Monthly Archives: May 2013

A Champion for Inclusion

After nearly ten years of doing LGBT inclusion work in the Jewish LGBT community, first as the founding director of Jewish Mosaic and now with Keshet, our colleague Gregg Drinkwater is leaving Keshet to pursue his Ph.D. He will be missed sorely by those who work with him, but his ground-breaking work will have a lasting impact. We caught up with Gregg to discuss what the changes he’s seen within the Jewish community and larger American community, what he’s most proud of, and what he’s most looking forward to.

Gregg in Paris

Gregg Drinkwater

As you look back over your time at Jewish Mosaic and Keshet, what are you most proud of? You played a role in galvanizing support in the Jewish community for civil unions in Colorado; you created the Queer Seder, the biggest queer Jewish event in Denver; and you created the idea for – and co-edited the book of – Torah Queeries. What strike you as your biggest successes?

I’m most proud of the way my Jewish community, not just here in Colorado, but across the country, has stepped up and become a champion for inclusion. We still have much work to do and some Jewish communities in the U.S. remain deeply unwelcoming for LGBT Jews. But with so many Jewish voices speaking out for respect and inclusion, I couldn’t be more proud today to be an American Jew. Continue reading

Posted on May 30, 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

Orthodox Parents, United by Love of Torah… and Our LGBT Children

A series by Jewish moms and dads with LGBTQ children.

When a child comes out, a coming out process begins for the entire family. In honor of Mother’s and Father’s Day, we bring you our second post in a series by parent leaders of Keshet’s Parent & Family Connection. The Connection is a confidential peer support program for parents and family members of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Jews. We celebrate the support and love that these parents give their LGBTQ children – and the support they now offer other parents. This week’s post is by “MBSD,” an Orthodox parent from Baltimore, MD. You can read the previous post in this series, by a mother of a queer daughter in Colorado, here.

Creative Common/Martijn van den Broek

Creative Common/Martijn van den Broek

A peaceful Shabbat walk in the woods. I neared a bubbling brook, stood on a footbridge and gazed down at the streaming water, contemplating the beauty of Hashem‘s creations. I saw a wide bed of rocks of various shapes and sizes. There were boulders to the left, boulders to the right, even some in the middle. Together they formed their own community; each rock was an integral part of a whole entity that had a beautiful stream flowing through it. It was a metaphor for the ideal harmony we’d like to see in our Jewish communities. We are a people that share the same religion yet come from different backgrounds with different viewpoints. Still, we’re all connected by our love for Torah, that stream of energy that unites us. Continue reading

Posted on May 24, 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

A Rabbi Reflects on the Journey Towards Marriage Equality

We in the Jewish community just spent forty-nine days counting the Omer, the period from liberation to revelation, from leaving slavery in Egypt to receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai. We marked the passage of time, each day, remembering, recalling, and reflecting. We arrive at Shavuot, and prepare to receive the gift of Torah, our story, our memory, our history, our guiding law.

Creative Common/Eric Austin

Creative Common/Eric Austin

The journey of the Israelites and the counting of the Jewish people have striking parallels to the work for marriage equality in Minnesota. The Israelites wandered for forty years, we are taught, after leaving slavery. Forty years is a long time of waiting, of watching, of wondering. They left Egypt full of hope and promise, but that youthful optimism quickly faded, and those who left slavery did not live to see the Promised Land. Continue reading

Posted on May 23, 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

Celebrating Harvey Milk Day

Today Harvey Milk would have been 83. Instead, this gay Jewish hero, who was cut down in his prime, remains a vaunted icon of gay rights across the globe. On his birthday, now known as Harvey Milk Day, we celebrate his work, life, and lasting legacy. At Keshet, we’re honoring his life and achievements by bringing you some rare photos of this pioneer.

After a career that included the Navy, high school teaching, and time on Wall Street, Milk moved to San Francisco. By 1973, he launched his first run for City Supervisor – and lost. In 1977, after his third attempt, he won the seat, becoming the first openly gay man ever elected to major public office in America. Harvey Milk was assassinated in 1978. His legacy of working for the civil rights of all and building coalitions among diverse groups continues to inspire and inform social justice work today. Enjoy this photo essay in honor of Harvey Milk, and check out events happening near you on the Harvey Milk Day website.

