Archive for 2008

The Few and the Many

Chanukah celebrates small things- a tiny leftover jug of oil, a small army, a slim chance. We celebrate the survival of Judaism and the Jewish people- who have always been vastly outnumbered by the nations of the world. We celebrate a world  in which the importance of things is not measured by their size or their power- but by their righteousness. 

As an Orthodox Lesbian I am part of a minority within a minority.  The majority of people I meet, inevitably, find my experience to be different from theirs. Some of them wonder why I continue to live as I do. Wouldn’t it be easier, they suggest, to closet my identity as a queer person- or to abandon religion and live in a secular world that (they imagine) would better embrace me?  Can’t I find a way to be less different- less of  a minority? 

I’m sure I could. But Judaism has taught me to celebrate the survival of a small minority, despite many difficulties, in a large world. In the time of the Macabees- the Jewish people could have chosen to disappear and become a part of the many. Instead- they resisted, maintained their integrity and identity as a small nation of jews, and persevered. 

Sometimes it is hard for me to live as a minority in a world that does not always accept me. In the Orthodox Jewish world, it can be hard for people to understand my choice to live as an out lesbian woman, and sometimes those people make my life difficult.  I have had to hear comments from people that I have found hurtful.  I’ve had to worry that my family would reject me, and I find it hard to visit the neighborhood I grew up in- because I don’t know whether the community that nurtured my childhood and adolescence would continue to support me now.  I know that there are places where I am not welcome to learn Torah, Daven, eat a Shabbat Meal, or set up a household.  It is possible that it would be easier if I was in the closet, married to a man I did not love and could not love, and appearing as though I was like everybody else. I would blend in, perhaps- but it would be the wrong thing for me to do. 

There are also communities, Jewish and otherwise, who are able to accept me as a lesbian, but who cannot respect my religious convictions or my Orthodox Jewish lifestyle.  There are people who would love to “cure” me of my “oppressive” religion, which they imagine is at the root of all my problems- or who hope that one day I will “loosen up” and keep less of the Mitzvot. They find it difficult to believe that I have faith in a g-d who hears my prayers, gave my people the Torah, and sustains the world each and every day.  Perhaps I could be more quiet about my frumkiet. I could live in a way that would make it less obvious- or abandon it altogether.  I could become more similar to the people around me, stick out less, and find a place where it is always safe to be queer.  But that also would be the wrong thing for me to do.  

Fortunately, I haven’t had to make either choice.  I have found small parts of the jewish world where I can feel fully comfortable and accepted as a queer person, while working to live my life according to the Torah I believe in. I have found a minority of people who would support me in living as my full self, and a few special rabbis and religious teachers who have supported me in seeking to understand how to live my life in a way that would be most consistent with my deeply held beliefs.

Today, as Chanukah is about to end- I look at my life and see that what has allowed me to survive thus far, has been the ability to celebrate these small things.  My Jewish tradition, whose bearers have always been a small minority among the world religions, has taught me to celebrate the light that comes from a small jug of oil so small that it seemed, at first glance, inadequate to the task it was given.

Posted by queeryeshivameidel.

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December 29, 2008 at 4:10 am Leave a comment

Community Wide Chanukah Party

Annual Community-Wide Chanuka Party

With special guest performer: NESHAMA CARLEBACH!
Thursday, December 25
7:00 PM – 10:00 PM
LGBT Community Services Center, 208 W. 13th St. NYC
$10 ($5 if under 21)

Join over 200 old and new friends as we celebrate Chanukah with music, dancing, and holiday treats! This year we are thrilled to have famed Jewish singing star Neshama Carlebach bless us with her voice and song. Continuing the tradition of her father Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach z’tl, Neshama intends to spread the warmth, soul and love of Judaism to all Jews unconditionally. Come early, le’Chaim’s begin at 7:00, show starts at 8:30, menorah lighting at 9:15 and shmoozing will continue till 10:00. Light your inner menorah, be inspired, and make some new friends this holiday! This event is open to the entire LGBT Jewish community along with their friends, families and allies. Co-sponsored by GLYDSA, JQYouth, The JCC Mahnattan, CBST 20’s and 30’s, Gayava, The GoJC, He’bro and other GLBT Jewish groups in NYC; this is the event you don’t want to miss!

For more info, contact: admin@jqyouth.org

December 19, 2008 at 9:59 am Leave a comment

Some Halachic Writings by Frum Queer Women

The status of lesbians in Halacha is, for the most part not mentioned. Modern books on the halachic status of homosexuals tend to focus mainly on men, and mention women only glancingly, if at all.  Recently, learned women have begun to research the subject and sift through the sources for a greater understanding of the halachic traditions approach to lesbian sexuality and family life.  

