to our lives as gay and lesbian frum (or formerly frum) Jews, wonderful ‘geshmak’ davening, delicious organic kosher food, and plenty of time scheduled to just hang out, sit by the fireplace on Saturday night, and get to know all the members of this growing community.  This will be an informative, fun, and spiritually inspiring weekend.

On Sunday, we will convene a Leadership Development Day from 9am-3pm that will address the crucial questions regarding our shared commitment to a more welcoming Orthodox world.  The day will include sessions for developing speaking skills, understanding grant writing, conducting effective meetings with community leaders, and learning about different community organizing models that can help us engage with the Orthodox community about the issues that matter most to us.

The operations of the shabbaton will be handled by Nehirim, which has run retreats for LGBT Jews for many years.  The program for the shabbaton is being created by the Eshel board, which includes many leaders from the gay Orthodox world, including Rabbi Steve Greenberg, Mordechai Levovitz (JQYouth), Chasiah Haberman (Tirtzah), Miryam Kabakov (Keep Your Wives Away from Them), and others.  There will also be “open space” time during the retreat for participants to facilitate workshops and conversations.

All food will be strictly kosher, the retreat will be shomer shabbos, and the davening will include traditional, mechitza davening.  (Depending on community interest we may have davening alternatives as well; on the registration form, you’ll be asked what kind of davening you’d like to participate in during the weekend.)  We will offer a variety of learning options, from traditional text study to workshops on issues of gay and lesbian interest.

Registration and Pricing

Early Bird Registration is Now Open!  Click here to register online.

Pricing starts at $250 for the entire weekend, including room and board, and thanks to our donors, we have generous financial aid available.  If you register before November 15, you can also qualify for EARLY BIRD pricing — simply enter “EARLYBIRD” as your coupon code, and you’ll receive $50 off your registration.

Complete Pricing information is as follows:

Dorm triple/quad (bathroom down the hall): $250
Economy (shared bath): Double $300,  Single $350
Standard (private bath):  Triple $275, Double $375, Single $450
Luxury (Weinberg building): Double: $425, Single: $500
Child in room: $150

Financial Aid

Thanks to the generosity of donors and community members, no one will be turned away for lack of funds. The financial aid application will be available here in late October.  All aid requests will be considered confidentially.

Halachic Information

The shabbaton will be fully shomer shabbos: no electricity or musical instruments will be used in any program on Shabbat.  The eruv is checked weekly.  All food will be supervised kosher — cholov yisrael and pas yisrael is available upon request at an extra cost.

Faculty and Schedule


The retreat will begin at 4pm on Friday, just before Shabbos.  We will post information about the exact schedule and faculty in November, 2010.

Transportation

For directions and transportation information, please visit the Isabella Freedman website. To offer or request a ride to the retreat, we will create a Ride Board in November.   The retreat center is available by train, and a shuttle is available for $15 from the Wassaic train station, for the MetroNorth train leaving Grand Central Station at 11:15am.  For other pickup times or locations, Lakeville Taxi, (860) 435-8000, is available. Lakeville Taxi is a reservation service. Voicemails for the purpose of reserving rides must be left before 5pm and at least 24 hours in advance.  Neither Eshel nor Nehirim is providing transportation to the retreat — we advise you to use the ride board, since there are always plenty of rides coming from New York, Boston, and other cities as well.

Questions?  Please email us at info@eshelonline.org.

 

November 4, 2010 at 12:06 pm 2 comments

Which Eye Should I Look In?

The following is a guest post by Amalya- the teenage daughter of an Orthodox Lesbian mother.

“Which eye should I look in?”

It was not the first time I had been asked that question. My eyes are crossed and one tends to wander off while the other is focused. People often cannot tell if I am looking at them or the person behind them. Sometimes someone will ask me which eye they should focus on, which one I use primarily. The truth is that I use them both, just not at the same time.

Sometimes I use my right eye, and I see myself in shul, surrounded by people who share a large part of my life with me. People that dress the way I dress and eat the food that I eat. We have been raised the same way and understand what it is like to live the unique lifestyle of an Orthodox Jew. We can whine together about the difficulties of a selective diet and obligations that feel trivial or outdated. Here I am supported for my belief and dedication.

