Thursday, May 21, 2015

"Jewish Leaders Speak Out on Anti-Gay Murder in Greenwich Village"- The Forward

5/21/13 by Michael Kaminer- Jewish LGBT leaders are joining the chorus of condemnation around the West Village murder of a gay man over the weekend by a convicted felon who spouted homophobic slurs before pulling the trigger on his 32-year-old victim.

Just steps from the historic Stonewall Inn, widely considered the birthplace of the modern gay-rights movement, Elliott Morales shot Mark Carson in the face after harassing Carson and a friend on Sixth Avenue near West Eighth Street.

“We’re located in the Village, so it’s not just a gay issue for us,” Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, longtime spiritual leader of LGBTQ synagogue Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, told the Forward in an interview. “It’s our backyard.” Kleinbaum drew a connection between Carson’s murder and violence against Jews. “I have tried through the years of being rabbi at CBST to strengthen people to not be destroyed in the face of the kind of hate that exists in the world toward us, both as Jews and as gay people,” she said. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Video: "Dear Homophobic Rabbi"

So, after multiple people recounted to me how a particular well known common acquaintence has been speaking negatively about me after learning that I'm gay -- not having once talked to me about the issue, so I've decided to make a little response to him, because I don't think I could stand to look at him now, unless he truly and sincerely apologizes and asks for forgiveness.

"LGBTQ Orthodox Teens, Forging a Derech" by Justin Spiro 03/16/2015- NY Jewish Week

“Do you have any resources for a 15-year-old gay yeshiva high school student?”
It was 2011, and I could hardly believe my ears. I apologized to this desperate mother and offered the small consolation that her son can attend the JQY adult meetings when he graduates high school. (JQY is the largest national non-profit supporting LGBTQ youth and their families in the Orthodox community.) 

As I hung up the phone, I didn’t feel very good, so I could only imagine how she and her son felt. This was just months after a string of high-profile LGBTQ teen suicides, and the It Gets Better Project had been launched to give LGBTQ youth a message of hope for the future. JQY even created its own "It Gets Better" video for Orthodox gay youth. While the project was well-intentioned, the It Gets Better message tells a drowning child that a raft is coming. Some teens simply cannot stay afloat. It was time to build more rafts.

continue readingLGBTQ Orthodox Teens, Forging a Derech- NY Jewish Week

Monday, February 9, 2015

"Creating a Community of Support" by Daniel Atwood - Yeshiva University Commentator 1/28/15

The author discusses the words of R' Willig (a Rosh Yeshiva) of Yeshiva University
on treatment of LGBT Jews. This article seems to be very pertinent and one
which holds our leaders accountable. Moreover, he discusses how being in
an environment that is NOT respectful or supportive can have strong negative
consequences on an LGBT individual. In addition, he discusses the danger of
leaders using "they" as if they are not present or a part of the community.
Please take a read and share.

"As 2014 ended, so did the life of Leelah Alcorn, a 17 year
old transgender girl from Ohio who committed suicide after
a short life of suffering. Her suicide made waves, trending
all over national news and social media. In her final words,
Leelah describes herself as feeling rejected by her parents,
aloof from her friends, and as having no choice but to end her
own life. 

With Leelah’s story in mind, I want to address the YU
community regarding a sensitive and important issue: creating
a community of respect and support on our campus, especially
for LGBT students. I do so with the utmost humility and
respect for the YU community, which is usually wonderful, but
sometimes treacherous.

I presume that my readers understand the difference between
condoning a specific political or Halakhic position and
providing support for a person struggling through a difficult
period in their life. I do not intend to propose anything radical
on a policy level, but rather to make a statement that all of
our community’s members have the right to feel respected,
dignified, and, most of all, safe. 

If creating a supportive community for all is not a value you 
share, then I realize that nothing I say will convince you otherwise. 
However, in the spirit of “love your neighbor as yourself” 
and “loving the widow, orphan, and stranger,” two major Torah 
concepts (the former being the most important according to some),
I believe we must discuss how we can create more support on campus
for those who feel marginalized.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach- "The story behind an ad condemning the treatment by Hamas and Iran of the LGBT community" JPost

12/22/2014- I expect to be attacked from two camps this week. The first, as usual, is the Israel haters who follow my trail on the Internet like dogs in heat. The second is people who love Israel but who think homosexuality is Judaism’s greatest sin. Both might find common cause to condemn a full-page ad that my organization, This World: The Values Network, and Stand With US have taken out in The New York Times this week.

