Friday, July 31, 2015

My thoughts on: "Off the path of Orthodoxy"- NewYorker.com

"Footsteps" is an organization that helps ex-religious or ex-frum people navigate the outside world. Provides training, therapy, support and all.

I'm not promoting this organization, simply sharing my thoughts on these issues. I write and share some of my personal story, because we cannot continue to stay silent. People need to know they are not alone. 

I honestly wish this organization "Footsteps" was around when I was 22 and lost. I had no idea how to navigate the world around me. I had many struggles, but never the struggle of coming back to Orthodoxy. That wasn't even an option. There was no room for me. 

I felt like I was thrown out to sea, not knowing how to swim and without a life preserver. No one was there to guide me or help me navigate. 

I know many who have abandoned it all, because they too felt abandoned. It was just too painful to be a part of. It breeds contempt for religion as a whole. The harsh judgement, the fear, the shame, along with the emotional damage it can cause is immeasurable. 

Everyone needs to feel like belong somewhere. If you don't provide it, they will find it. It can come in the form of addiction, the wrong crowd, and worse. We must do our best to provide a more inclusive, understanding, and tolerant community. We need to work together to stop the bleeding. Being silent is no longer an option. 

Imagine the Hasidim who only teach Yiddish to their children, in hopes to keep them in the ghetto. How could they ever leave if they have no skills, education, or even a common language with the world outside their village? 

Moreover, they wouldn't have the ability or choice to shift from one version of Orthodox Judaism to another. I can't speak for them, but I can understand the pain and frustration many experience.

It took me close to 15 years to find somewhat of a gradually increasing Jewish religious connection. I had to leave literally everything to rediscover it on my own terms. 

As much as one might say, why would one create an organization for those who left Orthodoxy or Judaism, it could have made my life much easier. Maybe I wouldn't have come so close to the edge of the cliff. 

I understand why an Orthodox Jew would think of such an organization as a detriment to their world. I would have thought the same if I hadn't  experienced what I had years prior. 

http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/off-the-path-of-orthodoxy

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Thoughts on Children of Jewish Same Sex Couples: A blog by Rabbi Marc D. Angel | Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals

This essay is not about same-sex marriage. It seems amply clear from Torah and halakha that marriage entails a union between a man and a woman.


This essay is not about whether the United States Supreme Court should have legalized same-sex marriage, or whether such marriages should or should not be performed by civil magistrates.

We are confronted with a reality, whether we approve or do not approve. 


The reality is that same-sex marriage is legal in the United States; that “Gay rights” activists have convinced much of the public that their cause is a “human rights” issue and that those who oppose same-sex marriage are “on the wrong side of history.”


We are also confronted with a reality, whether we approve or do not approve, that among the vocal advocates on behalf of same-sex marriages were major American Jewish organizations that foster civil rights. 


Indeed, it has been reported that some Christian religious leaders are faulting the Jews (what else is new?) for destroying the Christian values of American society by forcing society to adopt same-sex marriages.


As Orthodox Jews, committed to Torah values and law, we will continue to live according to Torah and halakha. But it surely will be impossible to ignore the prevailing laws and attitudes of American society.


I want to focus on one aspect of the current reality: children of same-sex couples.


Until fairly recently, same-sex couples generally did not have children. Technology had not been developed for in vitro fertilization. Surrogate motherhood wasn’t available. Adoption agencies were loath to give children to same-sex couples. So gay couples lived their lives on a more or less private level, without having a significant impact on society at large.


But today, the situation has changed radically. It is far more common for same sex couples to have their own children. Through in vitro fertilization and through use of surrogate mothers, many gay couples are now also parents. Gay couples are also considered valid candidates for adopting children.


Whether we approve or don’t approve, we have an increasing number of children growing up with Jewish same-sex parents. 


Should these children be converted to Judaism if their surrogate mother and/or egg donor were not Jewish? Will an Orthodox beth din undertake such conversions? Will children of same-sex parents be accepted in our day schools? Will we want our children and grandchildren to have play dates with them in their homes? Will these children be able to grow up “normally,” without being stigmatized?


While these kinds of questions have increased during the past several decades, they are going to become even more prevalent in the years ahead. It is easy to close our eyes and simply say: we do not condone same-sex marriages and we want nothing to do with children of such marriages. 


It is a spontaneous reflex to tell such families to go elsewhere for their Jewish lives, and not expect to find a home in Orthodox communities, synagogues, and schools.