But there is something they can’t identify with. Because sometimes I use my left eye and I see something that my Jewish community does not understand. I see Provincetown , MA where hundreds of children of LGBT parents gather for one week every summer. These people understand what it is like to live with a secret, or to live in fear of prejudice and bigotry. And we gather to support and learn from one another. This is one place where I don’t feel like I have a secret. But still, out of the hundreds of families who congregate on the tip of Cape Cod every year, I have yet to find a Jew like me.
I use both my eyes, but I have not been able to make them work together.

“Please,” I responded, “look in them both.”

March 19, 2010 at 2:38 pm 5 comments

Reflections on psalm 130 and the Shooting in Tel-Aviv

On Monday night in Manhattan, members of the Tirtzah community attended a community-wide memorial and prayer service for those who were killed, physically and psychologically injured by the attack in Tel-Aviv.  Chasiah Haberman offered the following introduction to psalm 130 on behalf of the Tirtzah community, of which she is a founding member.

When I was younger, my father told me a story about a man who committed a crime. He was caught, and taken to prison. When he arrived- the parts of his body began to argue with each other.  The head accused the hands of committing the crime, the hands accused the feet of getting them to the scene, and the feet accused the head of planning it all.  They were all right, my father explained, except that it makes no sense for a person to fail to understand himself as one man.

But, sometimes, in a time of crisis, we dissociate.  We point fingers, we blame those who are really part of us, saying that we have nothing to do with them. We forget our interrelatedness.  In Masechet Nedarim, the Jerusalem talmud teaches us that if a man cuts his finger by mistake we do not go to that man and rebuke him- we know that a man does not intentionally cut his own finger.  And so it should be in the life of a nation, we are like the parts of one body- a pain in our finger is felt in our entire being.

And since last Saturday night, we as a people have shared a pain. We have seen two young people shot and killed, and many others injured. We have seen a community of gay young adults and teenagers, who came together to support one another, to bring kindness and understanding to one another- targeted by violence.  This pain- as pain often does, has brought us together and has driven us apart.

Some cannot imagine how an attack on a gay center in tel aviv has anything to do with them. Some of our leaders have been silent. Some individuals have, unbelievably, threatened additional violence.

But for many of us, this has been a time to come together. Jews all over the world recited Tehillim- and in particular psalm 130, which we are about to read.  The day after the attack- myself and the women of Tirtzah, a community of religiously and halachically committed Jewish Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans women gathered in a room in this JCC for our usual meeting. We began with Tehillim, and then dedicated our study to the memory of those who were killed, and to healing for those who were hurt and who were injured.

Online- people from all over the world connected to stand in solidarity with the victims of the attack, to mourn together and to pray together, and to comfort one another.  In New York and Tel-Aviv, in Boston, In Chicago and in Germany, people came together from many different walks of life- to speak, to recite tehillim, to light candles.  Rabbi Linzer of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah wrote a prayer which was recited in many Synogogues in the United States this shabbat, including the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, where I prayed, with my girlfriend, this past Shabbat.

All over the world,  many of us turned to the words of Psalm 130 (which we will soon recite).  Our natural response to pain and tragedy might be to cast blame, to distance ourselves from one another, to live in fear and isolation- But the psalmist reminds us that none of us is entirely blameless

” Im avonot tishmor Ya- adonai mi ya’amod”.

“If you hold on to our sins, Oh G-d, Lord, who will stand”.

The psalmist turns to G0d, the merciful redeemer, and asks that we be lifted up- that God guide us past our current imperfections.

This is a time in which we need, as a community, to come together, to reawaken our sense that we are one body- one that cannot disown any of its parts.  It is a time for each of us to think about what we can do to create a world that is more caring, a safer world for the gay teenagers who met in the gay community center in tel- aviv, and for each and every member of our communities.

So now, as we recite psalm 130,  we pray for: the dead, the wounded,  their families, communities.  We pray for those who were hurt in body and in spirit by this attack.  And we ask God to give us the strength not to dissociate, but to continue to reach out towards one another, despite all of our limitations, with love and with mercy.

August 11, 2009 at 11:47 pm 1 comment

Tehillim tonight at 7:00 (wherever you are) and tommorow 8:30pm- Mt. Sinai Jewish Center

Just a reminder to say tehillim tonight at 7:00 EST for those who were slain and wounded in Tel- Aviv, as well as for their families, friends and communities. Tehillim can be recited in whatever city you may find yourself, on your own, or with others.

In addition: On Monday night at 8:30pm, Mt. Sinai Jewish Center will be reciting Tehillim for those who were killed or hurt in the attack following Mincha/Ma’ariv services. They are located at:

Mount Sinai Jewish Center
135 Bennett Avenue
New York, NY 10040

I hope those of you who live in New York will be able to make it. If anyone knows of other services/ tehillim gatherings, please list them in the comments section below.