The ad features a close friend of mine named Rennick proclaiming in a bold headline: “My name is Rennick Remley. I’m a gay American. And I support Israel.”

I first began conceiving the ad during the Gaza war this summer. I was astonished that the LGBT lobby in the US did not come out forcefully to defend Israel and condemn Hamas. I was even more appalled that so many liberally-minded students and academics, who fight for gay rights every day, could be on the side of Hamas.

 In the ad Rennick, a very special young man who courageously agreed to speak out, is candid and plainspoken: “If I lived in Gaza or Israel’s neighboring states, I would be thrown in jail, mutilated or killed. Though I am not Jewish, Israel is the only country in the Middle East where I can live without fear. I am free to adopt children, serve openly in the military, advocate for my community’s rights and be accepted as a human being.”

Friday, June 6, 2014

Quotes To Live By- We are all responsible!

"First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a communist;

Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a socialist;

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a trade unionist;

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a Jew;

Then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak out for me."

-Martin Niemöller

Tags: apathycompassion,cowardicediversityhuman-rights

Monday, May 5, 2014

"Twelve Topics: Start An Orthodox Conversation About LGBT Jews" - The Jewish Week

Please read this article and perhaps share it. It is important for us to be discussing this topic openly and being real about it. Please take a moment out of your day to make a difference. 

Thank you,
05/05/2014- We are a group of many dozens of observant, Orthodox families from across the United States, including Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

We are just like most of you – with one exception: Our children are LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender). Each of our children told us on a fateful day some months or years ago that they are not heterosexual. It is who they are and who they will always be. 

It is with this thought in mind that we would like to have a virtual conversation with you. Imagine yourselves sitting around the Shabbat table. You have just finished Kiddush and are about to eat. Think about the statements below and how you would respond or comment. Just pick a few, and begin. That’s what most of us did with our families – slowly, carefully, needing time to absorb and appreciate the circumstances and the people around us. Important questions below:

Thursday, April 17, 2014

EVENTS: April 25-27th, Speaker: Orthodox Rabbi Steven Greenberg of Eshel, Topic: Homosexuality and Jewish Law, Where: Southern Westchester, NY

"Jewish Organizations Sponsor Speaking Tour Focused On LGBTQ Community" - The Daily Voice by Nathan Bruttell
NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. -- Several Jewish organizations are leading a movement to make Orthodox Judaism more open and accepting of homosexual members.
Rabbi Steven Greenberg
Orthodox Rabbi Steven Greenberg will speak at various Jewish institutions and organizations in Southern Westchester during the weekend of April 25 to 27. Greenberg, an award-winning author and noted teacher, will speak at Temple Israel of New Rochelle, Beth El Synagogue Center of New Rochelle, Temple Israel Center of White Plains (in collaboration with the JCC of Mid-Westchester) and Community Synagogue of Rye (in collaboration with Congregation KTI of Port Chester).
Additional weekend sponsors include Westchester Jewish Community Services, the Westchester Jewish Council and Mosaic of Westchester a new nonprofit initiative created to fully integrate LGBTQ Jews into Westchester Jewish life, according to a press release. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

" At Eshel, We Are Hopeful" by Rabbi Steven Greenberg and Miryam Kabakov- The Jewish Week
4/10/14- Our friend Justin Spiro has hit upon the challenge in his piece, "LGBTQ Youth Have No Derech To Stray From." We cannot complain that young people are leaving a community if it leaves them first. 
It cannot be denied that LGBT lives are at present, largely unacknowledged, excised or reviled by a majority of the Orthodox community. However, at Eshel, we are actually optimistic in regard to the future, and we want everyone, including teens and their parents, to hold off from despair. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

"LGBTQ (Orthodox Jewish) Youth Have No Derech To Stray From" by Justin Spiro- The Jewish Week

4/9/14- This weekend I had the amazing opportunity to represent JQY (Jewish Queer Youth) at Keshet's Shabbaton for LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer) teenagers. JQY is a non-profit organization supporting LGBTQ youth and their families in the Orthodox community.  The participants at the Shabbaton represented a wide variety of religious, gender, and sexual identities. 

