Posts filed under ‘open orthodox’

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

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

A Prayer for the Slain and Injured at the Gay Community Center in Tel Aviv– by Rabbi Dov Linzer

A Prayer for the Slain and Injured at the Gay Community Center in Tel Aviv — by Rabbi Dov Linzer

This prayer expresses grief and sorrow over the horrific and murderous attack at the gay Community Center in Tel Aviv on August 1, 2009 and the heightened sense of responsibility and obligation that all Jews and communities, across the denominations, must share in response. This tfillah was recited in numerous synagogues on Shabbat Parshat Ekev (August 8, 2009), both Orthodox and non-Orthodox, and was delivered at an interdenominational memorial and tehillim service at the JCC of Manhattan on Monday night, August 10, 2009.

מי שברך אבותינו אברהם יצחק ויעקב ואמותנו שרה רבקה רחל ולאה, הוא יברך וירפא את החולים והחולות שנפגעו
בפיגוע החבלני והרצחני בתל אביב, בארצנו הקדושה, בעבור שאנחנו מתפללים בעבורם. בשכר זה, הקב”ה ימלא
רחמים עליהם, להחלים ולרפאותם, ולהחזיקם ולהחיותם, וישלח להם מהרה רפואה שלמה מן השמים, בתוך שאר חולי
ישראל, רפואת הנפש ורפואת הגוף, שבת היא מלזעוק ורפואה קרובה לבא. השתא בעגלא ובזמן קריב ונאמר אמן.

Master of the Universe, watch over the souls of the slain and bring healing to those who were injured in the violent and murderous attack in Tel Aviv in our Holy Land. See how not only the bodies, but the souls and lives of these persons have been shattered. See how this support group for teenagers – this place which for many of them was their one refuge of protection, support, and acceptance – how this haven has now been violated and has now become a place of danger, of vulnerability, and of death. Heal their bodies, heal their souls and heal their spirits.

O Lord, you have taught us in Your Torah the mitzvah of the עגלה ערופה . You have taught us that when a person is murdered and it is not known who the murder is, or what the motives are behind the murder, that it is the leaders of the community who must look inward and ask what sins of commission or omission could have possibly contributed to this tragedy. Who among us in the Jewish people, whatever our denomination or affiliation, can say ידינו לא שפכו את הדם הזה, that we have done everything in our ability to protect against such a tragedy? Who among us, throughout the Jewish people, can say, לא ראינוהו ופטרנוהו בלא מזונות ובלא לויה, that we did everything in our power to ensure that these victims were cared for physically and emotionally, to ensure that we gave them friendship and protection? O Lord, we cannot make this declaration of innocence.

Master of the Universe, give us the courage to stand up to and reject all forms of hateful speech and violence. Give us the strength of spirit to refuse to tolerate the rejection of any human being, each of whom is created in בצלם א- לוהים, in Your Divine image. Help us to internalize in our hearts and to manifest in our actions the mandate of the verse in this week’s parsha ואהבתם את הגר כי גרים הייתם בארץ מצרים, that it is our responsibility to care for, to love, and to protect all members of our society, and in particular those who are most vulnerable and most likely to feel estranged and rejected. Help us to value every member of our society for whom he or she is, to care for them, to support them, and to recognize that they are an equal part of our community כגיהיה. Give us the strength to fully actualize – in our speech and in our actions – the maxim that כל ישראל ערבים זה בזה , that the entirety of the Jewish people, straight and gay, is interwoven with and
responsible for every one of its members.

We cannot change the past, but we can work to change the future, so we pray, O Lord, that You accept our mourning and our prayers, and give us the strength to change. We pray that we can make the necessary sacrifices to live up to our obligations to You and to every human being who is created in Your image, and that this can bring partial atonement for the,דם נקי בקרב עמך ישראל for the innocent blood that has been shed and allowed to have been shed in the midst of Your people, of Israel.

כפר לעמך ישראל , Atone for Your people, O Lord, bring us healing, a healing of persons, a healing of society, help us create a society where all are protected, cared for, and valued, and let no innocent blood ever again be spilled. Now and speedily in our days, and let us say, Amen.

Click to dowload the prayer in PDF: A Prayer for the Slain and Injured in Tel Aviv

August 11, 2009 at 11:17 pm Leave a comment

Memorial and Solidarity Tehillim Service

Memorial and Solidarity Tehillim Service
for the Victims of the Attack on the Tel Aviv gay and lesbian Jewish Youth Group

Last Saturday night, an unknown assailant opened fire on a Jewish support group for gay and lesbian youth, killing three and injuring ten minors. Join us for a community-wide memorial service as we stand in solidarity with the victims and renounce violence in the Jewish community. Speakers will include Rabbi Yosef Blau (Mashgiach Ruchani of Yeshiva University), Rabbi Dov Linzer (Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah), Mrs. Elana Stein Hain (Lincoln Square Synagogue clergy), Rabbis from local Jewish synagogues and schools, Benjamin Fink (NFTY-NAR regional advisor) representing Jewish youth across the nation, as well as members of Jewish GLBT Youth groups. The service will include Rabbinic messages, the reading of tehillim (psalms) and personal accounts of what its like growing up gay and Jewish.

