Tradescantia Zebrina .:. The Wandering Jew


tales and opinions of the wandering Jew

So Much LGBTQ Jew News!

cross-posted from Jewschool.

In many cities and towns across North America (and the world), June is Pride month, honouring and commemorating the Stonewall Riots of June, 1969 and the start of the gay rights movement. Keeping with the Pride/LGBTQ theme, I have five things of interest to queer and transgender Jews (and their allies).

1 – For those who haven’t yet seen it, Trembling Before G-d, a documentary about the lives of Orthodox and Hasidic gay or lesbian Jews is now online, is streaming at Hulu.

2 – Jewish Mosaic let us know about Kol Tzedek, “an alliance of Jewish organizations working together in unprecedented ways to include transgender people in all aspects of Bay Area Jewish life.” (Additionally, they have a second focus: marriage equality and fighting prop 8.)

Over the past year, we met with a plethora of community members and rabbinic leaders to informally explore how transgender and gender variant people currently interact, or not interact, with the organized Jewish community. We compiled a report based on our anecdotal evidence and shared experiences of the perceived organizational, social and ritual needs of transgender and gender variant persons, and our wish to understand and serve this community’s needs better.

Our objective was to collect enough initial information to compile a brief report to present to the new CEO of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties (SFJCF), Daniel Sokatch. We had a very successful meeting in which we presented the report and had an enthusiastic and receptive conversation.

The report is available in PDF here. I share it with you guys in light of their hopes for the report: “Finally, with both confidence and humility, we offer this report to inspire similar initiatives elsewhere in the United States, within and outside the Jewish community.”

3 – dlevy says “Hi.” He’s too busy to post right now, so asked me to mention him in this post about the gays.

4 – Mostly for some laughs, because does anyone actually take the Westboro Baptist Church seriously?!, check out this Slog video. At a protest outside the Stroum Jewish Community Center in North Seattle this weekend, they held signs including “Bitch Burger” (watch the video for an explanation on that one; it had me and my friends scratching our heads), “God Hates Israel,” “God is Your Enemy,” and “Antichrist Obama” – in addition to their boringly trite “God Hates Fags.” The Slog reports:

I know a lot of people may still be wondering, what exactly *is* a bitch burger? And/or is a CRAPuccino a drink that was invented in Seattle? Well, I tried to get some answers for you. Also stay tuned for Part II, where I try to find out why God suddenly hates President Obama… and, in Part III, a real live Israeli Jew asks “The Hot One” what he really thinks of anal sex.

5 – Last week CBST (Congregation Beth Simchat Torah: “New York City’s synagogue for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Jews, our families, and our friends”) finally released their new siddur, B’chol L’vav’cha / With All Your Heart. The siddur is for Shabbos evening services only.

We try to create the most meaningful experience of prayer we can. Jewish prayer is not a spectator sport. Each week will be different from the week before. Not every week’s service will “work” for every person. Not every service will give you what you came searching to find. But if you hang in there, if you come back regularly, the fixed portions of our liturgy and the weekly variations will most likely begin to speak to you and address those needs you felt keenly and those you didn’t even know you had. [p.14]

I use this excerpt by way of showing what CBST is trying to do with this siddur. Read the rest of this entry »


Filed under: america, gender, hebrew, homophobia, judaism, politics, queers, religion, seasons

First Transgender Employee at Religiously Conservative University in America

Cross-posted to Jewschool.

Yeshiva University’s David and Ruth Gottesman Chair in English and Literature professor Joy Ladin has returned from a two year hiatus. Usually a teacher’s return to work isn’t a big news item. But Ladin has made headlines as the first transgender employee at a religiously conservative university in America (according to the National Center for Transgender Equality).

Boston’s CJP has picked up the unfortunately headlined NYPost article, but it’s still worth the read (just try to read between the sensationalized lines):

A Yeshiva University professor left two years ago as a man – and returned last week as a woman.Literature Professor Joy Ladin, formerly known as Jay Ladin, 47, showed up for her first day of school sporting pink lipstick, a tight purple shirt and a flirty black skirt. She cheerfully strutted through the doors of the Midtown campus’ main building, where she oversees the writing center.

Many at the Jewish university are horrified by the presence of the transgender professor. Some fear the news could cut alumni donations.

Ladin and the school won’t comment on the situation, but some rabbis are shocked that she’s still a member of the faculty.

