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


Over on Jewschool, Dlevy and I posted a review and commentary of 13. Check it out there.

Filed under: friends, judaism, queers

Prop 8: The Musical

It’s been yanked from Youtube. You can see it here instead.

Filed under: america, politics, queers

How To Avoid Dying (and other mishegas)

First, cross-posted from Jewschool is a short piece on the power of prayer:

“A study published by researchers at Yeshiva University and its medical school, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, strongly suggests that regular attendance at religious services reduces the risk of death by approximately 20%. The findings, published in Psychology and Health, were based on data drawn from participants who spanned numerous religious denominations.

“To evaluate the impact of religiosity on mortality and morbidity, the investigators looked at variables including self-report of religious affiliation, frequency of religious service attendance, and religious strength as well as comfort, in relation to coronary heart disease (CHD) and death. It is important to note that the study did not attempt to measure spirituality; rather, it examined self-report religiosity measures (irrespective of the participant’s religion).

“Those attending religious services at least once per week showed a 20% mortality risk reduction mark compared with those not attending services at all. These findings corroborate prior studies that have shown up to a 25% reduction in such risk.” [Read more.]

I would like to thank the various independent minyanim that I attend on a regular basis for existing as, it seems, they’re to thank for my recent “got off easy” car accident. (What? I’m not properly understanding the conclusions?)

And for some more random fun, highlights from the RSS reader. (I’ve had a lot of time to catch up on the blogs these past couple days…)

Filed under: america, health, homophobia, judaism, politics, queers, random, recipes, wtf?

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

Heinz et les homos

Les Anglais ne sont pas prêts à voir deux hommes s’embrasser à la télévision. Du moins, pas dans une pub de mayonnaise. La compagnie Heinz l’a appris à ses dépens cette semaine. Devant le tollé suscité par sa publicité pour sa Deli Mayo, elle a dû la retirer des ondes après seulement une semaine de diffusion.

Dominic Arpin asked his readers if he thought the same controversy would arise in Canada. I don’t think it would.

395 comments on YouTube later, the only conclusion is that the majority of commenters enjoyed it, a smaller (but angry, loud, and insulting) minority didn’t like it. Except those who liked it said why (funny, thoughtful, different, etc.), while those who didn’t just went on about the “gay mafia,” the homosexual lifestyle as a disease, and media’s attacks on Christianity. And only a few people actually got the point: “Yeah it’s not supposed to be about gay people anyways, it’s about having NY Deli at your own house with the new mayos.”

[Merci a Faguy]

Filed under: queers

Kefiyah for ME?!

It may bear my name, but it certainly isn’t for me.

On Jewschool, Diaspora Mentality reports:

This is somewhat old news but it provides a new way to beat a dead scarf, so why not.

Kaffiyeh FeygeleA few days ago I spotted a young German man on the Berlin subway wearing a Kaffiyeh Yisraelit. I mentioned this to a German friend. My friend did a quick google search and turned up this gem: The Kaffiyeh Feygele. It seems a gay or two on the “anti-German” left has now appropriated Rachel Ray’s favorite scarf.

In the place of the classic Levantine pattern, the Kaffiyeh Feygele has hearts, butt plugs, condoms and hammers and sickles. Also, it has stars of David in the corners. This is an article in the German paper Taz on the phenomenon.

Note the Pfizer brand viagra pills in the motif as well. Amazing.

According to the Crisco Connection website (the creators of this), the first run is a limited edition of 100. Quick, uh, hurry and get yours… today?

Filed under: politics, queers, wtf?

Oh, the guilt!

Jon Stewart has, for many years, had a great spin on gay marriage: playing off The Right’s fears that gay marriage will ruin marriage for straights; will be the decline of society and morality; will lead to pedophilia and beastiality… His humour in this clip is great. And be sure to catch his opinion on Jewish lesbians marrying.

“I don’t have a problem with them having children because they’re gay. But I am concerned for the welfare of any child with two Jewish mothers.”

Filed under: america, judaism, politics, queers, teevee/movies

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

Machon Schechter slams its students

Two brief, incomplete, articles were published last week by the Jerusalem Post and the JTA, talking about a, uh, problem at Schecter concerning gay rabbinical students. Jewschool has an exclusive report from sources close to the story, which I recommend reading.

Some stories have been floating around the media with varying levels of accuracy, but Jewschool has obtained the full (or fuller) story from reliable sources. The real story here isn’t about gay and lesbian rabbis in the Conservative movement (that was last year’s story); it’s about the lengths to which people and institutions will go out of fear, demonizing their own students and losing all perspective.

The story begins a year ago this week, when the Jewish Theological Seminary announced that it would begin admitting openly gay and lesbian students to its rabbinical and cantorial schools. (The American Jewish University, formerly the University of Judaism, is now also admitting gay and lesbian students.) One year later, to mark the anniversary, JTS held a program on Wednesday called Hazak Hazak V’nithazek: Celebrating Strength Through Inclusion, a full day of study, conversation, and celebration.

Several JTS students studying this year at Machon Schechter (the Conservative rabbinical school in Jerusalem where American Conservative rabbinical students are required to spend a year) wanted to participate in the celebration going on in New York in some way, and since they couldn’t attend physically, they organized a small parallel event in Israel. According to email invitations sent to the Conservative Yeshiva and other rabbinical students in Jerusalem, the students invited Yonatan Gher, former Director of Communications for the Masorti (Israeli Conservative) movement, incoming director of the Jerusalem Open House, and a member of Masorti congregations his whole life (and recently profiled in the New York Times because he and his partner are having a child via a surrogate mother in India), to speak over lunch about his personal experiences as a member of a GLBT family in the Masorti movement.

The email announcing the event makes clear what this event was not: It was not intended as a proposal for an official Schechter event. It was not a discussion of Schechter’s admissions policy. (Schechter does not admit gay and lesbian students.) It was not a protest or demonstration to advocate for change in Schechter policy. It was not a halakhic debate, nor was it an exposition of a particular halakhic position. It was not an event manufactured for the media. It was not a “ceremony,” as the media has incorrectly reported it. It was simply a lunch-and-learn with an opportunity for students to listen to Mr. Gher’s personal story and to participate remotely in JTS’s anniversary event. The email says that outright.

Read more…

Filed under: homophobia, israel, judaism, queers, wtf?