Posts filed under ‘Living in the Orthodox World’

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

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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

Pesach Sheini

The following is a guest post by Dina Berman and Tamar Gan-Zvi Bick of  Bat-Kol :

Second Passover: Dina Berman and Tamar Gan-Zvi Bick

In the Book of Numbers, Chapter 9, we read that the Israelites observed a certain
mitzvah while they stayed in the desert. God orders Moses, who passes on the order
to the people, and the people obey and perform the Passover rites at a particular
time, as it is ordained. So far, there is nothing unusual in this description, but later on
something strange takes place. The following verse tells of something unique. After a brief description of the sacrificing of the Passover lamb (and one can only imagine the festivities that took place while this mitzvah was performed by those who actually left Egypt with Moses), some Israelites turn to Moses with an unexpected plea:

 “But there were some men who were unclean by reason of a corpse and could not offer the Passover sacrifice on that day. Appearing that same day
before Moses and Aaron, those men said to them: ‘Unclean though we are by
reason of a corpse, why must we be debarred from presenting the LORD’s
offering at its set time with the rest of the Israelites?”

The people who were ritually impure at the time of the observance of the Passover
rituals, and therefore could not take part in the mitzvahs of Passover, approach
Moses and Aaron and call out “why should we be excluded?” Let’s think for a
moment about their claim: On a superficial level they have no case. After all, these
people were prevented from carrying out the mitzvah because of their bad luck, or
perhaps their own bad planning or negligence. They were not targeted or injured
personally, it was simply bad timing that prevented them from fulfilling this specific
mitzvah. They should be satisfied that no punishment is due them because of it. But
these people feel that being prevented from performing the mitzvah harms them by
excluding them from the community, and they demand to be included and to sacrifice the Passover lamb.  

Moses, the greatest of sages, is lost for words, and his response is that he needs to
receive instruction from the LORD about what must be done. The answer he gets is revolutionary: 

“Speak to the Israelite people, saying: When any of you or your posterity who  are defiled by a corpse or are on a long journey would offer a Passover
sacrifice to the LORD, they shall offer it in the second month, on the
Fourteenth day of the month, at twilight. They shall eat it with unleavened
bread and bitter herbs; and they shall not leave any of it till morning. They
shall not break a bone of it. They shall offer it in strict accordance with the law
of the Passover sacrifice”.

The LORD’s answer is that there exists a “second chance” for the mitzvah of the Passover sacrifice. People who couldn’t sacrifice the Passover lamb in time (because of impurity related to death or physical inability to reach the site of sacrifice) should celebrate Passover on the Fourteenth of Iyar, and the LORD explicitly states that their Passover (Pesach Sheni) should be identical to the regular one, including matzoth and bitter herbs and all the special laws relating to Passover.  This is one of the strangest cases ever described in the Bible. On what is a completely ordinary day for almost all of the people of Israel, a certain group of people celebrate the Passover. On this day, as evening falls, they come to the temple dressed in their best, sacrifice the Passover lamb and eat it, matzoth and all. For these people this Passover is the real Passover, regardless of the fact that it is an ordinary day for the rest of the Jewish people.

Let us take note that the initiative does not come from the LORD, nor from Moses.
The possibility for a second Passover arises only because of the demand of the
ritually impure. That is the essence of this day: the LORD could have ordained it
from the beginning, but he waited for the insistence of those people who refused to
accept their fate, and fought for their place.

What can be learned from this extraordinary mitzvah? As we read the story of
Pesach Sheni we discover that consideration towards a minority is a Divine virtue,
one that humans must learn from, as part of “You shall follow His ways”. For what
we have here is a situation in which the majority of the Israelites sacrifice the
Passover lamb at its ordained time, while a minority is prevented from observing this
mitzvah. Our guess is, that if it were up to humans to solve this problem, they would
just shrug their shoulders and claim that it’s not their problem that ritually impure
people cannot sacrifice as prescribed: the writ of the LORD is perfectly clear and
there is nothing to be done. Only the LORD himself could come up with this solution,
of allowing the minority the place and the possibility to be part of the whole – for the
sacrifice of the Passover lamb together with the covenant of the circumcision,
signifies inclusion in the Jewish people – and all this without diminishing anything
from the original directive.