And yet, I think we all need to think more carefully about what is at stake here. Should children of same-sex couples be excluded from our Orthodox Jewish communities? Do we have some moral responsibility to help them grow as good and faithful Jews? 


Do we have a religious responsibility to ensure that such children—as well as all other children—are not discriminated against or stigmatized? Should sincere, religiously observant same-sex couples, be prevented from having their children converted to Judaism?


As we are in the midst of a serious transition in the social/religious life of our society, quick yes or no answers are seldom helpful. While we do not yet have all the answers, we at least need to recognize what the questions are.


Over the years, I have found that my own views on these issues have been impacted by direct contact with same-sex couples who have come to me with their children. It is easy enough to dismiss stereotypes: it is altogether different to look into someone’s eyes, feel their pain and anxiety; see their genuine love of their children and their desire to raise their children within an Orthodox Jewish community.


I, along with so many other Orthodox Jews, strive to maintain Torah values while facing the realities of the society in which we live. It is not always easy to balance conflicting imperatives. 


We need to think very carefully and very calmly before we can reach absolute clarity in a confusing world. But if we are to err, we should err on the side of love and compassion.


http://www.jewishideas.org/blog/thoughts-children-jewish-same-sex-couples-blog-rabbi-ma#.VZP3a03KWhY.blogger



"The Rise and Fall of JONAH"- How a "gay conversion" program using nudity, cuddling, became Orthodox Rabbis' go-to answer for LGBTQ Jews


On a warm day in June, a Jersey City jury heard Jonathan Hoffman, an Orthodox Jew, describe an exhilarating weekend he spent sponsored by JONAH, an organization that claims to “heal” same sex attraction.

He described a “wild party” where a group of men danced in the woods, threw cake at each other and rolled in the mud before washing off in a group shower. Hoffman told the court that JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing) had helped him in his effort to change his sexual orientation.

Hoffman was deemed as “success story” by JONAH — someone with a history of sexual relations with other men who has married a woman and started a family. In a videotaped deposition played for the court, Hoffman credited JONAH’s program as “the stuff that has helped me and the stuff that I hold dear to my heart.”

But others claim they were harmed by the organization. Last week, in a landmark verdict, a jury agreed. The five plaintiffs alleged that JONAH defrauded them by saying the program’s methods were scientific. The jury found JONAH liable for $72,400 in damages for consumer fraud and “unconscionable business practices.”

The verdict, however, leaves the Orthodox community with more questions than answers. Like how a young Orthodox Jewish man struggling with homosexual desires was guided by well-known rabbis to spend weekends in the woods like the one Hoffman described. All under the watchful eye of a self-styled “life coach” who is also a Mormon high priest. 

Much of the answer lies in the brilliant salesmanship of JONAH’s director, convicted fraudster Arthur Goldberg, and his less colorful co-director Elaine Berk. But it also includes the fact that recommendations of JONAH came from a number of respected Orthodox rabbis and mental health professionals.

The Beginning

In the late 1990s, Berk’s son came out to her as gay, she testified. She was troubled by this and “wrote letters to rabbis and different Jewish organizations and didn’t receive answers.” Frustrated, she did her own research and found psychologists positing there were ways to “heal” homosexuality.

She met Goldberg, whose son had come out to him as gay, at a conference about homosexuality and healing in 1997. The next year they founded JONAH.

Described by Goldberg and Berk as a referral service, JONAH espouses treatment that includes one-on-one counseling, group therapy, and weekends in the woods. JONAH asserts that “wounds” incurred in childhood cause homosexuality, and once those wounds are “healed,” men will have healthy, non-sexual relationships with other men and become straight.

In 2000, JONAH received an endorsement from Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, dean of the Talmudical Yeshiva of Philadelphia and a member of Agudath Israel’s Council of Torah Sages. The endorsement remains on JONAH’s website today.

Around the same time, the award-winning documentary “Trembling Before God,” depicting the struggle of Orthodox gays and lesbians for acceptance in their religious communities, was released. Suddenly, gay Orthodox Jews became visible — and vocal — in a way they never had before.

Jonathan Hoffman noted that he found JONAH in 2006 through an online comment critiquing the film.

“There weren’t any other resources in the Jewish community that [were] providing Jewish men with the help that I was looking for,” Hoffman said.

Moishie Rabinowitz, now treasurer of Jewish Queer Youth, was referred to JONAH by Rabbi Yaakov Perlow, known as the Novominsker Rebbe. Raised in a charedi home, Rabinowitz, 22, was well into the process of shidduch dating. The only problem: he knew he was gay. At the time, “there was no gay Jewish world,” he told The Jewish Week.

