Posts filed under ‘Identity’

PFLAG for Religious Jewish Families

The JCC in Manhattan is starting this new group, led by former NYC-PFLAG president Phyllis Steinberg. Spread the word!

Are you a parent with a LGBTQ child or a LGBTQ adult looking to find an uniquely Jewish, safe space to explore family acceptance, discomfort and all the complex feelings associated with this process? Are you looking for a comfortable, understanding Jewish environment to discuss LGBTQ issues that might be impacting your family dynamic? This group is welcome to all, but specifically addresses the challenges of accepting a LGBTQ child into a religious family. Parents alone, children alone, and parents and children together are all welcome.

4 times on the 1st Wednesday of each month
7:00 PM
Jan 7 – Apr 1
Free All
GLOAFT00W9
Location: The JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave. at 76th St. (Program room assignments will be available at the JCC Customer Service Desk, in the lobby of the Samuel Priest Rose Building.)

For more information, or to register, please call 646-505-5708.
http://www.jccmanhattan.org

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January 12, 2009 at 1:12 am Leave a comment

Writing From Where I Am

This is a guest post from Bas Avraham- a member of the Tirtzah community:

I don’t know how to tell people I am queer.
 
 Not that it’s so hard, mind you.  In fact, maybe it would be better to write that a different way:  I don’t know how to tell people  *how*  I’m queer.  It’s not simple, and it doesn’t have very much to do with identity politics, with my gender, or even with the biological sex of the people I want to have relationships with.  At least, not right now.
 
 I could try to explain everything, but in the end, I realized I can’t fit
 all of that into something suitable for internet consumption.  Instead, I am writing from where I am.

 Where I am is in the middle of trying to find a chasan, a
 groom, a partner in life.  As anyone can tell you, it’s hard work.  As a
 convert in my late twenties who doesn’t have a lot of experience dating, it’s also a bit scary for me.  I am new to dating, new to the frum world, and not exactly sure where I fit.  Right now, I am spending a lot of energy trying to figure out whether I want to be in a more “yeshivish” community or in a more modern orthodox community.  Truthfully, I don’t really understand why I have to make that choice, but it seems like it is important to most of the men out there, at least the ones I seem to be meeting.
 
 In order to find people to date, well.  At first, I didn’t have to find people.  I dated the same person for a year and a half – a man, who was my first love and also the first experience I ever had dating an orthodox person.  We met by accident, at a shul, and one of the first things I asked him was “how would you react, if you had a gay kid?”  His reaction was interesting; not extreme, not scared.  It made me more or less happy – the truth is, I was happy enough that he didn’t run away.  

At the time when I met him, what I wanted was to find someone who would join me in trying to find halakhically (that is, legally, according to Torah law) viable ways to advocate for the queer frum community at large.  At the bare minimum, I was looking for someone who would support my pursuit of that work.  The substance of that work has already changed, as I learn more about the Torah and the obligations and ideas it has on the subject, but my committment to the work itself, to partnering with other Jews to try to be a community where all of us can try to serve Hashem “b’chol levavcha, u’v’chol nafshecha” – with all our heart and blood – is non-negotiable.

 The truth is, he was dedicated to that work too.  To this day, I don’t know what really went wrong in that relationship.  But his horror at learning that I was interested in actually introducing queer frum Jews to one another, for the purposes of matchmaking, served, in an ironic twist, to hasten the end of my own match.  To me, my dedication to that type of advocacy ought to have been a conversation.  Instead, it was a shouting match, taking place over the course of two days.  The temptation to “give in” was very strong.

But ultimately, the result of the argument – which side won – wasn’t what disturbed me. What disturbed me was that he was willing to ignore parts of reality in order to try to uphold a “Torah law”. And to me, since I believe that the Torah deals in the ultimate reality, enacting it and its laws in the world really do have to take all of that world into account.  Whether there are good halakhic
 arguments for queer matchmaking or not is really not the point.  The point is that in considering the question, the people doing the considering need to include things like the following realities:
 
 1.  The existence of frum people who have feeling exclusively for people of
 “non-halakhically optimal” genders – i.e., the continued existence of queer
 frum people, whether they are interested in identifying as queer in a political way or not.
 2.  A concern that as many Jews as possible do as many mitzvot as possible.
 3.  A concern that Jews remain affiliated with other Jews.
 4.  A concern that we as a Jewish community give one another permission to
 live our lives according to as many Jewish values as possible – this
 includes the value of tznius (modesty/humility) which problematizes many
 things that go along with secular dating.
 5.  A concern that people who are not permitted to get what they need openly
 often do so in ways that are risky or life-threatening, and are almost always dishonest to someone, somewhere along the way.
 6.  A concern for the high suicide rate among all queer youth.

 Since I believe that at least one act potentially involved in queer male relations is an issur d’oraisa (a Torah prohibition), and all bets are off as to the halakhic status of various things we women might do or relationships we might be in, the violation of a Torah prohibition is also one of these considerations – and obviously it is extremely weighty. Probably more weighty than most of the other considerations.  But the other considerations are still there.  They don’t simply disappear.  The Torah is not an arbitrary document.  It represents the will of G-d, and the last time I checked, G-d made the universe, with all the statistics and considerations and queer people in it.
 
 After man no. 1 and I broke up, I joined a dating website – the kind where you hire a shadchan (a matchmaker), and the shadchanim match you up.  I got matched after a good long while, and recently went on a first date with a new man.  He seemed pretty interesting, so we went out again.  Finally, on the third date, I asked him my killer question:  “what would you do if you had a child who told you he was gay?”

 Afterward, he told me his first thought was “what kind
 of orthodox Jewish conversation is this?”

 And I thought to myself, that’s just the trouble.  Why isn’t this an
 orthodox Jewish conversation?  Is being orthodox really about being in denial?
 
 I hope not.
 

January 2, 2009 at 1:56 pm 4 comments

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.

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

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

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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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