The second thing we can learn from Pesach Sheni is that some things must start at
the bottom. The initiative for the Pesach Sheni reform came from the ritually impure
and from distant travelers, and not from the LORD. In Hassidut, the month of Iyar is
viewed as the month in which redemption will come from the people while the month
of Nissan is that in which redemption came from the LORD. In our time, on the same
month of Iyar, we have been blessed to celebrate the beginning of the Jewish
people’s emancipation in their own country. It is very fitting that Yom HaAtzma’ut
(Independence Day) is celebrated in Iyar along with Pesach Sheni, as another
example of a groundswell demand that resulted in action.

The revolutionary aspect of the Divine solution to the problem of the celebration of
Passover by the ritually impure should not be taken lightly. It is a mitzvah whose
timing is crucial since it symbolizes a historical event, the exodus from Egypt which
took place on Nissan the Fourteenth, not Iyar the Fourteenth! As we can see, after
the LORD ordains Pesach Sheni he also warns: “But if a man who is clean and not
on a journey refrains from offering the Passover sacrifice, that soul shall be cut off
from his kin; for he did not present the LORD’s offering at its set time, that man shall
bear his guilt.” The creation of a solution for the minority does not open a way for
abrogating the original directive for the majority. If there is no justifiable reason for
not celebrating the Passover at its proper time, the punishment for not sacrificing the
Passover lamb is excommunication, a rare and severe punishment for the
contravention of a mitzvah that exits for only one other mitzvah – circumcision.

In the past few years some of us have been crying out “Why should we be
excluded?”. Religious gay men and women and aging single women would like to
build Jewish homes, and take part in the mitzvah of procreation and to be, in the
most basic sense, a part of the fabric of the nation; agunot would like to remarry
within the strictures of Jewish law, and find a halachic solution to their problem;
women would like to participate in mitzvot such as Torah study, and to be full
participants in their communities and synagogues. These cries, like the cries of the
ritually impure men, stem from a sincere and truthful desire to obey the laws of the
Torah, out of a deep understanding of the meaning of belonging to the Jewish
people, but without the ability to find their own place in the current tapestry of
mitzvoth.

The response of Rabbis and religious leaders to these problems was that there are
no existing halachic solutions: a Jewish home must be comprised of a male and a
female; the normative family is the basis of Jewish existence; there is no option to
change even some of the divorce laws for fear of a “wrongful divorce” and similar
problems; there is no place in the halachic framework for the full integration of
women in the public sphere of religious life. Pesach Sheni teaches us that creative
solutions must be found, special and unique solutions of the kind that challenges
even the most basic of assumptions. Pesach Sheni teaches us that there are parts of
the Torah that the LORD requires us to write ourselves, that arise from the demands
of the people, and that some halachot are written only in answer to a true and honest
plea for inclusion within the nation and in the framework of the law.

However, Pesach Sheni teaches us that not every change is the start of a slippery
slope. It teaches us that a solution can be found for a minority without changing
anything relating to the majority. The Fourteenth of Iyar is only for those who are
ritually impure or on the road, and is a regular day for everyone else – and the
mitzvah of Passover is not diminished because of the innovation of Pesach Sheni. In
the same way, halachic and intellectual solutions can – and should – be found for the
current cries of “Why should we be excluded?” that will allow minorities to coexist, at
the deepest level, with the rest of the Jewish people, without harming the halachic
norm that governs the majority.

The Fourteenth of Iyar, Pesach Sheni, is not celebrated today. Beyond the symbolic
gesture of not saying Tachanun, the penitential prayer recited daily, the day is not
marked. This is why we suggest turning the Fourteenth of Iyar into the day of
religious tolerance. A day that will remind us all of the necessity of halachic solutions
to real problems, to consider the difficulties of minorities, and to make a commitment
towards the “other”, whoever that may be. On this day we will remember that there
are still things to correct that will never be initiated from the top. On this day we can
remember that it is both possible and imperative to stretch boundaries, so as to
create a holiday on an otherwise ordinary day, one that enables all of the Jewish
people to participate in the world of the Torah. On the Fourteenth of Iyar we shall
recall the lesson that is taught, not by sage nor by messenger, but from the LORD
Himself. On a date that is but a few days after the day of celebration of our political
emancipation, let us celebrate the day of halachic responsibility – the day of religious
tolerance.

May 5, 2009 at 9:37 pm 5 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

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 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.

*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

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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