1975: Harvey at opening of 1975 Campaign. Estate of Harvey Milk. James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center San Francisco Public Library.

1975: Harvey at opening of 1975 Campaign. Estate of Harvey Milk. James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center San Francisco Public Library.

1942: Harvey with brother Robert at Coney Island. James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center, San Francisco Public Library

1942: Harvey with brother Robert at Coney Island. James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center, San Francisco Public Library

Between 1953-54: Harvey and friend in the Navy

Between 1953-54: Harvey and friend in the Navy

Harvey Milk Giving a toast at a family wedding

Harvey Milk giving a toast at a family wedding.

1974: Harvey Milk on stage at Gay Day, San Francisco Civic Center. Don Eckert, James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center, San Francisco Public Library.

1974: Harvey Milk on stage at Gay Day, San Francisco Civic Center. Don Eckert, James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center, San Francisco Public Library.

1978: Flowers and San Francisco Examiner at City Hall steps the day after the assassinations. James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center, San Francisco Public Library.

1978: Flowers and San Francisco Examiner at City Hall steps the day after the assassinations. James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center, San Francisco Public Library.

Between 1972-78: Harvey in Castro. Camera: James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center, San Francisco Public Library.

Between 1972-78: Harvey in Castro. Camera: James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center, San Francisco Public Library.

LGBT Jewish Heroes poster Harvey Milk

LGBT Jewish Heroes poster

You can get your own Harvey Milk poster to celebrate Harvey Milk Day as part of Keshet’s LGBT Jewish Heroes project. (20% discount on the series today. Use code: HMD at checkout.)

Special thanks to the James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center San Francisco Public Library for access to these wonderful photos.

Posted on May 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

Parashat Be’Ha’alotecha: ‘Am’ (Yisrael) Comin’ 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, Rabbi Karen Perolman examines the Israelites’ struggles with their “coming out” experiences.

Creative Common/doyoubleedlikeme

Creative Common/doyoubleedlikeme

Coming-out (of the closet): To be “in the closet” means to hide one’s sexual and or gender identity. Many GBLT people are “out” in some situations and “closeted” in others.
– from Kulanu: All of Us, URJ Press 2007

As first among our days of sacred days, it recalls the coming-out (Exodus) from Egypt.
– from Erev Shabbat Kiddush.

Although the entire story of the Exodus from Egypt can be read as the Israelites’ coming-out story, the exact moment of coming-out occurs when the Israelites finally open the door to the closet and step out into what is literally new land, land that was newly exposed, and formerly under cover of water. In Exodus 14:21, God splits the Red Sea through the hand of Moses and the people walk on dry land toward redemption. Continue reading

Posted on May 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

Parashat Naso: Queer Nazir and the Twelve Identical Gifts

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, Darren Lippman considers the similarities between Nazirites and LGBT Jews – two populations who are “set aside” in important ways.

Creative Common/Alexander Smolianitski

Creative Common/Alexander Smolianitski

I first read Parashat Naso during my b’nei mitzvah class in early 2002, long before I discovered either my passion for Judaism or my love of writing. It’s no surprise, then, that after reading the extensive recounting of events in the Israelites’ camp surrounding the dedication of the Mishkan (the Tabernacle), my first thought was that this parasha was long and tedious: it begins with a census, continues with purifying the camp, and ends with dedicating the Mishkan, an event featuring identical offerings from each tribe. Continue reading

Posted on May 14, 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

Love Our Families

Here at the Keshet blog, we’re celebrating Mother’s Day with a reminder of how important parental love and support are. So here’s our Mother’s Day gift to you (and your mom(s)): a one minute video by our friends at The Righteous Conversations Project, a project of Remember Us, which brings together Holocaust survivors and teens to speak up about injustice through new media workshops and community engagements. In this short clip, two teens compare notes about their supportive, if slightly overbearing, parents. As these teens remind us, the things that bind families together, like love, concern, and even a little loving parental nagging, are pretty universal.

We know that for many families, Mother’s Day can be a tough time. If you know a mom (or dad) with an LGBTQ child who would like another parent to talk to, let them know about the Keshet Parent & Family Connection, a confidential peer support program for parents and family members of LGBTQ Jews.