“He’s not a woman. He’s a male with enlarged breasts,” said Rabbi Moshe Tendler, a senior dean at Yeshiva’s rabbinical school and a professor of biology and medical ethics. “He’s a person who represents a kind of amorality which runs counter to everything Yeshiva University stands for. There is just no leeway in Jewish law for a transsexual.

“There is no niche where he can hide out as a female without being in massive violation of Torah law, Torah ethics and Torah morality.”

But that’s just not true, as students who took my course on the many genders in the Mishna at the NHC Summer Institute could tell you. There are inclusive, welcoming tshuvot on the topic of Jewish transsexuals which can be found in some of the denominations of Judaism. Even Orthodoxy has a couple not-horrifically-negative tshuvot on transgender and intersex individuals. So Rabbi Tendler is clearly speaking from his own place of narrow opinion.

Over on Queerty, a transgender YU grad has commented on the article about Ladin. Her final sentence, “I’m not sure whether I wish for Professor Ladin to stay or be fired,” shows the complexity of this issue – even for supporters of transgender rights. I wish her much luck and strength as she navigates her place of employment.

Filed under: america, gender, judaism, queers

Pink Shirts and Pinstripe Trousers: Co-ed Learning at Drisha

Drisha Institute in New York City is offering a month-long weekly co-ed class this summer that is open to the public and may be of interest to [some of us] who are interested in issues of gender, clothing, and sexuality. Chasiah Haberman will be teaching “Pink Shirts and Pinstripe Trousers: Clothing and Gender Construction Halakha.” From Drisha’s site:

What do women wear? What constitutes a uniquely male garment? Is modesty a gender-specific concept? How do assumptions about gender shape ideas of appropriate dress for men and women? We will study both traditional and contemporary halakhic literature.

Chasiah Haberman
Tuesday, 7:45 – 9:15 p.m.
Tuition: $125

Financial assistance is available. Space is still available. This class is co-ed.

Register soon, as the class starts on July 1st!

Filed under: gender, judaism, queers, school

Modesty – or Arrr, Mateys!

This photo makes me smile.


I found it on TFOFR‘s flickr stream, with the comment “The only headcoverings allowed in the church are headscarves” on an accompanying photo. So I’d taken off my baseball cap, which I’d intentionally worn in lieu of a kippah that day in Bethlehem, and put on a friend’s scarf. I love that the solution was crossdressing, of sorts.

Filed under: friends, gender, palestine, photos, religion

Separate… but equal

This wasn’t the first time that (straight) men have argued that my religious practice – egalitarian – was wrong.

I met a friend of a friend, K, who’s Orthodox (bal t’shuvah, I believe). He asked if I went to Ghetto Shul (Orthodox congregation in the McGill Ghetto neighbourhood). I said no; I went to, and helped run, an indy minyan. He asked what that was; I said it was “traditional egalitarian.” What’s that? I explained that the liturgy was similar to Conservative or Orthodox, only no mechitzah and women can do anything men could (lead services, chant Torah, etc). His whole air changed. “You changed the liturgy!” He hadn’t heard “similar to” but “it is Orthodox.” He went on: letting women participate equally with men meant that it wasn’t halakhic. Further, how could they read Torah if they don’t perform “their three mitzvot?” I said it wasn’t up to me, or any others, whether or not they followed all mitzvot; most people don’t – can’t! – follow all 613 but we strive to follow as many as we can. And, further, that should include the mitzvah of learning Torah. He stated women could learn or read Torah, just with other women. Then he got stuck on the “three mitzvot,” wanting to know how many women daven with me and, of them, how many “separate challah?” I tried to explain, again, that it wasn’t my job, or his, to check on others. (Do not judge others!) I tried to steer us back on track. The women who come are there because they feel that sitting separate from men renders them unequal. Again, he wouldn’t hear it. “It’s just a piece of fabric. If I hang fabric between us here at the table, does it render us unequal?” I tried to explain that if sitting on one side of the fabric at the table meant no more alcohol, or that you couldn’t really hear the music, then, yes, it did render us unequal. He went back to arguing that you can’t change gemara. I had to say, thrice, that we should agree to disagree and change the topic before he finally agreed. (Only then to say that I had a lot to hearn about “Judaism and how it really works” – oy! Because, you know, only his understanding of Chassidism is the only way to practice Judaism. I can’t imagine how he would have reacted had I told him I was raise Reform.)

Filed under: gender, judaism, politics