My LGBTQ Jewish heroes are less well known. They're couples who I've watched argue over parshiot, joke about the treyf zone in their otherwise kosher home, and plot to have the gayest purim costumes (I believe they decided on a Roman and a his slave!) They are the people who showed me there was more to Judaism and same sex relationships than a few verses in Leviticus, and introduced me to the five genders within Jewish tradition. I could keep adding to this list, but the truth of it is that the people on it are my friends and mentors, members of my congregation and chosen family.
It was a late spring-time graduation unlike any other, a landmark event in Jewish history. On June 16th, at the Ramaz School on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, for the first time ever, with the bestowal of a parchment and the recitation of a specially chosen biblical phrase, three women became spiritual leaders and legal authorities within Orthodox Jewry: Our sister, may you become a multitude. (Genesis 24:60).
What sets Kickstarter’s response apart from other organizations is that they didn’t just apologize—they took it a step further. After reiterating that offensive, hateful and violent material has no place on their website they stated that they will indeed be following up their words and with action and “will donate $25,000 to an anti-sexual violence organization called RAINN,” acknowledging that “it’s an excellent organization that combats exactly the sort of problems our inaction may have encouraged.”
This was the first time that Orthodox women were ordained in an institutional setting. There was a profound sense that not only was this a big moment for the three women getting ordained, but also for the men who trained them. I could hear the pride in Rabbi Jeffrey Fox, the Rosh HaYeshiva’s voice, and how much this meant to Rabbi Avi Weiss. In particular, Rabbi Weiss emphasized the desire to give a professionally recognized title to these women (even if it is Maharat, rather than Rabba), and the absolute necessity of the support of the male rabbis who have welcomed these women into their congregations. For Rabba Sara, I had the profound sense that she was creating an exciting new cohort of colleagues for herself. It’s one thing to be a groundbreaker, but totally another to bring others along with you, to create a system and a path for future generations.
During this morning’s commute into Boston the car started making a weird whoomping sound*. To my untrained ear it sounded like the car was performing some sort of subtle dance with road, where the slight shimmying of my car was a sure sign that the engine had decided to part ways with the rest of the vehicle. Luckily my partner actually knows a thing or two about cars, and had a few slightly more plausible explanations than the engine becoming self aware and annoyed with its surroundings.
I didn’t realize it would be so hard to be queer after I got married. Seems like it should have been obvious to me, right? Marry a heterosexual cis-man, turn in queer club card, do not pass go, still collect hundreds of dollars of apparently-straight privilege. Is that how it has to be?
Being a photographer is hard enough, and breaking down barriers of a male driven profession and world is even harder. Abigail Heyman was one photographer who did just that. Abby Heyman was a photographer with something to say, one who created work of consequence through brutally honest and personal photographs. She wove her own identity—that of a woman growing up in a culture not always meant for women—into her photographs.
I don’t watch a lot of reality tv. I was recently chatting with a good friend of mine, the managing editor of Heeb, and he challenged me to think about why this show upsets me more than other shows. I probably made it through a third of a Jersey Shore episode before turning it off. I do have to wonder—were we, as a Jewish population, up in arms about the dangers of ethnic stereotypes before we were a victim of such portrayals?
Let’s be honest: fair or not, I’m a pretty privileged parent. True, being a single gay Jewish dad in a relatively gay-less and Jewishly deprived region occasionally makes me feel like an exotic animal at a religious petting zoo or some interactive exhibit at a sexual orientation museum. But moments like these pass quickly and are replaced by reminders of my advantaged status, regardless of how just this may be.
This year, I can’t help but color my pride with a slight bit of ambivalence as a result of the failure of Senator Patrick Leahy’s amendment to the current Immigration bill, which would have recognized same-sex bi-national couples, affording them the same rights and benefits that opposite-sex couples obtain during the immigration process.
When other people tell me about what their partner’s do to raise their babies, I want to suggest they look into a rebate program, as Charles is so clearly kicking their butts. At our birth class reunion parents were talking about how the fathers sometimes “help out” or “let the moms sleep in.” The frames people were using were that childrearing was this thing moms did, and sometimes the dads heroically stepped in to do a small amount for their wives’ projects. The dads might change a diaper!
They say there’s nothing like a parade—and they’re right. This weekend I marched in my first ever Pride parade, proudly carrying my JWA bag, a Keshet sign reading “another Jew for LGBTQ equality,” and my camera. The weather called for rain, but I wasn’t about to let that get me down. I packed my raincoat and channeled my inner Barbra, declaring that no one dare rain on my parade.