What struck me most was the life-saving role Judaism played in the lives of these teens. Many found refuge in religion when homophobic friends, family, and society rejected them. They spoke about Reform and Conservative congregations and youth groups embracing them and mitigating the harsh reality of life beyond the synagogue walls. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

"Gay (Orthodox) Rabbi Discusses Religion, Tolerance" at UMD - by Elena Baurkot for The Diamondback

Photo by Marquise McKine
4/1/14- After beginning to identify as a gay man in 1999, Rabbi Steve Greenberg felt like a “duck-billed platypus” — it was an unthinkable scenario. 

However, the author and teacher learned to reconcile his religion and homosexuality, a topic he discussed last night in McKeldin Library’s Special Events Room in front of about 100 (150) people. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

"The Power of Knowing You Are Not Alone" by Rabbi Eliyahu Fink

13735142863/17/14- In Haaretz and Tablet Magazine, a pair of articles about Orthodox parents of LGBT children discuss the challenges of their predicament and an organization that is helping parents navigate their new world after their children come out. The organization is called Eshel and I think they are doing very important work. 
There is a difference between the two articles. Haaretz gives more superficial and less optimistic view of the overall situation. While Tova Ross has written a pretty comprehensive and optimistic take on the work Eshel is doing and the progress being made in the community. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

"When LGBT children come out the closet, their Orthodox parents go in"- Haaretz

Eshel Parents Retreat in March, 2013
By Brian Schaefer Mar. 15, 2014 
When a child comes out in an Orthodox community, parents share the burden of hiding. At an annual retreat, participants find comfort in knowing they’re not alone.

Coming out to your parents as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender can be a daunting proposition, more so when you belong to a religious community that doesn’t recognize or accept LGBT members. 

But it can also be a relief: After years of isolation, you are no longer hiding. For many Orthodox parents, however, having a child come out is the beginning of their isolation.

“We didn’t realize the irony of that,” says Miryam Kabakov, the co-founder and executive director of Eshel, an organization that supports members of the Orthodox LGBT community. “When you come out, you let the secret go and the parent takes on the secret…. And what they do is go into the closet with it.”

Friday, March 14, 2014

"Don’t Exclude Our Gay, Orthodox Children" by Sunnie Epstein

2/19/14 Jewish Exponent- As a Modern Orthodox Jew and a Jewish educator, I have written, spoken and taught about homosexuality and our need as a community to address this issue within the framework of halacha, or Jewish law, for many years. I had already been an advocate for the LGBTQ community for decades when our daughter Rachie, one of our four children, came out more than four years ago.

Why? Because I feel that as religious Jews, we have a moral imperative to ensure that all members of our community are safe, valued and healthy. We are taught to use the midah of compassion here, as we do for so many other issues. 
When Rachie was 22 years old, she called me and my husband, and in the course of our conversation, basically said, “Mom, I am seeing someone I really care about, and this person is a woman. I am gay.” Neither of us were surprised. I asked her if she was happy and if this was a true expression of her core personality. My husband, Ken, just reminded her to stay safe and not do anything dangerous.

As an educated person, I am certain that biology and “how we are wired” is just the way G-d makes us. Furthermore, I am aware that 10 to 15 percent of any community is on the gay spectrum, and there is no exemption from this reality in the religious Jewish community.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

"Parents, it's ok to be Human" by Richard Dweck

A parent hiding in the shadows
3/9/14- This weekend I was privileged to be asked to be facilitator at the National Eshel Retreat for Orthodox Jewish parents of LGBT children. I am so impressed by the courageous stories these parents shared of having an LGBT child. Many parents are afraid of reaching out for support and carry a heavy burden of shame and secrecy. Seeking out support aids them in becoming better loving parents and signifies the love and commitment they have toward their children. It allows them a healthier existence, and can heavily impact the mental and physical well being of these precious LGBT human beings. 

Moreover, this allows them to be better parents and learn ways of supporting their child. As one of these children, it's eye opening to understand what a parent experiences when they find out they have an LGBT child. Parents love their children unconditionally, but sometimes need the tools of how to show it. When a child doesn't match a parents expectations, they are thrown off course and can result in a child feeling isolated, hurt, and unloved. If you are a parent or know a parent struggling, share this wonderful organization (Eshel) , and let them know it's ok to admit they don't know. They need to know they are not alone and allow themselves the permission to be human. They have monthly support calls and meetings to help learn from one another.

