Monthly Archives: October 2012

The Real Sin of Sodom

Jews read sections of the Torah each week, and these sections, known as parshiyot, inspire endless examination year after year. Each week we will bring you essays examining these portions from a queer perspective, drawn from the book Torah Queeries: Weekly Commentaries on the Hebrew Bible and the Torah Queeries online collection. This week, Rabbi Steve Greenberg re-examines the real sin of the Biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and considers the modern-day implications of their misdeeds.

Jerusalem Gay Pride. Wiki Commons/Guy Yitzhaki

Jerusalem Gay Pride. Wiki Commons/Guy Yitzhaki

This week [in 2006], daily riots erupted in Jerusalem’s streets as the Haredi (“Ultra-Orthodox”) community violently protested the upcoming Jerusalem Gay Pride march, scheduled for November 10. Haredi youths pelted police officers with large stones, blocks, bottles, angle irons, and wood planks. Posters lined the streets promising the payment of thousands of shekels to any zealot who would kill a “sodomite” marching in the parade. The riots were so intense that it became necessary for Haredi rabbinic leaders to come to the scene with megaphones and encourage the crowds to disperse. In another act of intolerance, the Edah Haredit, a right-wing Haredi rabbinical court, pronounced a rabbinic curse – a pulsa danura – on those organizing the march and against the policemen defending the marchers. Continue reading

Posted on October 29, 2012

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Don’t Touch that Dial! It’s a Round-Up of LGBT Jewish Election News

Election fever is heating up as we head into the final stretch of the 2012 election season. Here is a round-up of articles and resources on LGBT Jewish issues and political players. So enjoy – and vote on November 6th!

Maryland Marriage Equality sign

Maryland Marriage Equality sign. Image from Jews United for Justice.

Marriage Equality is up for a vote in four states this November: Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington. Marriage Equality USA has a great list of organizations and resources for religious people, including Jews, to connect with in order to support marriage equality. You can read sermons from rabbis and lay leaders in each of the four states that will be voting on our rights this November – Words of Torah from Maryland, Minnesota, Washington, and Maine.

(For a thorough examination of marriage equality issues this year, check out Naomi Goldberg’s post on the topic, The Year of Marriage Equality.)

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Posted on October 25, 2012

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Guten Tag, Keshet!

In early October, Dan Schulman joined Keshet as the new Massachusetts Community Organizer. Before he could get settled, Dan was off to Germany to participate in a unique trip: The Germany Close Up Fellowship: An Open Program for LGBT Young Professionals. This trip was sponsored by Germany Close Up – American Jews Meet Modern Germany,” an organization that seeks to “enrich transatlantic dialogue” and provide a way for young Jewish professionals to experience the diversity and history of modern Germany, and was co-sponsored by He’bro. This is the first LGBT-focused trip for the group. Dan checked in with us via email to let us know what he was learning.

Foundations of Berlin's oldest synagogue

Foundations of Berlin's first synagogue

It’s been an intense first two days here in Berlin. Although we are jetlagged, we began our program delving into German history. Here are photos of the foundation of the very first shul in Berlin. Anecdotally, the women of the 50 Jewish families in the first settlement were unhappy when it was built, as it took prayer out of the home. Instead of telling you why that made them so unhappy, I’d like to hear your best guesses – leave them in the comments section!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted on October 24, 2012

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Extinguishing the Flames: Parshat Lech Lecha

Jews read sections of the Torah each week, and these sections, known as parshiyot, inspire endless examination year after year. Each week we will bring you regular essays examining these portions from a queer perspective, drawn from the book Torah Queeries: Weekly Commentaries on the Hebrew Bible and the Torah Queeries online collection. This week, David Katzenelson looks at parshat Lech Lecha, and concludes that we can’t begin the work mending the world until we have come to love ourselves.

Parshat Noach, Creative Commons/John Murden

Creative Commons/John Murden

Our parasha starts with the first words G-d explicitly says to Abraham. These words are also the first commandment given by G-d to a member of the chosen people, a nation that will later adopt the name “Jews.” They embody both the first commandment given to the chosen and the act of choosing itself.