It probably won't come as much of a shock to you that the word “feminist” comes with significant baggage. Identifying as a feminist is not as straightforward to some as it is to others.
In order to get a better feel for the word, we took to the (metaphorical) streets of twitter, email, and facebook to get a feel for the word. We’re sharing these reactions to the word—and asking if you identify as a feminist.
As a member of the GLBTQ community and a rabbinical student, it is clear to me that the words “there is no need” do not apply to places where Jewish and Queer communities intersect. There is so much need. Before these needs can be addressed, they need to be made visible. GLBTQ Jews need to be seen as vital members of our GLBTQ communities. We need to be seen and valued as Jews who have vast interests and abilities and life experiences that can, and already do, enrich Jewish life. We, GLBTQ Jews, also need to stand up and claim Jewish community, Jewish tradition, and Jewish law for ourselves.
After the initial episode of Princesses of Long Island aired, I sat down with my friend Chanel Dubofsky (who, it is worth mentioning, shares a name but none of the traits of one of the stars of the new reality TV show.) We decided to transcribe our conversation, as we attempted to take on and understand the issues behind the show.
I just finished watching the first episode of Bravo’s new reality show, “The Princesses of Long Island.” If you haven’t seen it, just think of a prequel to “The Real Housewives of Long Island.” The show focuses on 6 women in their late 20s who all live at home, have varying levels of codependency with their parents and are searching for their own “Prince Charming” while partying it up in Long Island.
Growing up, my discomfort derived from the separate-but-equal mentality I found inherent within a mechitza service. Sometimes, the mechitza is a balcony (women in the back, men in the front). Sometimes, the Torah and the service-leader are only on the men’s side. Even in the more forward-thinking mechitza services that I’ve attended, there are still areas in which women may not lead. As an outspoken queer feminist, mechitzas make me uncomfortable... to say the least.
At the festival after the parade, my friend Becca slowly walked me over to the Keshet table. By putting my name on the Keshet sign-up sheet, I was stating that I can’t just be a gay man; I’m a gay Jewish man—my gay identity and my Jewish identity work together.
This intimidating cartoon really got to me, a moderate believer who made what I thought was a minor sacrifice to tribal loyalty—twice—over 20 years ago when I chose the traditional ceremony for my newborn sons. Of course I did not like causing my babies pain, but I had seen the ceremony several times and knew that it did not last long at all, and having just gone through childbirth, I knew pain was part of life.
I’m not sure when I realized that the true Torah value is inclusion and acceptance of our LGBT+ brethren. Perhaps it was because my mom became close friends with a gay man who’s very active in gay social life. Maybe it was because of my increased involvement in feminism; after all, the National Organization for Women (NOW), the largest feminist organization in the US (of which I am a member), lists lesbian rights as one of its top priority issues. Or maybe it was just maturity. Whatever the reason and whenever it actually happened, I began to support gay rights, both within and without the Jewish community.
Nearly 20 years ago I was living on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, a haven for observant Conservative Jews. I had my choice of multiple minyanim to attend; even the crowded weekend city streets had an air of the Sabbath, and kosher food abounded.
There were so many Conservative and egalitarian options that I rarely ventured into the neighborhood’s Orthodox community, and I certainly never attended an Orthodox synagogue.
Orthodox women are making history in front of our eyes. On June 16, three women will be ordained to serve, in effect, as Orthodox rabbis, given the title of Maharat (an acronym for the Hebrew words meaning leader in legal, spiritual and Torah matters).
They will graduate from Yeshivat Maharat in New York City, the first and thus far only women to receive institutional ordination as religious and spiritual leaders in the Orthodox world.
Today I googled the Wendy’s commercial of the early 1980s were an older woman uses the catchphrase “Where’s the beef?!”. This may—or may not—surprise you. What probably will surprise you was the fact that this search was not inspired by my Memorial Day plans of grilling, but because of my job here at the Jewish Women’s Archive.
While exploring our archives I came across a truly remarkable activist, Clara Lemlich Shavelson. Born in 1886, Shavelson was a key player in the labor movement. She was also a suffragist, communist, community organizer, and peace activist. Read on to find out where the beef comes into play!
For those of you wondering about the fate of the peripatetic theatre legend Judith Malina, there’s good news. The Forward just published an article and posted a video of the grounds and atmosphere of Malina’s new home at the Lillian Booth Actors’ Home in Englewood, NJ, along with interviews with Ms. Malina and her fellow “hostages” (as she jokingly calls her fellow residents).
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Blog." (Viewed on May 22, 2015) <http://jwa.org/blog>.