Next Tirtzah Event: Davening As A Frum Queer Woman – August 2, 2009 (New York City)

Tirtzah: A Community of Frum Queer Women invites you to join us for our next event:

DAVENING AS A FRUM QUEER WOMAN
Sunday, August 2nd, 2009
11:00 AM
New York, NY

We will be exploring questions such as: What is your relationship to individual and communal prayer? How is your relationship to Hashem affected by your being lesbian/bisexual/queer/questioning? Has your relationship to prayer and to Hashem changed as you have come out to yourself and/or your community?

We will begin with some text study, as always, and then delve into discussing our personal relationships with prayer and with G-d, and the feelings and experiences that come up for queer women during prayer.

Light kosher breakfast refreshments (bagels, fruit and juice) will be provided. We will ask for a donation of a few dollars to help defray the costs of photocopying & food, but we will not turn anyone away for lack of funds.

PLEASE COME ON TIME, AND PLEASE RSVP IF POSSIBLE!


IMPORTANT:
In order to maintain safety and confidentiality, this event is only open to members of the Tirtzah Community. See below for directions on joining our e-mail discussion list. If you do not wish to join the list and still want to attend an event you will need to e-mail us for the location of the meeting. We require women who are not on our e-mail list to speak with one of the group leaders before attending an event.

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 operate an e-mail list for women worldwide and we offer in-person events in the New York City area.

HOW DO I JOIN TIRTZAH?

If you are a lesbian, bisexual or queer identified woman who is religious, observant and/or Orthodox… or is on the path to becoming more halachically observant… we welcome you to join our e-mail discussion group. We aim for it to be a positive and non-judgmental space for women who are currently frum or are becoming frum*.

To join the group, go to http://groups.google.com/group/Tirtzah. You will need to create a Google account (free of charge) if you don’t already have one.

*We use the word “frum” to mean a person who is dedicated to observing the mitzvot, and is constantly working on doing a better job of that. We use this term to refer to someone who is engaged with halacha, who is aiming to grow in their Judaism, and who is serious about it. A frum person is someone who sustains and works towards a traditional Jewish spiritual life.

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July 23, 2009 at 12:37 am 3 comments

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

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

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

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Challenges Religious Establishments to Accept Homosexual Jews

 Ynet. Reports:

At the Limmud Annual Conference, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin stated that in his view, while he does not support marriage for gay/lesbian people, he favors greater acceptance for gay and lesbian people in Orthodox congregations.

As someone who has gotten to know Orthodox gay and lesbian people, he says “I don’t object to gay-lesbian parents or single mothers bringing a child into this world, as long as they do so responsibly”.  

In addressing the way the community should respond to it’s gay/lesbian members, hes says: “The synogogue is meant to accept any Jew. I must love the foreigner, as well as those who are different. Our role as parents is to love our children, and the rabbis’ role is to love the members of their congregation”.

Posted by queeryeshivameidel.

January 8, 2009 at 4:23 pm 4 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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