Authors of other Torah Queeries have pointed out “Lech Lecha” means “go to yourself.” I wish to focus on a different issue. Why does G-d say these words to Abraham of all people? Why and how is he chosen? And what is he chosen to do? Continue reading

Posted on October 22, 2012

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Words of Torah, for Marriage Equality: Rabbi Rachel Isaacs

Marriage equality is on the ballot in four states this November – Maryland, Washington, Minnesota, and Maine – which could transform the landscape of equality in the United States. Because this is such an important issue, this High Holiday season a number of rabbis chose to use their pulpits, or have congregants use them, to encourage support of local measures. In this series, we’ll share with you one sermon from each state voting on marriage equality, and hope their words of Torah inspire you. You can read the previous sermons for marriage equality from Washington, from Maryland, and from Minnesota.

This week, we bring you the sermon Rabbi Rachel Isaacs delivered on Rosh Hashanah at Beth Israel Congregation in Waterville, Maine. Learn how to get involved in the fight for marriage equality in Maine by visiting Equality Maine.

Rabbi Rachel Isaacs at ordination

Rabbi Rachel Isaacs at ordination. Photo by Amy Stone.

I remember one day in rabbinical school I was having Shabbat dinner with a professor and his friends. One of the women who was sitting at the Shabbat table had converted to Judaism decades ago and had raised three Torah-observant Jews. When discussing why she was so committed to raising her kids with such strong Jewish identities she said, “You need to give your kids religion at home, otherwise they’ll catch it out on the street.” Her statement has stuck with me for years. Is Judaism really like chicken pox? Better to get it early and at home — otherwise, you may contract a much more noxious version of faith at a later age. While her words may have been a little crass, I think that they were deeply true. Religion can be an amazing, healing, resonant influence in our lives that provides us with deep roots and a clear, ethical, beautiful vision of what the future can be. However, faith — when taken to extremes, religion — when it asks you to defy your instincts,  Judaism — when it brings you to hurt and exclude others — can be very dangerous. Continue reading

Posted on October 17, 2012

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

The Language of Blessings

Jews read sections of the Torah each week, and these sections, known as parshiyot, inspire endless examination year after year. Each week we will bring you essays examining these portions from a queer perspective, drawn from the book Torah Queeries: Weekly Commentaries on the Hebrew Bible and the Torah Queeries online collection. This week, Marisa James plays with ideas of language, blessings, and curses as they appear in Genesis.

Blessings and curses in this week's parasha

Creative Commons/Rachel-Esther

Last month, I had the dubious honor of reading parashat Ki Tavo at my shul on Shabbat morning, including the tokhekha, the list of all the curses which will come up on the people of Israel if we do not keep the commandments. It’s a long, difficult piece of text, and most Torah readers intentionally read this section faster than usual, and more quietly, to take away the sting of having to listen to so many curses on Shabbat.

Unfortunately, I spent the week before Shabbat Ki Tavo in bed, sick, fighting a losing battle against the flu. When Saturday arrived, I stumbled through the harder parts of the tokhekha, reading them slower instead of faster. But at least it was only the curses I stumbled through; when I read the blessings, they were loud and clear. As one of my friends said, “Better that your tongue should never be comfortable easily pronouncing curses.”

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Posted on October 15, 2012

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Words of Torah, for Marriage Equality: Rabbi Aaron Meyer

Marriage equality is on the ballot in four states this November – Maryland, Washington, Minnesota, and Maine – which could transform the landscape of equality in the United States. Because this is such an important issue, this High Holiday season a number of rabbis chose to use their pulpits, or have congregants use them, to encourage support of local measures. In this series, we’ll share with you one sermon from each state voting on marriage equality, and hope their words of Torah inspire you. You can read the previous two posts in this series here and here.

Rabbi Aaron Meyer delivered this sermon at Temple De Hirsch Sinai in Washington on Rosh Hashanah . Find out more about how to get involved in the fight for marriage equality in Washington, as well more information on the Jewish Coalition for Marriage Equality in Washington, at the Temple De Hirsch Sinai resource page.

Protest for Marriage Equality

Photo by: Bonnie Rosenbaum

“Your attention please: would Aaron Meyer please report to the Guidance Office – Aaron Meyer to the guidance office.”