Let's get the conversation started. You and your child/children are the most important people of all. A child's coming out can create a huge strain on your relationship with your spouse and family. You and your family are way more important than the community that surrounds you. Put your priorities in order. Love yourselves enough to take the next step! 

Richard Dweck 

Monday, February 24, 2014

"Who’s Afraid of Jewish Marriage? A reply to my respondents" By Sam Schulman- Mosaic Magazine (A response to: "Same-Sex Marriage and the Jews")

02/2014- I’m grateful for my respondents’ careful attention to my argument, which all three of them oppose—in individual ways that also have more in common with each other than I would have expected.

"Is Jewish Marriage Unique?" By Sherif Girgis- Mosaic Magazine (A response to: "Same-Sex Marriage and the Jews")

02/2014- Or is it more similar to Christian marriage than Sam Schulman suggests? In “Same-Sex Marriage and the Jews,” Sam Schulman offers an insightful, erudite account of how non-Orthodox Jewish communities got from Leviticus 18 to the Kiddushin Service for Same Gender Couples—or, you might say, from Sinai to Stonewall. Still more compelling is his take on the quiet but devastating revolution this has worked in the Jewish view of marriage. Here I want to examine two of his claims in particular: that the revolution’s roots are Christian, and that Judaism in particular is paying the bill.

From “We” to “I” By Rabbi Shlomo Brody- Mosaic Magazine (A response to: "Same-Sex Marriage and the Jews")

02/2014- The greater threat to Jewish mores stems not from same-sex marriage but from heterosexual promiscuity.  Sam Schulman’s very thoughtful essay, “Same-Sex Marriage and the Jews,” reminds us of the centrality of procreation in the Jewish conception of marriage. Yet his thesis overlooks the other central component in the Jewish understanding of marriage: existential communion or, in plain English, love. This has broad implications, not all of them obvious, for his analysis of the approach taken by non-Orthodox Jewry to Jewish same-sex marriage, and for any thinking about how Jews and others might be re-attracted to the traditional marital framework.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

"Gay Love and Jewish Tradition" Rabbi David Wolpe- Mosaic Magazine (A response to: "Same-Sex Marriage and the Jews")

The Wedding(Die Trauung)-Moritz Daniel Oppenheim
02/2014- The first same-sex marriage I conducted was between two women who had been together for nineteen years. They stood under the huppah with tears streaming down their faces.

We’ve come a long way. At one time, the rhetoric dominating the discourse on homosexuality among the gatekeepers of traditional Judaism was condemnatory at best, cruel at worst. In one of his milder statements, the great halakhic authority Rabbi Moshe Feinstein wrote in the 1970s: “To speak of a desire for homosexual intimacy is a contradiction in terms.” Few would make such a statement today. Let us be grateful for small mercies.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

"Same-Sex Marriage and the Jews" by Sam Schulman- Mosaic Magazine (The first article in this conversation)

Essay is comprised of 7 sections: 1)Who American Jews Are?, 2) Same-Sex Marriage and Judaism, 3) What is Jewish Marriage? 4) According to the law of Moses and Israel, 5) Jewish Marriage vs. Christian Marriage, 6) Jews and the Modern Marriage Crisis, and 7) The Jewish Struggle to exist.

"Common Orthodox questions, criticisms, and concerns vs. Supportive Orthodox Rabbinic Responses" (Taken from JQY Website)

Orthodox LGBT FAQs- taken from the JQY website

Over the years, JQY has spoken at various panels and has had many private conversations with Orthodox Rabbis. We have compiled this fact sheet as a resource to describe the common questions, criticisms, and concerns that our members have heard from friends, family and community members, and that they have struggled with internally. We have paired each question with responses we have received from supportive Orthodox rabbis.

If you have any questions about any items on this fact sheet, or if you would like request a JQY panel where we can discuss these questions in greater depth, please contact us. Click read more below to view FAQ's.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

"Study: 40 per cent of young LGBT people in England have contemplated suicide"- PinkNews

1/12/14- According to a recent major report, more than half of young LGBT people in England have suffered mental health issues, and 40 per cent have considered suicide, emphasising a growing concern that schools and health services are failing gay teenagers.

