Archive for June, 2008
This shabbos was a long one, and I got to sit and learn for much of the afternoon. I learned some Aruch Hashulchan and a bit of Masechet Ketubot, and of course, much of that was about jewish marriage. As I read, I could see how my married sisters had ceremonies that were remarkably similar to those described in the Talmud Bavli. There were differences. My sisters opted to include the RCA pre-nuptual agreement (and I hope more and more people will follow their example) . One of them gave her husband a ring as a gift (but was careful to wait until they were married to do so). But for the most part, much of the ceremony was the same.
Sometimes I feel lucky that, as a lesbian, I have the opportunity to take part in developing my own ritual. It’s not something we do all the time in the Orthodox community. Some people who choose to marry according to the traditional framework have deep difficulties with it. They worry, as I often do, that the ceremony is unbalanced, and structures the relationship along gender lines in ways that are disturbing. The man is the only one who can initiate the marriage, and, g-d forbid, a divorce.
But this shabbos, when I was looking at the tradition from up close, at all the different components of it, and the deep meanings behind them, I could not bring myself to celebrate my exclusion from this ceremony. I love the chuppah, the badeikin, the blessings, the communal celebration.
On some level, I just love that a jewish wedding is such an old tradition. We don’t just wake up one morning and recreate everything that it means to be in a committed loving relationship. Instead, we enter into the sort of agreement that we have watched our mothers and their mothers enter with their spouses. It is holy, reflective of the couple’s relationship to one another, their people, and g-d. They hardly even need to be conscious of it.
Personally, I feel a little bit lost, trying to figure out a way to navigate a queer wedding that is faithful to the tradition and able to create and describe the sort of relationship I want to enter into. I know that for me as a queer person, along with the usual questions of “who to marry” or “when to marry”, I must add “whether to marry” and “how to marry”.
I’m not the first to ask these questions, and I hope I will not be the last. I know that I have a lot of learning to do.
Posted by queeryeshivameidel
I’m amazed. I was surfing the internet, when I found an article about an organization in Israel that sounded a lot like Tirtzah. Except it’s been around for years- since 2005. The organization is called Bat-Kol, and they see their mission as creating
“a world where religious lesbians can live a life of truth and love, a life of equality and companionship, a life of self fulfillment and acceptance in the religious society. Achieving Bat-kol’s goals is essential not only for religious lesbians but for all the religious community as well, to create a better society, with justice, kindness, and equality.”
They have some amazing articles, blog entries, event listings and community resources. It’s mostly in hebrew, but for those of us who can understand hebrew- this is an amazing resource for all of us. I am so inspired by their work to support each other, learn together, play basketball together, support the mothers of orthodox gays and lesbians, and educate the public about the very real issues that we all face. I think it’s a model for us, as we start out, to work towards.
Drisha Institute in New York City is offering a weekly co-ed class this summer that is open to the public and may be of interest to our readers who are interested in issues of gender, clothing and sexuality. Chasiah Haberman will be teaching “Pink Shirts and Pinstripe Trousers: Clothing and Gender Construction Halakha.” Here is the class description from Drisha’s site:
Pink Shirts and Pinstripe Trousers: Clothing and Gender Construction Halakha
What do women wear? What constitutes a uniquely male garment? Is modesty a gender-specific concept? How do assumptions about gender shape ideas of appropriate dress for men and women? We will study both traditional and contemporary halakhic literature.
Tuesday, 7:45 – 9:15 p.m.
Financial assistance is available. Space is still available. This class is co-ed.
Register soon, as the class starts on July 1st!
Posted by tirtzah.
My partner and I are moving in together in less than a week. I am very excited, a little nervous, and very hopeful. I have lived with partners before but this is different. This is my first time creating an observant, frum Jewish home with someone. How do two lesbian, bisexual and/or queer women create an observant Jewish household together? I don’t know the answer to that yet. But I have some thoughts on my mind about this topic.
I’ve been thinking a lot about tables, and what takes place around them. When we can afford it, we want to buy a big table. As my partner said, a table big enough to have a bunch of people sitting around it and room for food in the middle. Why a big table? Because having people over to our home for Shabbos and yuntif meals will be a big way for us to feel like we are a family (yes, two people can be a family!) and to be able to have our community of friends and family be part of our lives in a different way. Right now we go over to other peoples’ houses for most Shabbos meals. Now we will be able to have people come to us. We will be able to have a bunch of people sitting around our table eating my our home-cooked food and singing Shabbos zmiros with us. A table is more than just furniture! In a Jewish home, it is a symbol of family and community and joyful celebrations.
We have fallen into certain roles in our relationship when it comes to Jewish ritual. I’m sure not all “orthodykes” and other Jewish same-sex couples do this – Some couples are more egalitarian than others and switch off more than we do. But I’ve just naturally fallen into doing kiddush and the brachos for havdalah every week. It just feels right. She davens more regularly than I do, and her doing so wordlessly reminds me to pick up my siddur. I wonder how this will unfold as we live together and (G-d willing) have children. There are no written rules for how to divide Jewish ritual (or household labor, or parenting) when you are a same-sex couple.
Another issue that comes up when a queer frum couple move in together is how to fuse two peoples’ personal hashkafas (outlooks on Judaism). Disagreements about kashrus can be fraught with tension. My love tells me I’m too machmir sometimes, which makes me laugh. I didn’t grow up kosher so I’m still learning the ropes. We have had some back and forth about whether to have a dairy kitchen or both meat an dairy. We are two different people, and compromise is the name of the game. Of course there is also always the question of which of our friends will eat at our home and who won’t. Yes, ultimately we are dealing with the same issues as most frum couples… except there is no rule about whose minhagim (customs) we will defer to. What it comes down to is that most of the eternal Jewish questions and issues faced by newly married and/or newly cohabitating couples don’t discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation!
Posted by queerbasyisroel.
When he published his book Judaism and Homosexuality: An Authentic Orthodox View in 2004, Rabbi Chaim Rapoport was one of the first Orthodox Rabbis to speak seriously about the Halachic and Social issues facing lesbians. Since then, he has spoken to Orthodox communities, counseled many people privately, and met with Orthodox gays and lesbians. His understanding of medical ethics and of halacha has led him to counsel against unproven and potentially harmful forms of therapy. He has emphasized the importance of an inclusive Jewish community, and challenged gay and straight Orthodox Jews alike to view themselves and those in their communities as works in progress, to be encouraged in their path to greater observance of Halacha.
Rabbi Rapoport counsels queer people to remain single, rather than entering into a heterosexual marriage. He does not outline how a gay couple could function within Halacha in great detail, which is a shortcoming of the book for those of us who are seeking to form committed frum relationships. He has spoken publicly, since, of his support for those gay people who decide to find frum partners to live a halachic life with, as well as his feeling that promiscuity is far more unhealthy and problematic than a committed relationship.
While he devotes most of his book to a discussion of gays and lesbians as a unit, he devotes parts of his book specifically to the subject of lesbians, and to our status in Halacha. It’s an important read for anyone who wants to engage seriously with the halachic dimensions of the lesbian orthodox experience.
Posted by: queeryeshivameidel.
GLYDSA (Gay and Lesbian Yeshiva Day School Alumni) and JQyouth are hosting a picnic in Central Park on Shabbat afternoon from 2:30-7:00pm at the Northwest corner of the Sheep Meadow in Central Park, under the big tree. Look for the blue and white striped blanket. Paper goods, cups, and some soft drinks will be provided; bring kosher snacks or soft drinks to share. Dress comfortably. Bring a blanket if you want. (free, of course)
Posted by Tirtzah.