 

Posted on May 10, 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

Counting the Omer…Counting my Blessings

A series by Jewish moms and dads with LGBTQ children.

When a child comes out, a coming out process begins for the entire family. In honor of Mother’s and Father’s Day, we bring you our first post in a series by parent leaders of Keshet’s Parent & Family Connection. The Connection is a confidential peer support program for parents and family members of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Jews. We celebrate the support and love that these parents give their LGBTQ children – and the support they now offer other parents. This week’s post is by Francine Lavin Weaver, a Colorado-based educator and author, and member of the Keshet Parent & Family Connection in Colorado.

This is that time of year where we Jews anticipate, we count the days, we count the Omer, and we count our blessings. The idea of counting each day represents spiritual preparation and anticipation for the giving of the Torah which was given by God on Mount Sinai around the time of Shavuot. We actively count in our prayers each day from Passover to Shavuot – all forty-nine of them.

Francine Lavin Weaver and her daughter, Shana

Francine Lavin Weaver and her daughter, Shana

On another note, wearing my many hats, I am a lifelong Jewish learner, teacher and family educator. I am a daughter, a significant partner, and a mom. I learn so much from my children every day. They teach me about life, and relationships, things that I never knew how to verbalize or incorporate when I was growing up.

A few years ago, my queer adult daughter attempted to explain to me what being queer was.

She said, “Mom, I identify as a woman. But, I have had and will have relationships with all kinds of people. I fall in love with the soul of the person, Mom…that entity that makes that person special. It doesn’t matter to me in what gender the person identifies.”

She then explained that being queer is stepping out of societal norms in regards to gender and sexuality — and even politics. This was definitely a new experience for me. To me, queer was a girl in my homeroom in Junior High who wore white socks — and saddle shoes. They didn’t have child development books about this when I was in college (pursuing my chosen career of special education).

I have always used my children as my barometer. If they were happy, they were learning, and they were healthy, then I was happy. My daughter is a very sensitive, caring young adult. She is a physical therapist in a rehab hospital. She volunteers her time to help older people stay in their own homes. She is a fun-loving, passionate social activist and I love her.

What a conversation we had. What a lesson it was. It was the beginning of many more lessons for me. I began to read books, I took classes, I joined the Keshet Parent & Family Connection in Colorado. The more I learn about LGBTQ issues, the more comfortable and proud I feel.

So, now, I anticipate, count the Omer, and count my many blessings:

My queer daughter is definitely one of them.

Posted on May 9, 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

First Fruits of the LGBT Movement

Part of the observance of Shavuot, the traditional spring harvest holiday, is the celebration of the bikkurim, the first fruits of the year. In this post, Becky Silverstein honors those “first fruits” of the LGBT movement who have made so much progress possible.

Creative Common/David Heise

Creative Common/David Heise

The journey from Passover to Shavout is seven weeks. Counting each night, we count the steps towards revelation and still, suddenly, the time for receiving Torah is here! As I prepare for my own experience of revelation this year, here is what I expect to see at Sinai: I expect to see millions of Jews standing together. I expect to see cultural Jews standing next to Orthodox Jews standing next to our non-Jewish family members and friends. I expect to see families, of all different configurations, huddled together under one tallit or around a picnic blanket. I expect to see cisgender Jews and transgender Jews, Jews with matrilineal lineage and Jews by choice. I expect to see millions of people staring at the heavens, watching the thunder and lightning.   Continue reading

Posted on May 8, 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 B’midbar: The Gift of the Wilderness

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, Alex Carter sees the beauty of the delicate ecosystem of the Biblical wilderness – and in the unique queer culture we’re in danger of losing.

Creative Common/Kwong Yee Cheng

Creative Common/Kwong Yee Cheng

This week’s parsha, B’midbar, begins, as many parshiyot begin, with the words, “G-d spoke to Moses…” But this week, it specifies that G-d spoke to Moses “in the wilderness of Sinai…” It continues with a census of the men of military age, and with a description of how the tribes were to be arranged in the camp and for marching through the wilderness. Each tribe was placed in relation to the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, which was at the center of the community at all times.

But I want to focus on the very first line – “G-d spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai….” Continue reading

Posted on May 6, 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

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