According to the report obtained by the Independent, young gay people in England are facing a generational mental health crisis as schools continue to neglect LGBT issues.

The findings of the Youth Chances Project, to be published on Monday, show that 50 per cent have self-harmed and 42 per cent have sought medical help for anxiety or depression.

Led by the charity Metro, the project was the largest social research study into young LGBT people in England, with more than 7,000 16- to 25-year-olds asked about their experiences of education, employment, and health services, as well as relationships.

Metro’s acting chief executive Dr Greg Ussher said: “We are failing LGBTQ young people. The clear message is that they are badly served. What they want most is emotional support and they are not getting it.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Please watch this Video: "It Gets Better -Personal Stories of Gay Orthodox Jews"

Monday, November 18, 2013

Video: Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks speaks at the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly gathering in Jerusalem

11/11/13 Vision-Driven Leadership in the 21st Century: An Analysis of The Pew Report

"New Hope For Gay Orthodox Jews" by Rabbi Steve Greenberg

10/1/13 Jewish Week- The holidays are over. Through the fasting and food, the succession of pageant, discomfort, reconciliation and exultation, a single moment continues to stands out. Every year for more than 30 years I have found the Yom Kippur afternoon service Torah reading unnerving — and this year I did not.
Among the verses from Leviticus about incest, adultery and bestiality read at Mincha, there is a single verse that every year would still send a chill down my spine. “And with a male you shall not lie the lyings of a woman, it is an abomination.” Hearing it would bring back my own memories of pain, huddled in a corner of the shul sobbing with my talit over my head. On Yom Kippur especially, the verse would bring to mind the many vulnerable and frightened gay teenagers hearing it.

"Creating a Jewish Culture of Inclusivity" by Lynn Schusterman

2/13/12 Huff Post- This past summer, I had the opportunity to spend time with nearly 60 Teach For America corps members taking part in our Foundation'sREALITY Israel Experience, a program that enables corps members to travel to Israel to explore the values that undergird their commitment to public service.
When I asked these passionate young people what motivated them to apply for the program, I heard a wide variety of responses, some inspiring, some empowering, some soulful -- and one in particular that was heartbreaking.
"I applied," one participant told me, "because I knew it would be the first time since I decided to live openly as a gay person that I would feel equal and accepted by the Jewish community." She desperately wanted to find a place where she could be herself.
Her story is one I have heard far too many times from Jews everywhere -- in Israel, in the U.S. and in countries around the world -- who feel excluded from our community because of their sexuality. Despite some progress, the pace of change within the faith-based world in general has simply been too slow in this area.
It is time we stand up and demand that change.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Orly Wahba "Kindness and Consequence" - Life Vest Inside

Monday, November 4, 2013

"Surviving Bullying, Silencing And Torment For Being Gay In The Frum Community" - by Chaim Levin in Jewish Press

Chaim is from the Lubavitch Chassidic Orthodox in Crown Heights Brooklyn New York,
 I highly encourage you to read this article. Chaim shares his story in a very articulate manner. I found many parallels in both of our stories. I hope this allows the reader to gain some understanding of why we share. 

2012- It’s been more than six months since The Jewish Press published an op-ed titled “Orthodox Homosexuals and the Pursuit of Self Indulgence.” In the article, the writer, while not mentioning my name, calls me shameless and self-indulgent and suggests that I learn to suffer in silence. He was referring to an anti-suicide video I made for the “It Gets Better” project. In the YouTube video I talk about the endless bullying in my childhood, the trauma of reparative therapy and my suicide attempt as a result of a frum community that seemed to not want me to exist simply because I was gay.

My message was that, with time, with understanding friends and with self-acceptance, it gets better. I hoped to tell other kids who may be on the brink of suicide to stick it out, because life gets better; even for gay Jews growing up in the Orthodox community. This video never talks about private behavior, never mentions any assur activity, and certainly does not divulge anything about what I do behind closed doors. However, simply because I talk about how I was bullied for being gay, the author tried to make me feel horrible for simply sending a message of hope. He succeeded in embarrassing me and making me feel unwanted by this community.

I wish I could say that this is the exception. But the truth is that despite the fact that I would never talk publicly about private personal behavior or engaging in sin, the frum world seems to see me as part of a “gay agenda” simply because I won’t stay quiet.

