Author Archives: Melanie Weiss

LGBT Resources for Holocaust Remembrance Day

When the last known gay Jewish Holocaust survivor, Gad Beck, died in 2012, it was a poignant reminder that both Jews and LGBTQ people simply cannot depend on survivors to tell the stories of the Shoah. The responsibility for remembering Holocaust-related history falls upon all of us. Within the Jewish community, it has been standard to commemorate the Holocaust for decades; within the LGBTQ world, rituals are still emerging.

Sidney, Australia memorial for LGBT victims of the Holocaust. Creative Commons/mulch.thief

Sidney, Australia memorial for LGBT victims of the Holocaust. Creative Commons/mulch.thief

Holocaust Remembrance Day, known in Hebrew as Yom HaShoah, falls this year on April 8th. For those of you interested in adding some LGBTQ content to your observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day, we bring you the following resources.

  • Watch Paragraph 175, a documentary film with unforgettable interviews with gay survivors and the punishments they suffered even after the war ended. The title refers to the law that made homosexuality illegal in Nazi Germany. (You can catch the trailer here.)

Posted on April 3, 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

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

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

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

Releasing Your Burden: The Eshel Shabbaton

As we’ve explored in earlier posts by and about Orthodox Jews who are also LGBTQ (including a round-up of blogs, a video from hip-hop artist Y-Love, what it;s like to come out at an Orthodox high school, and an interview with the first out gay Orthodox rabbi), being Orthodox and LGBTQ is complicated. Luckily, in recent years there have been a growing number people and organizations providing support, safe space, and resources for LGBTQ Orthodox Jews and their families. Esheldedicated to building “understanding, support, and community for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender people in traditional Jewish communities,” is a prominent example of the work being done by, and on behalf of, LGBT Orthodox Jews.

Creative Common/Paolo Crosetto

Creative Common/Paolo Crosetto

In January 2013, the author of this post attended a shabbaton organized by Eshel. These reflections originally ran on his blog, Orthodox, Gay, and Married JewWe’re grateful for the opportunity to share his powerful post.

Like angels in the sky
in a garden full of glory
the galaxies so brilliantly related
ultimately high
on that first page of our story

The shabbaton started with davening on Friday night. I had been to support groups in the past, both for JQY or Jewish Queer Youth (an organization based in NYC whose primary objective is to give support to young men and woman struggling with issues related to being LGBT; please see www.jqyouth.org for more information) and a non-religious (and non-agenda driven) support group for gay married men (if you would like information about this group, please email me). When I went to these groups, which had about 10-20 people, I was scared and overwhelmed. Continue reading

Posted on March 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

LGBTQ Jewish Teen and Ally Shabbaton

LGBTQ Teen and Ally ShabbatonWe’ve been really inspired by the posts penned by some of the teens and staff who attended the LGBTQ Jewish Teen and Ally Shabbatons organized by Keshet and The Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center. Participants have been writing about their experiences, their identities, and the complicated and intricate ways that they navigate both. They’ve already covered coming out at an Orthodox day school and deciding to go “stealth” about trans identity, and one BBYO professional who staffed both retreats shared what it means for her, as a Jewish professional, to be an ally to LGBTQ teens.

These teens have shared their written words, and now we’re excited to for you to meet them in this short video! We’ll continue to run regular columns form LGBTQ and ally teens — stay tuned!

 

Posted on March 7, 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

Purim Does Drag

Anyone who has ever been to a proper Purim celebration knows that a good Purim party could never be a drag, but for much of Jewish history, it was the only holiday when Jews could do drag. Though cross-dressing was generally forbidden by the rabbis and scholars of our traditional sources, they made an exception for Purim. (If checking traditional sources is your thing, you can find more on this in the Shulchan Arukh.)

To celebrate Purim this year, we bring you two very different Purim-themed, drag-related stories.

The first is a retelling of the Purim story… by some very funny drag queens. The Purim story as you’ve never heard it before!

Check out part one here:

And part two here:

Plus, check out “High Healing: A Purim Message,” a 2006 send-up dvar torah by the Rebbetzin Hadassah Gross, the drag persona of Amichai Lau-Lavie. The piece originally ran as a part of the Torah Queeries collection. The Rebbetzin was writing about the Conservative movement before the decision to ordain out gay and lesbian rabbis, and her writing delivers the promised “kick in the tuchis!” Continue reading

Posted on February 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

RebbetzOUT

Nobody prepares you for those odd, out-of-the-way problems life presents every once in a while. I grapple with one such issue rather often – something I never thought I’d have to deal with. But then I grew up, fell in love with a (female) rabbi, and everything got complicated.

Creative Common/Minjung Gang

Creative Common/Minjung Gang

That’s when I took on the dreaded “r” word. You know — the word that describes a rabbi’s partner. A rabbi’s female partner. Because, you know, once you know that someone’s a rabbi’s partner, what else do you really need to know? There are so many rights (and rites) denied to me as a lesbian, in the world in general as well as in Judaism. This one word, which frankly somewhat offends my feminist sensibilities with what I believe are the implications it carries about the appropriateness of defining a woman (or anyone) through her partner’s profession, has not been one of them. It’s a word my partner’s congregants sometimes use, though most of them aren’t familiar with the term. It’s something tossed out with a grin by Jewish professionals, as though it’s somehow extra-cute to call me a rebbetzin when the rabbi I’m partnered to is female.

Maybe one day this can be a term I embrace, but clearly, I’m definitely not there yet.

Continue reading

Posted on February 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