August 2, 2009 at 5:56 pm 1 comment

Community Tehillim for Two Slain and 8 Injured at Tel-Aviv gay Community Center

We mourn the loss of three people who were murdered in a shooting at a weekly support group for youth in a  gay community center in Tel-Aviv late Sat. , and pray for those who were wounded in what may have been the worst homophobic attack on the gay community in Israel.  The New York Times reports that as of this writing no arrests have been made, and the motives are unknown, but that government officials and leaders of glbt organizations in Israel believe it to be a hate-crime. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this attack, their families, friends and communities.

Sunday, Aug 2, at 7:00pm EST, we urge you to take a moment to think of those who have been killed and wounded in this attack and to recite Tehillim (psalms) on their behalf.  Specifically, we will be reciting psalms 70,20, and 130.  May God comfort the mourners among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem, and bring a speedy recovery, in body and in spirit,  to all those injured by this attack.

August 2, 2009 at 12:14 am 1 comment

Out in the Frum Community

The following is a guest post by Tirtzah member Aviva Yael:

I spent about 15 years in the ultra frum community out to myself and the man I was married to, but no one else in the frum world.  At that point I didn’t see any reason to be out to anyone… I decided that since I had decided to marry a man and live as if I was straight… there was no point to bothering with that level of honesty… even to my closest friends who would have understood.  I always felt like this was a little bit wrong.  People who loved me and thought they knew everything about who I am, were missing a huge chunk of what makes me… me.  There was always this slight buzzing in my head of cognitive dissonance within my own life.  I am no longer married and I am now out in every aspect of my life. 

For me… (not necessarily for everyone) being out (didn’t say coming out) has been a gigantic breath of fresh air.  I no longer feel a constant dissonance buzzing in the background of my life.  When I walk down the street, go to work, take my kids to the park, sit at a shabbos table or daven in shule… I know who I am and am who I am… from the inside… all the way to the outside, top of my head to the tips of my toes… and I love that. 

I also love the fact that by being out, I’m making the world a better place for others who are yet to come.  Today, my wife and I had the women from our shule over for a women’s Rosh Chodesh Shalosh Seudos.  We are out in the shule and pretty much everyone knows about us.  It is a modern orthodox shule and a particularly warm and accepting community.  I’m convinced that two of the women who came for shalosh seudos who come very rarely to our shule or are new to coming to our shule just got introduced to the idea that women can be orthodox and lesbian and choose to build a home together.  They were lovely guests and now are more sensitive and aware that this can exist and be ok.

June 3, 2009 at 5:14 pm 3 comments

Text Study and Discussion in New York

Have you ever wondered why this group is called Tirtzah?

Please join us on Sunday Feb 1st. at 10:00 am in Manhattan as we explore our group name, through text study and discussion. We will study the character
of Tirtzah in the Tanach, as well as the meaning of the name, and
discuss the ways in which Tirtzah’s story and the meaning of her name
can inform our lives and our interactions with the Jewish community
and with the Torah.

*Want to Attend?
This is a private event for members of our e-mail discussion group. If you are a frum L/B/Q woman who’d like to join us at this gathering, please join our e-mail list at http://tirtzah.wordpress.com/our-e-mail-list/ for more information. Please e-mail tirtzahcommunity@gmail.com if you need assistance or have questions.
We encourage you to RSVP to tirtzahcommunity@gmail.com.

*What is Tirtzah?
We are a community of frum queer women who gather to celebrate and study our yiddishkeit. We are committed to the value of shleimut (wholeness) and to supporting one another in observing a meaningful, integrated, honest and joyful Jewish life. We have a wide variety of religious backgrounds and identities, but we are all halachically-engaged observant Jews in addition to being lesbian, bisexual or queer identified. We come together to have social events, learn Torah, discuss topics relevant to our lives, and celebrate holidays. We have an active e-mail discussion group and a blog, and we hold in-person events in the New York metropolitan area. Find out more about us at http://tirtzah.wordpress.com

January 23, 2009 at 2:11 pm Leave a comment

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About Tirtzah

We are a community of frum queer women who gather to celebrate and study our yiddishkeit. We are committed to the value of shleimut (wholeness) and to supporting one another in observing a meaningful, integrated, honest and joyful Jewish life.

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