Abby Stein Publicly Comes Out as the First Trans Woman from an ultra-Orthodox Community
On November 11, 2015, Abby Stein publicly came out as a transgender woman in a blog post on her blog, The Second Transition. Her story was soon covered by numerous media outlets including the New York Post, New York Magazine, The Forward, Haaretz, CNN, and Vogue. Soon after, she founded the first support group nationwide for trans people from an Orthodox background.
Stein is descended from a rabbinic dynasty that traces its lineage to the founder of Hasidism, the Baal Shem Tov. Abby grew up in New York in the insular Hasidic communities of Vizhnitz and Satmar, which are strictly segregated by gender and secluded from many of the influences of secularism. In 2012 Stein parted with her Hasidic community and began her involvement with a number of communities of ex-Orthodox Jews including Footsteps. Stein likes to joke that she’s the first, and only, ultra-Orthodox ordained female rabbi, having received a rabbinical degree in 2011 at Yeshiva Viznitz in South Fallsburg, N.Y.
Since coming out, Abby Stein has become a vocal advocate for the inclusion of LGBTQ people in Judaism, and has embarked on a number of speaking tours throughout Jewish Hillels, synagogues, and community centers. On January 14, 2019, Abby Stein was named to the new 32-member steering committee of The Women’s March alongside Jewish leaders April Baskin and Yavilah McCoy.
This entry was created for This Week in History as part of a course on the history of American Jewish women taught by Karla Goldman at the University of Michigan, Winter 2019.
Sources: “Thank You World - Friday Night Reflection;” “I left Hasidism to become a woman;” “Questions and answers with Abby Stein, trans activist;” “'Gender Began Punching Me in the Face:' How a Hasidic Rabbi Came Out as a Trans Woman.”
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Abby Stein Publicly Comes Out as the First Trans Woman from an ultra-Orthodox Community." (Viewed on September 24, 2021) <https://jwa.org/thisweek/nov/11/2015/abby-stein-publicly-comes-out-first-trans-woman-ultra-orthodox-community>.