Me?!? Me, who still held his mother’s hand to cross the street when I was 15? Who didn’t even think about kissing a girl until college? The only type of guidance I needed was which book to stay at home reading on Saturday night! I slowly trudged down the hall, one foot after another, my mind whirling with all of the possibilities of the moment, before finally I stopped at the closed door to the Guidance Office. After a timid knock, I entered and did my best to disappear into a corner – no small feat when you are as tall as I.

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Posted on October 12, 2012

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Keep On Coming Out

In honor of National Coming Out Day, we bring you the coming out musings of David Levy, long-time Keshet member and board member, who explains why he doesn’t think the coming out process is ever over… and why that’s not a bad thing.

Creative Commons/Paul Lowry

Creative Commons/Paul Lowry

Coming out is such a profound aspect of the LGBT experience for many of us that it’s taken on a special place within queer culture. When I was growing up, coming out stories dominated gay fiction and cinema. Swapping our own stories of coming out is a frequent characteristic of gay dating. But there are two questions that come up in these contexts that always aggravate me:

“How old were you when you came out?” and,

“Don’t you wish we lived in a time when no one had to come out?” Continue reading

Posted on October 11, 2012

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

B’reshit and Bashert: In Our beginning, All Kinds of Love Were Sanctified

Jews read sections of the Torah each week, and these sections, known as parshiyot, inspire endless examination year after year. Each week we will bring you regular essays examining these portions from a queer perspective, drawn from the book Torah Queeries: Weekly Commentaries on the Hebrew Bible and the Torah Queeries online collection. This week, Amy Soule looks to Genesis — B’reishit — to truly understand how we are all created in God’s image.

So God created humankind in God’s own image; in the image of God humanity was created; male and female God created them. (Genesis 1:27)

"Jonathan Lovingly Taketh His Leave of David" by Julius Schnorr von Karolsfeld

Perhaps my friends laugh at me when they hear that B’reishit is one of my favorite Torah portions because so many times strict religious people look toward certain segments to judge me as gay, but it’s easy for me to explain myself.

Look hard at the holy, loving statement above. Genesis 1:27 states all of humankind was created in God’s image. Although it mentions sexual difference alone, it’s easy to extrapolate and thus explain that God created an array of sexual orientations, all of which are loved by God and holy. Continue reading

Posted on October 9, 2012

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Words of Torah, for Marriage Equality: Rabbi Harold Kravitz

Marriage equality is on the ballot in four states this November – Maryland, Washington, Minnesota, and Maine – and this High Holiday season a number of rabbis are choosing to use their pulpits, or have congregants use them, to encourage support of these initiatives. Over the next few weeks leading up to the election, we’ll share sermons from each state voting on marriage equality. We hope their words of Torah inspire you. You can see the first post in this series, here.

This week, we bring you the sermon Rabbi Harold Kravitz delivered on Rosh Hashanah at Adath Jeshurun Congregation, a Conservative synagogue in Minnetonka, Minnesota. See below to learn more about Jewish Community Action (JCA), the organization mobilizing the Jewish community in Minnesota around marriage equality, and how you can get involved.

Marriage Equality. Creative Commons -- Wolfsoul

Creative Commons -- Wolfsoul

A privilege I have as a rabbi is getting called by people who want to tell me about their engagement and ask if I can officiate at the wedding. Sometimes the calls are from young people I have watched grow up in my twenty-five years as a rabbi here. Sometimes the calls are from one of the parents asking about dates, but the couple doesn’t know yet!

The calls are invariably touching. I may have officiated at their Bar or Bat Mitzvah. Actually, I am now at the point that I may have been at their baby naming. Our son Gabe, who married Yael a year ago August, may have the distinction of being my first such wedding. I look forward to many more of those in the years ahead.

Since my entire career as a rabbi has been in Minnesota, I have always done weddings here within parameters set by the MRA, the Minnesota Rabbinical Association. For the last 60 years, or so, the MRA policy has been to only do weddings in a synagogue, a home, or a park. It is an unusual policy. I know of no other community with anything quite like it. The rabbis who originally established it were concerned about what they saw happening in hotels and wanted to set a more appropriate tone for Jewish weddings. I really believe that this policy is one of the things that has contributed to the special strength and quality that has long distinguished the Minnesota Jewish community.

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Posted on October 5, 2012

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

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