Monthly Archives: March 2013

Sarah Tuttle-Singer on Jewrotica

There’s a new player on the Jewish blog scene, and it’s not holding back. Jewrotica is a “pluralistic and sex-positive organization that explores the intersection of Judaism and sexuality through essays, literature, erotica, and in-person programming.” Keshet caught up with Sarah Tuttle-Singer, former social media outreach coordinator and current contributor, to ask about what it’s like to write for Jewrotica, and what the existence of this new site might mean for LGBT Jews.

Sarah Singer-Tuttle

Sarah Tuttle-Singer

You’re a writer for a variety of Jewish publications – in what ways (other than the very obvious one) is Jewrotica different? 

I’m a big believer in authenticity – in “owning your sh*t.” In other words, if you’ve got something provocative to say, then say it boldly, and don’t cower behind cheap metaphor. Writing for Jewrotica is a literalization of this – because unlike publishing on Kveller and Times of Israel (two sites which I adore!) not only is the content I submit on Jewrotica potentially problematic, but explaining the article in the context of the site also invites a secondary conversation. (Just ask my dad.) Continue reading

Posted on March 29, 2013

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 Kavannah for Gay Ordination

On March 26, 2007, the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, the legal and spiritual center for Conservative Judaism in America, responded to a new tshuvah, or Jewish legal ruling, issued by that movement, and officially announced it would ordain openly gay and lesbian rabbis.

Keshet JTS

This rainbow sign says “Welcome!” in Hebrew. Photo via Keshet JTS

At an all day conference at the Seminary marking the one year anniversary of this historic decision, two rabbis offered a special kavannah, or guiding intention.

Rabbis Karen Reiss Medwed and Francince Roston wrote this kavannah to commemorate the occasion, using a traditional format and liturgical vocabulary. We bring you this kavannah to commemorate the sixth anniversary of the Conservative movement’s decision to ordain gay and lesbian rabbis, a major step towards making the Jewish world an more inclusive space for LGBTQ Jews.

אלוהי כל בריות
יוצר אדם בצלמו
בצלם דמות תבניתו
עומדים אנחנו היום לפניך
בהודיה והלל
על פתיחת שער קהילתנו
בחזקה ובעצמה
Dearest Shekhina of all humanity
who embraces us together
under her wings of peace
We stand before you today
with open pride
Celebrating this tremendous day!
אל נא רפא נא
כי קלה לא הייתה הדרך
בהגיענו עד סף הפתח
:ונאמר היום
חזק
Be Strong:
For our reservoirs of individual strength as we journeyed in masked silence awaiting this day
חזק
Be Strong:
For the triumph of justice and צדק [tzedek] as we held to truth to illuminate the path to this day
ונתחזק
And let us be strengthened
As we continue forward and gain strength to bring completeness to this journey
כי נדע שעוד רבה הדרך
אך היום במרגע, בתפילה, ובנשימה עמוקה
אנו נהלל את האל הייחודי
אשר את כולנו ברא
:ונאמר היום
חזק
Be Strong:
And celebrate the open inclusion of all Jews to this House of Study and Place of worship
חזק
Be Strong:
And celebrate the open inclusion and acceptance of all Jews as כלי קודש [holy vessels] in this community
ונתחזק
And be strengthened
As we celebrate today the simple yet elusive blessing written by Marcia Falk:
to be who we are and to be blessed in all that we are
נהיה אשר נהיה
ונהיה ברוכים באשר נהיה
Let us say together – with passion and conviction, with love and affirmation, through tears and through joyous proclamation -
חזק   חזק    ונתחזק

Posted on March 28, 2013

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

Keeping Safe Spaces Safe

Jordan Daschow and Joanna Ware at Teen Shabbaton

Jordan Dashow, Tufts student and Keshet intern, and Joanna Ware, Keshet’s Lead Organizer and Training Coordinator, at Keshet’s LGBTQ Teen and Ally Shabbaton, January, 2013.

“If it doesn’t bring more love into the world, it probably isn’t religion.”