My name is Chaim Levin. I grew up in a heimishe family in Crown Heights. I love my mother, my father and my family. I had always felt different and was the subject of relentless bullying by other boys for “seeming” gay. When I was 17 I confided to a friend that I was attracted to men and not sexually attracted to women at all. When it came out, I was thrown out of yeshiva. For the longest time I felt so alone because I truly believed that I was the only person battling this secret war. My older siblings were getting married and having kids, and all I ever wanted was to be a part of the beautiful world my parents had raised me in. My dream was to marry a woman and live the life my family hoped and dreamed for me. I would never have chosen to be gay; I could not imagine anyone growing up in the Orthodox world who would choose to be someone who doesn’t fit into the values and norms of everyone around them.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Trevor Lifeline- The only national 24/7 crisis intervention and suicide prevention lifeline for LGBTQ young people 866-488-7386

Learning the warning signs of suicide is a huge part of preventing a crisis.
 Although emotional ups and downs are normal, sometimes a person who is suicidal gives certain signs or hints that something is wrong. Knowing these major warning signs can help you connect someone you care about to support if they need it - even if that person is yourself.  
Have you or someone you know felt...?
Unimportant | Trapped | Hopeless | Overwhelmed | Unmotivated | Alone | Irritable | Impulsive | Suicidal
Have you or someone you know been...?
Using drugs or alcohol more than usual
Acting differently than usual
Giving away valuable possessions
Losing interest in favorite things to do
Admiring people who have died by suicide
Planning for death by writing a will or letter
Eating or sleeping more or less than usual
Feeling more sick, tired or achy than usual
Do you or someone you know...?
Not care about the future
Put yourself down - and think you deserve it
Plan to say goodbye to important people
Have a specific plan for suicide 

"Surviving the Teens / Suicide Prevention" - Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

  • Coping with Teen Stressors

    There are a variety of coping styles that people use when dealing with stressors. The three most effective styles in dealing with stress are confrontive coping, supportant coping and optimistic coping. The three least effective coping styles in dealing with stress are evasive coping, self-reliant coping, and fatalistic coping.

  • Q: What can teens do to feel better when they’re down or feeling depressed?

"Surviving Suicide" by Lissa Coffey

9/12/13- This week is National Suicide Prevention Week. It is heartbreaking to think that suicide is that pervasive of a problem in our society to warrant such a week. And yet it is. 
Suicide takes the lives of nearly 30,000 Americans every year. There are twice as many deaths from suicide as there are from HIV/AIDS. It is the third leading cause of death for 15-24 year old Americans. And there are more than 800,000 attempted suicides every year.
Those are the statistics.
And then there are the stories.
Perhaps the worst thing about suicide is the pain that it causes to those left behind. These people are known as the survivors. And telling our stories can help us to heal from the trauma of this experience.

"Surviving Attempted Suicide" CNN

9/12/12 by Edgar Treiguts - Kristen Anderson says a cold January night that changed her life is just as vivid now as it was more than 12 years ago.
[:06] "Basically right before the train got there, just made the very impulsive decision to lay down on the tracks."

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

"Suicide:Frequently Asked Questions"
Suicide is a significant cause of death in many western countries, in some cases exceeding deaths by motor vehicle accidents annually. Many countries spend vast amounts of money on safer roads, but very little on suicide awareness and prevention, or on educating people about how to make good life choices. 

"Grad's suicide ignites debate in Jewish community" by Rachel Marder

2006- The suicide of a young Brandeis alum last month in New York has sparked a discussion over how the Jewish community addresses mental illness and whether young Orthodox Jews feel excessive communal pressure to get married. Sarah Adelman '04, 25, an Orthodox Jew from St. Louis, jumped from her eighth floor Upper West Side apartment July 24 around 1:30 p.m. and died from injuries sustained, according to the medial examiner's office.

"A Suicide In The Family" -Jewish Week

Anat Reschke Ph.D.
08/28/12, Anat Reschke- Bang!, was the sound I heard in the middle of my sleep. I jumped up, but my husband Matt wasn’t there. I bolted out of bed and ran down the stairs, tears streaming down my face, praying, “Please God, don’t let this be what I think it is.”