While they are not Poskim and certainly do not claim to be, Lisa Liel of Orthodykes and Ziva Ofek of Bat-Kol have written learned articles on the subject.  They are available on the Orthodykes, and Bat Kol websites. Lisa Liel has written in English, including translations of the origional halachic texts, and Ziva Ofek has written in hebrew (I hope she will consider translating her work to Enlgish to make it more accessable). 

I am glad to see that these women, for whom halacha is so important, have chosen to share their thoughts and insights with us.

Posted by queeryeshivameidel.

November 25, 2008 at 1:34 pm 5 comments

Join the Tirtzah Community at our Sukkot Gathering in NYC

Are you a religiously observant Jewish woman
who is lesbian, bisexual, queer or questioning?

Please join us at:


TIRTZAH’S SUKKOT GATHERING

Sponsored by Tirtzah: A Community for Frum Queer Women

*When and Where?

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2008 at 4:00 PM in Manhattan – Join our e-mail listserve for location details


*Who Is Welcome?

All lesbian, bisexual or queer identified Jewish women who are Orthodox or traditionally observant… or who are on the path towards becoming more halachically observant. Feel free to bring your children.

*What Is This Event?

This chol ha’moed gathering is a chance for members of the Tirtzah community to talk, eat, enjoy each others’ company, and maybe even learn a little Torah, in a supportive and positive environment.

*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 https://tirtzah.wordpress.com

*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 https://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.

We ask for a $5 donation to cover the costs of (kosher) snacks which we’ll be providing, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds.

October 7, 2008 at 2:53 pm 3 comments

The Rebbetzin

I go to the shtiebel because it reminds me a bit of the places I grew up around, little storefront shuls where the men wear black hats and shtreimels and the women sit around a small table together and talk in a mixture of Yiddish, heavily accented English and Hebrew. 

The Rebbetzin always says hello and asks how I’m doing, what I’m up to. One day she asked, inexplicably:

“How tall are you?”

“Why?” I asked- and then the other questions burst forward. Will I cover my hair? (Yes, if I married a man, I would). Am I more modern or more yeshivish? ( Both- but I’m not looking right now) Someone who works or someone who learns?

I didn’t know how to explain that I hope to build a Jewish home with a woman.

I don’t come to the Shtiebel as often as I used to.  Most of the time, I daven in more modern shuls, where there is more English, more Hebrew, and less Yiddish,  women sit in rows, and I can be open about my identity. When I do go to the Shtiebel, the Rebbetzin is always friendly to me, and asks me where  I have been.  But the thing that I haven’t said,  the reasons I had for not saying it, construct a wall between us. I can’t talk to her about my life. 

As long as I have not said something, I can imagine that it is possible that she would understand, that there is still a place for me at that table with the women who talk among themselves in Yiddish and Hebrew and heavily accented English.

I hope there is. 

Posted by queeryeshivameidel.

October 3, 2008 at 3:14 am 3 comments

An Article on Judaism, Art and Identity

The Detroit Free Press recently published an article about a young Jewish Artist named Naomi Zaslow. She grew up Orthodox, and kept her Gay identity secret for a long time before finally coming out, to her friends and family, and recently, through her art, constructing an identity for herself. In the article, she asks:  “Which is more important: being queer, a woman or Jewish? None can be. There are so many facets of identity that come into play. It’s a sum of all those parts.” Zaslow, who has chosen to identify as “Post-denominational” and Queer, has remained involved in her Orthodox Jewish community.  

It sounds like she has faced many challenges, and still manages to be hopeful and courageous.  As she says: “It feels trite, but you’re not alone. Because people do feel alone. It’s scary. If you reach out, bad things can happen, do happen, But sometimes you do need to take the risk. There are places where you can find support. Things do get better.”

Posted by queeryeshivameidel.

September 7, 2008 at 10:59 am 2 comments

Tirtzah Joins GLYDSA this Thursday

This thursday- Aug 28th at 8:30pm we will be joining the Gay and Lesbian Yeshiva Day School Alumni Association at the Glbt Community Center for a conversation about the Tirtzah community, and the experiences of Frum Queer Women.  GLYDSA is a supportive community for Yeshiva Day School Alumni (as well as other committed jews) which aims to provide a safe space for people to integrate their Gay and Jewish identities. 

Location: The LGBT Center   208 W.13 St. NYC, between 7th and 8th Avenues.
Subways: 1,2,3,A,C,E
Donation $3

August 24, 2008 at 12:45 am 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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