The date was October 13, 2010, and I was at Tufts University’s Coming Out Day Rally. At the rally, Tufts University’s Jewish Chaplain, Rabbi Jeffrey Summit, spoke about the importance of not just tolerating people’s differences but embracing them and told the crowd the statement quoted above. This message was so simple, yet so powerful — and so powerfully different from what I expected a religious leader speaking about LGBTQ issues to say.

Growing up, I attended a Conservative Jewish Day School from kindergarten until 12th grade. Throughout high school, I struggled to come to terms with my sexual orientation and my religious beliefs. I was forced to grapple with these issues alone, as my high school did not offer any support for queer students and in general ignored their existence. As far as I know, no one has ever come out in my high school (though one student who was already out transferred in) and homophobic comments, including the commonly repeated phrase “that’s so gay,” went unchallenged. Consequently, I never felt safe coming out in high school.

Continue reading

Posted on March 25, 2013

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

Passover, Memories, and the Power of Storytelling

It was exactly two years ago that I opened the door to a meeting of the Keshet Beit Midrash for the first time. I had moved to Boston a few months previously and, as Pesach (Passover) drew closer with its promise of spring around the corner, I was feeling the sting of isolation in the dead of winter in a strange city where people can’t pronounce their own French last names and nobody says good-morning. I had moved here from Louisiana in search of place to call home.

Creative Common/Hawk Sugano

Creative Commons/Hawk Sugano

It was in that room that our small group, in honor of the approaching Passover, examined a passage from Torah Queeries. We read a piece written by Jason Gary Klein in hevruta (pairs) and discussed the ritual of storytelling, which Klein notes happens in a very ritualized way at the Passover seder, and which also happens less formally but with equal frequency in queer circles, where we are so fond of telling coming out stories. And, as Klein pointed out, our own narratives of oppression and liberation nicely parallel the story we tell each year at the Passover seder. During the discussion, my first time ever sitting among other queer Jews, I felt cogs turn in my brain that had been rusty from years of disuse. I felt sinews in my heart grow taut that hadn’t been stretched in a lifetime. I didn’t understand those feelings at the time, but in the two years since that beit midrash, I haven’t stopped thinking about our topic that night. Continue reading

Posted on March 22, 2013

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

Transgendered Hearts: Abraham, Sarah and Isaac

The Torah is strewn with transgendered hearts.

Creative Common/Mike Goldberg

Verses from the Torah about the human heart. Creative Common/Mike Goldberg

How can that be true? The Torah, as we know, is not written for or about transgender people, and in any case, “transgender” is supposed to be a noun or adjective, not a verb, an umbrella term for the millions of people whose gender identity or expression is more complicated than “male” or “female.” “Transgender” gathers gender-complicated people into a broad, simple category – the equivalent of “African American” or “Latino” – and implies that our identities, like those of other minorities, are a matter of fact that is not up for discussion. But though “transgender” has real advantages for describing ourselves to others, for many of us who identify as transgender, identity is an often-messy, ongoing process, not a simple, settled fact. For me, “transgender” isn’t just something I am – it is an active, terrifying, exalting process of unmaking and remaking a self that will never quite fit established categories of gender or identity. Continue reading

Posted on March 21, 2013

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

Golda Och Academy Bans the Scouts, Stands for Inclusion

“To exclude same-sex families from membership and adult volunteerism is in direct contradiction of school policies, which place high value on inclusion.”

-Donna Oshri, Golda Och Academy

Creating inclusive Jewish spaces is a great goal — but how do you do it? While the answer is likely different for every synagogue, school, and youth group, it’s helpful and encouraging to hear about others’ successes, triumphs, and their lessons learned. So we’re running this regular column, called “The Tachlis of Inclusion,” to spotlight practices and policies that have worked for Jewish institutions all over the country. We hope they inspire you. 

Photo Courtesy of GLAAD

His mom was removed as troop leader because she is a lesbian. (Courtesy of GLAAD.)

In October 2012, the administration of Golda Och Academy, a Conservative Jewish day school in New Jersey, sent a letter home to parents, letting them know that the school would not be renewing its Boy Scouts charter. The reason? The Boy Scouts of America’s decision to ban gay scouts and adult troop leaders.