Rabbi Perlow referred Rabinowitz to JONAH. But knowing that the organization used unscientific methods of conversion therapy, he decided not to go. 

In 2004, the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), the largest Orthodox rabbinic association, issued an endorsement of JONAH, suggesting “rabbis might refer congregants to them for reparative therapy.”

But the biggest endorsement for JONAH came with “The Torah Declaration” in 2011, signed by over 200 rabbis. The document, apparently drafted by about two dozen men, attributed homosexuality to “childhood emotional wounds” and declared that attempting change was the only Torah-consistent way to deal with the problem. And JONAH was the only Jewish organization offering the possibility of such change. 

The Unraveling

Just when JONAH had reached the height of rabbinic backing, it came under attack. In November 2012, four former clients and two mothers filed a fraud suit.

In court papers and later at trial, witnesses said that Alan Downing, JONAH’s Mormon “life coach” who claimed to have subdued his own homosexual attractions, routinely “invited” young men he was counseling to strip in his office and then “physically feel” their masculinity. Downing also led others to believe the behaviors of their parents had turned them gay.

Immediately after the complaint became public, the RCA rescinded its support and asked JONAH to remove the endorsement from its website, where it remains today.

Last week’s verdict against JONAH did not come as a surprise to Rabbi Samuel Rosenberg, the Orthodox rabbi and licensed clinical social worker who was co-director of JONAH from 1999 until around 2002, when he left due to “theological and professional differences,” particularly regarding the weekend retreats’ nudity and cuddling.  “I would not approve the methods,” Rosenberg told The Jewish Week.

Rabbi Rosenberg and Goldberg clashed over the boldness of Goldberg’s claims.

“Mr. Goldberg insisted that he wanted to publicize the claim that he can assure anyone who comes through his doors that he can ‘cure’ them, quote unquote,” Rosenberg said. “My position was that it’s totally unethical to guarantee it, as with any psychotherapy. And also, that the term ‘cure’ is totally inappropriate in this context, because I would not call it an illness.”

Goldberg and his attorney did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Rabbi Rosenberg said he was also troubled by Goldberg’s efforts to marshal Orthodox rabbinic support for JONAH through adopting calculated, Torah-friendly language while concealing the fact that he is not personally Orthodox. 

Despite Goldberg’s lack of formal Jewish education — he left yeshiva after grammar school — and his personal non-observance, he was instrumental in the formation of right-wing Orthodoxy’s approach toward gay Jews. It was Goldberg’s name that was on the 2011 article in the Orthodox journal “Hakirah,” featuring a discussion between Rabbi Kamenetsky and him about the necessity of “setting forth Torah values” and touting JONAH’s services.

Within months, language from that article appeared in the Torah Declaration.

Some rabbis have successfully had their signatures removed from the document, like Rabbi Dr. Martin Schloss, director of the Jewish Education Project’s day school division. Others have hit a brick wall.

Rabbi Simcha Feuerman, a licensed clinical social worker and president of Nefesh, the International Network of Orthodox Mental Health Professionals, said he initially signed the declaration because he thought it “was merely a stance on the idea that sexual orientation is not absolute” and that some motivated clients could “find a healthy way to manage heterosexual relationships.” However, he later took issue with the document’s “unequivocal language that all homosexuals can be treated with today’s available clinical expertise.” Despite asking to be removed several times, he said, his name remains on the website.

According to plaintiff Chaim Levin, however, even Rabbi Kamenetsky has privately expressed doubts about the Torah Declaration.

Levin said he met the rabbi two years ago and “saw the pain in his eyes as I recounted my experiences in conversion therapy and JONAH. He asked me for forgiveness and said that the document ‘needs to be changed.’ To date, nothing has, and Rabbi Kamenetsky has remained silent.”

Rabbi Kamenetsky declined to comment.

Although JONAH’s bizarre methods were exposed over the course of the trial, some Orthodox rabbis stand by it.

Asked about the recent verdict, Rabbi Shmuel Fuerst, a signatory to the Torah Declaration, said he wasn’t aware of it but was content to have his name on the document.

But the details that emerged shocked others.

“Although there are reputable therapists who use and have had successes with conventional counseling methods to help people wishing to control their same-sex attraction,” said Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America, “the sort of ‘therapy’ that Mr. Downing says he employed is utterly outrageous and would never be sanctioned by any reputable Orthodox rabbi.” 

http://www.thejewishweek.com/news/national/rise-and-fall-jonah

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

eshelonline.org
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. www.Eshelonline.org

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 

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