Where: JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam ave. @ 76th st. New York, NY 10023

When: Monday, August 10th  8:00pm – 9:00pm

Co-sponsored by NY based organizations offering support for LGBT Jews:  JCC in Manhattan, JQYouth, GLYDSA, Tirtzah, CBST, Nehirim, and Hebro.

August 6, 2009 at 8:30 pm 2 comments

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

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

Welcoming Synagogues Project

I was very lucky- and when I first came out, I was a member of a wonderful congregation that made welcoming all people a priority.  That communal support has made it possible for me, as a lesbian, to feel supported in my choice to live as an Orthodox Jew.  But many queer Orthodox Jews are not as lucky as I was, and do not find themselves supported and welcomed in their congregations. Some are even actively excluded, making it extremely difficult to remain observant of the mitzvot and strong in the beliefs of Orthodox Judaism. 

Recently the Welcoming Synagogues Project surveyed Reform, Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Renewal, Secular Humanist and Unaffiliated Synagogues about the degree to which they welcomed queer members. They found that among the Synagogues surveyed  ” The majority of rabbis in congregations across denominations think their synagogues are already welcoming of lesbians and gays, but could do better. The majority of Orthodox respondents do not perceive their congregations  to be welcoming.”   

I do not know whether the Orthodox Rabbis surveyed considered this state of affairs to be a positive one.  I hope they understand, that it is an area where there is much work to be done- and that as leaders of Congregations it is the job of Rabbis to create spaces that are conducive to the spiritual and religious development of every Jew- regardless of sexual or gender orientation.  

Rabbi Steve Greenberg, in an article in the Forward, suggests that  the fact that Orthodox Rabbis responded to the survey at all showed a “willingness to engage the question”.  I hope that is the case, and that as a result, Orthoodox shul Rabbis will find themselves delving more deeply into the the Jewish tradition, and coming to a greater understanding of the needs of all of their congregants.

March 18, 2009 at 1:32 am Leave a comment

Reflections on the Nine Days

For these nine days, I try to focus on and mourn the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash (holy temple).  In our generation, we can’t remember what it was like to have a Temple.  Some of the time, I mourn the fact that I have no idea what it is that I am mourning.  But mostly, it has become a time for me to mourn the distance between us as a people and our g-d, and a time to mourn the distance that separates some of us from each other.   As part of my mourning, I think about why the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed, and still remains unbuilt. 

The Gemara in Yoma teaches us that in the time of the second Beit Hamikdash, the jewish people observed the torah and the commandments, and performed kindnesses, but they hated each other for no reason, and as a result of that Sinat Chinam (baseless hatred), which is equal to idolotry, murder, and sexual immorality, the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed. (Yoma 9b)  

Today I mourn the Sinat Chinam that still exists among us.  I mourn the difficulty with which queer people find welcoming shuls, and a safe place to observe the mitzvot in jewish community- even in communities that perform many kindnesses. The ability to be kind, it seems, does not make it impossible for us to hate.  I mourn the concern of a young straight frum girl who tells me she worries it will be hard for her to find a shidduch because her brother is gay.  I mourn the children of gay and lesbian parents who are not welcomed to certain jewish day schools, and as a result are denied the opportunity to study Torah.  Even those who observe mitzvot sometimes forget to look around themselves and ensure that others can also observe the mitzvot and worship g-d. 

But at the same time I celebrate those who have practiced Ahavat Chinam- groundless love. I celebrate people who have made a special effort to accept and welcome gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans-gendered people in their communities.  I celebrate the queer people who have continued to identify with and contribute to communities that do not always include us.  And I celebrate those of us who have taken the time to support one another, in whatever way, in living lives of love in the face of hatred. 

The Gemara in Masechet Taanit teaches us that those who mourn the destruction of Jerusalem will merit to see the happiness of Jerusalem. (Taanit 30b)  Perhaps the gemara means to teach us that the act of mourning itself acts as a catalyst for us to face the Sinat Chinam in ourselves and in our communities, and begin to transform it into Ahavat Chinam.

May we all merit to celebrate together.

Posted by queeryeshivameidel.

August 7, 2008 at 8:36 pm Leave a comment


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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