“It was a very short meeting,” Adam Shapiro, Dean of Students at Golda Och Academy, remembers about the decision to end the school’s relationship with the local Boy Scout Troop. “Everyone on our administrative team looked at each other and said, this is pretty obvious. And since we made our decision, basically all of the feedback we’ve received has been positive.”

Continue reading

Posted on March 20, 2013

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

Four Allies, Four Questions: A Hagaddah Insert

This insert was created by the Keshet Parent & Family Connection. We provide confidential support to other parents of LGBTQ Jewish children and family members. Learn more.

[Below is the full text of the insert. You can also download a pdf version to bring to your seder table.]

Download the Haggadah Insert Button

Every year, Jews gather at seder tables around the world to remember, retell, and reconnect with the story of our collective redemption. Passover compels us to ask ourselves how we are moving out of Mitzrayim, the narrow straits of oppression and brokenness that still mar our world, and toward liberation in our lives today. As mothers, fathers, parents, and family members of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Jews, we are inspired by our tradition’s story to strive for LGBTQ recognition, freedom, and acceptance.

Allies can have a powerful voice in that struggle, supporting LGBTQ people in their coming out process and helping others to understand the importance of justice, fairness, acceptance, and mutual respect for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. The role of allies is critical to the work of creating a Jewish community that is inclusive, safe, and supports all Jewish children, teens, and adults to be fully themselves.

At Passover, it is the family’s responsibility to retell the story, to inspire each new generation to accept the task of living out our values, of remembering that we were once strangers, and therein find an obligation to those on the margins of our own societies. As gay and straight parents and family members of LGBTQ children, we invite you to join us in considering our role in assuring LGBTQ liberation for generations to come.
Continue reading

Posted on March 18, 2013

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

Parashat Tsav: “It Must Not Go Out”

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 explores the many meanings of the Biblical imperative to keep the altar light burning.

Creative Common/Nutmeg Designs

Creative Commons/Nutmeg Designs

“The fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must not go out…The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out.” (Leviticus 6:12-13)

In ancient times, these verses referred to the sacrifices people were making as an act of worship. Having a perpetual flame on the altar symbolized that God was being continually worshipped by our ancestors. Today we worship very differently, without making any animal sacrifices. Why do these verses remain relevant to our modern lives at all, let alone as liberal GLBT Jews?

Continue reading

Posted on March 18, 2013

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

Passover: A Different Kind of Liberation Story

The connection between the Passover story and LGBTQ liberation is easy. Too easy. A group of people suffer under oppressors for hundreds of years and, thanks to a charismatic leader and a little perseverance, they are delivered amid clap and thunder, free at last to live their own lives. And indeed the Passover story has served as a prototype for liberation narratives for ages, not just in an LGBTQ context. It’s a story of underdog triumph that we Americans love. Our culture has embraced this Biblical tale with an almost unprecedented tenacity, and Americans who haven’t the slightest clue what the “books of Moses” are can at least summarize the book of Exodus for you.  And can anyone read the line, “Let my people go!” without hearing Paul Robeson’s rumbling baritone?

Creative Common/Chang'r

Creative Common/Chang’r

But we’ve got the story all wrong. I’ve been saying this for years, poo-pooing people’s feel-good glow of freedom during this season, but no one wants to listen to a curmudgeon during Pesach.

Continue reading

Posted on March 15, 2013

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

Queering Your Seder: LGBTQ Haggadot

Passover is fast approaching, which means it’s time to prepare to lead, or participate in, a seder. It can be a of lot of work – and anxiety – leading a seder that’s meaningful for everyone. But an interesting, thought-provoking, relevant, and inclusive haggadah can make all the difference!

Here’s a selection of LGBTQ haggadot that can be easily downloaded and brought to your seder table. While all of these resources provide lots of LGBTQ material, some may be more appropriate for your seder. If you’re interested in crafting your own seder, consider any haggadah designed to be “open source,” which will easily allow you to skip or add sections. If you’re looking for a more conventional seder that simply includes LGBTQ content, look for a haggadah that describes itself as “traditional.”

If you use any of them, let us know how it went.

Continue reading

Posted on March 13, 2013

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

Privacy Policy