In preparation for Hanukkah, a time in the year when we welcome in the light of hope and liberation, we asked Alex Weissman and his mom Cyd to write a blessing celebrating LGBTQ people and families.
Cyd and Alex are quite the mother/son Jewish duo. Alex is an out queer rabbinical student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, the former Social Justice Coordinator at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, and a leading LGBTQ Jewish voice for justice. A longtime leader in Jewish education and advocate for LGBTQ inclusion, Cyd infused her children’s life with Jewish content that reflected their family’s values, from modeling how to hold space as a ritual leader for her son—the future rabbi, to sending her children out into the world with her own take on the Priestly Blessing: “May God bless you and keep you safe and sound.”
When we asked Alex to tell us more about his Jewish experience growing up, he explained: “My mom used to teach my friends and me at religious school. She was always (and still is) intent on ‘whole person’ learning. It didn’t matter if we could just recite Ashrei—she wanted to make sure we could also articulate the joy of dwelling in the house of God and what that felt like.”
We share their blessing with you today in the same spirit of “whole person” Judaism that Cyd passed on to Alex. May it be that this year, as we gather our families to kindle the lights of Hanukkah, we do so in wholeness and holiness.
Here I am, ready and prepared to light the Hanukkah candles, as “our rabbis taught: The law of Hanukkah demands that everyone should light one lamp for themselves and for their household. Those who seek to fulfil the obligation well have a lamp lit for every member of the household (from Shabbat 21b).” We know we could be a household that celebrates the light of one. Instead, we remind ourselves that light increases with the opportunity for each of us to celebrate with our own Chanukiah. May we dedicate ourselves in all our days to honoring each other’s unique light, as it shines through the miracle of our gender and sexual differences. May our homes become homes of light for all people (adapted from Isaiah 56:7).
Download a copy of the Hanukkah blessing here.
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This gift guide is specially tailored to lovers of rainbow pride, Judaism, and the lucky individuals who live the intersection of both. We’ve got everything from silly to serious. Take a look!
Hail your rainbow pride every time you walk through the door with this beautiful Metal and Glass Rainbow Mezuzah ($39.99).
The Purim Superhero ($7.16) is a children’s book about Purim that just happens to feature a two-dad family. We love how unremarkable that fact of little Nate’s life is. Oh, and it’s a really cute story involving an alien costume.
Sport your pride with this LGBT pendant, Rainbow Ray Star of David Necklace ($15.99). Makes a great gift.
Following an ancient tradition, Torah Queeries ($23.40) brings together some of the world’s leading rabbis, scholars, and writers to interpret the Torah through a queer lens. This incredibly rich collection unites the voices of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and straight-allied writers, including some of the most central figures in contemporary American Judaism.
Keep Your Wives Away from Them: Orthodox Women, Unorthodox Desires ($12.50) gives voice to genderqueer Jewish women tell the stories of their coming out or being closeted, living double lives or struggling to maintain an integrated “single life” in relationship to traditional Judaism.
A Queer and Pleasant Danger ($13.13) tells the true story of a nice Jewish boy who joins the Church of Scientology, and leaves 12 years later to become the lovely lady she is today, Kate Bornstein.
Milk ($6.79) is a biographical film based on the life of gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk–the first openly gay person elected to public office in California.
We hope these picks help you narrow down your gift search for yourself, your family, and your friends!
I’m skeptical of Hanukkah. Maybe it’s the rampant commercialism that defines the entire month of December. Maybe it’s the way mainstream Americans lazily slap a menorah symbol wherever convenient, patting itself on the back for being inclusive, unaware or more likely unconcerned that their elevation of Hanukkah to the level of Christmas violates the very spirit of this anti-assimilationist, minor holiday. Maybe it’s a Pavlovian response to the week of indigestion that follows the smorgasbord of fried starches. Maybe I’m a Grinch.
But I think more than that, it’s the whole Hanukkah story. Continue reading
Check out the brand new video Y-Love, the gay Orthodox hip-hop artist, recorded for us for Hanukkah.
Yes, that’s Yiddish you hear.
The rapper known off-stage as Yitz Jordan has been a major player on the Jewish music scene since the release of his first mixtape in 2005, followed by his first solo full length album in 2008. He made waves in a big way this spring when he officially came out. We’re proud to have Y-Love as our celebrity spokesperson and have teamed up to spread the message of LGBT inclusion.
If your Yiddish is iffy, be sure to turn on captions once the video is running (the red “cc button in lower right corner) for the translation. Better yet, call your bubbie and watch it together.
Y-Love’s statement about the video:
“So since coming out this May, one of the major things that I have felt is an overwhelming sense of wanting to give back to the LGBT community in general and the Jewish LGBT community in particular. Spending most of my career in the closet, I never used my platform to speak against heterosexism and homophobia — the same homophobia I was suffering from — and never gave my efforts to the struggle for equality. 2012 changes all that, and I’m trying to put as much of my effort and influence into the LGBT struggle for equality as I can.
To this end, Keshet has been there for LGBT inclusion nationwide for years. At the Keshet teen shabbaton, I was inspired by stories of overcoming far worse than I had even feared would happen in my own life. I realized that I couldn’t sit on the sidelines. By putting my name – as a premier Jewish urban artist – with Keshet’s, I think we can raise LGBT visibility and inclusion to even higher levels, and work towards one of my bigger goals for klal Yisra’el and humanity — that we should be the last generation to know of the closet.”
You can catch Y-Love on December 8 at Keshet’s Hanukkah party at Tracks in Denver! Limited tickets are still available.
Learn all about Y-Love here.