I ran into our home office, where Matt might have been working. No Matt. I noticed the door to our garage was unlocked. I ran into the garage, crying, shaking, and there, I saw my husband of 15 years lying on the ground in a pool of blood surrounding his head. He had finally done what he talked about over the years.

"Beneath the Surface: Suicide leaves survivors with unansweredquestions"- Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle By Amy Waldman September 1st,2013

9/1/13 by Amy Waldman- This is the first article in a projected series on little discussed or publicized problems and issues within the Jewish community.
On Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, we recite the Unetanneh Tokef” prayer. It reads, in part, “On Rosh HaShanah it will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur it will be sealed — how many will pass from the earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die… But repentance, prayer, and charity avert the severe decree.”

Decent, generous and pious people die in many ways, including by suicide. When that happens, it can leave us — and those who want to comfort us — at a loss for how to proceed. 

   A generation ago, suicide was simply not discussed. Both mainstream America and the Jewish community have gotten better at addressing issues around suicide and suicide prevention. But better is a relative term. In the past few months, there have been several suicides in Milwaukee’s North Shore area. The individuals ranged in age from teen to adult, and were male and female, Jewish and non-Jewish. All left family and friends, who need and will continue to need understanding and support. 

"Ex-Hasidic woman's apparent suicide sparks funeral strife" by DebraNussbaum Cohen

Before and After pictures

10/1/13 Ha'aretz- Deb Tambor, a former member of the stringent Skver sect, was denied access to her children; her close friends and boyfriend were denied entry to her funeral over the weekend.

Confusion and controversy marred the funeral of a mother of two said to have committed suicide after leaving her Hasidic community and being denied access to her children. 

Friends and family of Deb Tambor, a former resident of the ultra-Orthodox community of New Square, in upstate New York, believe she killed herself on Friday, September 27, in the bedroom of the home she shared in Bridgeton, N.J. with her boyfriend, Abe Weiss. Like Tambor, Weiss is a former member of the Skver Hasidic sect, which founded and controls New Square, a village about 50 miles north of New York City. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

"Suicide rates high for Orthodox homosexual youths " -Jerusalem Post

Research shows 20% of LGBT sample attempted suicide, compared to 3.5% rate for general youth population.

9/9/12 by Jeremy Sharon- Suicide rates among Orthodox homosexual youth are dramatically higher than that of their heterosexual peers, research published last week showed.

Fact Sheet on "Suicidal Behavior among LGBT Youth"
"Ryan et al. (2009) found that family acceptance was important for LGB youth, in fact LGB youth who experienced severe family rejection were more than 8 times more likely to report having attempted suicide compared with peers from families with little or no rejection."  

"US: Student attempts suicide by ‘hanging himself’ after teacher bullied him with anti-gay slurs"

Pink News 9/8/13- A student in South Carolina has attempted suicide after a school teacher allegedly used anti-gay slurs against him, calling him “gay,” “gay boy,” “Mrs Pete,” and “Mrs Peters.”

" 14-year-old commits suicide because of anti-gay bullying"

Pink News 8/11/13-A fourteen-year-old in Rome has taken his own life because of anti-gay bullying, and struggles with finding acceptance of his sexuality.

After causing cuts to his arms and groin, the teenager killed himself after 2am on Friday by throwing himself from a balcony.

"Gay medical student kills himself by jumping off a balcony"

Pink News- 10/23/13 A 21-year-old man has taken his own life in Rome with investigators saying he talked of suffering homophobia in a letter written before his death.

Police have identified the man as Simone D (his surname is unknown), a medical student at the University La Sapienza.
It’s claimed he suffered homophobic bullying at the university.

The young man climbed onto the roof of a former pasta factory in Rome and threw himself off the eleventh floor during the early hours of Sunday morning.

“I’m gay,” he said, in a note discovered after his death.
”Italy is a free country but homophobia exists and whoever has this attitude must deal with his own conscience,” the letter added.
The man’s grieving parents say they were not aware he was gay or had been suffering from problems.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Last quote for today 10/27/13- Sometimes you feel compelled to share!

"The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people."
Martin Luther King Jr. 

One additional quote for 10/27/13

"He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it."
-Martin Luther King Jr.

Quote for Sunday 10/27/13

"Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think."
-Martin Luther King Jr. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Quote for Sunday 10/20/13

“I know that you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. And you...And you...And you...Gotta give em hope.”

-Harvey Milk

" My Journey From Addiction to Sobriety" by Rich Dweck- 10/12/13

        Harvey Milk once said, "I know that you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living."

        After a family intervention 10 years ago, along with the help of a community organization called the SAFE Foundation, I went to rehab. I remember that juncture so vividly. The feelings I experienced were so intense and painful. I felt knots deep in the pit of my stomach, sometimes so acute that I felt it a struggle to breathe. I was in a situation of pending doom. Where was the hope?  

        As you can only imagine, it was a very uncanny time for me. In the media, we hear celebrities going to rehab and might laugh at them. Just take a moment to think of the many that  lost the fight of addiction and are no longer with us. It's much easier to laugh than to empathize with the pain of another. Why would anybody want to feel such unpleasant feelings? I know I wouldn't. 

        In rehab, I recall thinking, I've been in therapy for 26 years on and off. Every one of the therapists provided me with hope that it would get better, but it never did. The pivotal moment was when I was about to quit rehab and head back to New York City. 

        While I was contemplating heading back, I walked into the courtyard of the rehab center on a hill in the center of the rural south. I can still feel the sun shining down on the hill with a crisp chill in the air. I thought to myself, why should I trust anybody. The next thought that came to mind was, "Oh sh*t", I am handcuffed to myself and don't have the key. I could actually see two of me handcuffed to one another and no matter where I would go,  I couldn't get away from myself. Is it worth living and hoping for something that will never come? 

        Damn right, I had my family to live for. They showed me so much love and support through this process, that to give up on life would be giving up on them. I needed a reason to live. Sometimes knowing someone cares can save someone's life. All the feelings of loneliness and despair were still present, but my perception started to change. Hope was starting to seep in very slowly. 

        I remember thinking, if I make it through this part of my life, I know God has a grander plan for me. Though my faith was shot, I allowed myself to believe in something greater than myself. What that was, I had no clue. I was told to take baby steps and allow the path to come clear. This meant I didn't have to believe in the God I thought was evil, but a loving and compassionate God.

        Finally, I agreed to give it one last shot. I made a pact between myself and my higher power. I agreed to open myself up and become teachable. My feelings of anger and hopelessness transformed to hope and strength. As the proverb states "when the student is ready, the teacher will appear". 

        I am more and more grateful everyday for the support I received from the SAFE Foundation, my family and every single person that took the time to talk to me and let me know I was lovable. They knew that better days were ahead. They loved me just enough, till I learned to love myself. 

        On December 10th, 2013, I will celebrate my 10th year sober from drugs and alcohol. I will not celebrate alone, but with the countless people that helped me get here. 

"Suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning" -Viktor Frankl. 


Video: Orthodox Gay Jews experiences of "Ex-Gay" therapy

Ben Unger and Chaim Levin grew up in Orthodox Jewish homes in Brooklyn. They lived in traditional, socially conservative homes and tried to live up to the expectations of their faith and families.

They were gay, however, and were told they had to choose between being gay and Jewish - as if this were truly possible.

In a desperate search for "help", Ben and Chaim found the "ex-gay" organization Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (JONAH). This was the discredited organization founded by Wall Street con artist Arthur Abba Goldberg, who went to prison for massive bond fraud.

Goldberg promised to "cure" both men of their homosexuality and make them straight. He recommended that Ben and Chaim have therapy sessions with Alan Downing, a "life coach" who often conducted his practice out of JONAH's headquarters. Downing is also a senior trainer for the controversial "ex-gay" outdoor retreat, Journey Into Manhood, which is run by the organization, People Can Change.

While Ben and Chaim were in "therapy", Downing admitted that he was still attracted to men. In time, the sessions devolved into a "psychological striptease", where the men were asked to strip completely named and touch themselves.

Both Ben and Chaim say they were harmed by the therapy and consider Downing's actions highly unprofessional, unethical and inappropriate.

Unfortunately, groups like JONAH and People Can Change often place vulnerable people in the hands of unqualified, unhealthy "life coaches" and counselors who are struggling to accept their own repressed sexual orientation. This creates disastrous situations where unhealthy, predatory behavior can occur.

Fortunately, Ben and Chaim have come to accept themselves and now live as out, proud openly gay men. They warn Jewish LGBT youth to avoid fraudulent scams like JONAH and accept themselves.

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