Tuesday, April 30, 2013

About Me- by Rich Dweck

*Original publication was the beginning of 2012 and continuously updated*
**Names of people or institutions mentioned below are not endorsements of this website, rather simply information I have chosen to share with my readership**


At my brother's Bar Mitzvah
in Israel. (Age 6)
                   You might be wondering where I came up with a name like "Jewish Pink Elephant". Trust me, you are not alone. I sometimes wonder the same. In my recollection, I wanted to have a website/blog that spoke about issues that were taboo. The urban Dictionary defined the term pink elephant as "something so large and obvious(like a pink elephant), but nobody says a word- like it doesn't exist, making the whole circumstance very awkward."

        The next question I would ask is why create a website/blog? I would tell you, I felt obligated to share my story. Sometimes, no matter how wonderful a community is, they fail at certain tasks. They are afraid of certain topics and feel certain issues are better off kept quiet. Obviously, I take a different stand.  

        As someone in their 30's, I have seen and experienced much. Some of my experiences were extremely painful and some have been very rewarding. I know some of you might be thinking that you or someone you know has experienced more pain than I. I understand how you might feel and hope you don't think I am competing for the title. I simply want to share my story, in the hopes that I can help another person hurting. 

        Sometimes, knowing you are not alone is the best gift anyone could ever give. You might simply relate to the feelings I express, but have a different issue altogether. I share my struggles with being gay, internalized homophobia, suicidality, depression, anxiety,hopelessness, fear,addiction and more. 

        In addition, I try to provide you with hope, self-love, happiness, survival,meaning and an understanding that it can get better. If you are going through a tough time, please don't give up. If you don't stay around, you can't reap the rewards of your suffering. Someday, you will realize the meaning of what you went through.  

        Hopefully, you will be able to understand how you can use your experience to help others. Perhaps, you might see the wisdom in your suffering. Nobody would ever think that what they feel they were cursed with, could actually be a blessing. In no way does this mean you should purposely suffer,that would be insanity at its best.    

        I will attempt to paint a quick, yet broad picture of where I have been, where I am, and where I am headed. After years of knowing I was gay, I decided to get help and try to change my sexual attraction/orientation. They refer to what I went through by a few different names: Ex-gay therapy, conversion therapy, and reparative therapy. After spending $24,000 and realizing it didn't work, I felt I had no choice but to come out and live my life. Why? Because the secret was literally killing me.  Sounds dramatic, but unfortunately it was. 

       It was very difficult for my family, community and myself. Nobody should ever think that "coming out" is easy, especially when you come from a very close and socially conservative community. To think being gay is a choice is preposterous. I apologize for the harsh wording, but I speak from my experience and the many people I have met along the way. 

       That being said, I decided to provide resources for others like myself and the parents dealing with a gay child. I only wish more resources were available 13 years ago. 

       Now that you had a chance to get to know why I created this site, I will share with you some of my role models and people that made a profound effect on my life. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

"Gay students bridge worlds at Rutgers Hillel At national conference, talk of Israel, marriage, and the need for ‘safety’"- NJ Jewish News

4/24/13 by Debra Rubin- Free to discuss the challenges and joys of being both Jewish and gay or lesbian, college students from across the country gathered at Rutgers University in New Brunswick to share Shabbat and connections.
The 17th annual national leadership conference of NUJLS, the National Union of Jewish Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, and Intersex Students, included religious services, social activities, and frank discussions about activism, spirituality, and coming out to peers and family.
Held April 19-21 under the auspices of Rutgers Hillel, it was the first NUJLS conference to be held at Rutgers.
Among the events was a session on Israel advocacy, conducted by Vinny Foster, a national field organizer for AIPAC, and another on the future of same-sex Jewish marriage conducted by former Rutgers Hillel president Avi Smolen.
While the conference drew only about 20 participants, its intimacy made for unusually strong bonding experiences, said conference chair Max Zandstein, president of Jewish Allies and Queers at Rutgers Hillel.
“I wanted it to be here because this is such a great community at Rutgers,” said Zandstein, a sophomore nursing student from Highland Park. “These events bring together people who wouldn’t normally meet at any other forum.”
A closing session on suicide prevention particularly resonated in the Rutgers community, where a gay first-year student committed suicide more than two years ago after a roommate used a webcam to spy on him and a partner.
That session was led by Samantha Zbik, who identified herself as a University of Delaware senior from central New Jersey. Before speaking to NJJN on April 21, she called her father, who works in Lakewood and has business dealings with its fervently Orthodox community, out of concern it would harm him professionally if it became known there she was a lesbian.
“I go to a school where there is not a lot of queer life, so it was nice to bridge the two worlds here” at the conference, she said. “I went to such a liberal high school I had to take a couple of steps back in college.”
Rich Dweck, a student from Deal attending George Washington University, said he was struck by the tolerance at Rutgers Hillel for the LGBT community, noting that all three of its rabbis, including Orthodox Rabbi Akiva Weiss, had made it a point to stop by various conference activities.
“This is such an accepting environment,” said Dweck, who writes a blog, jewishpinkelephant.com. “It’s a model.”

"ACHARAI leadership summit offers ‘TED Talks’ platform, sparks community dialogue" - NJ Jewish News

4/25/13- ACHARAI, the Shoshana S. Cardin Leadership Development Institute, put on the Baltimore Jewish Leaders Assembly last Thursday, April 18. Conferences like these are often wrought with pessimism, Jewish communal professionals bemoaning the challenges of engaging their audience and raising funds.
However, BJLA 2013 was nothing short of exciting.
The theme: Think Globally. Act Locally.
The chairs: Liz Minkin Friedman and Rafi Rone.
The format: BJLA Talks (“TED Talks” for the Jewish communal professional) followed by a day of Open Space Technology dialogue. Open Space is one way to enable all kinds of people, in any kind of organization, to create inspired meetings and events. In Open Space Technology meetings, participants create and manage their own agenda of parallel working sessions around a central theme of strategic importance.
The BJLA Talks were what set the day in motion. Powerful. Productive.
Up first, Neely Snyder, director of teen engagement for the Macks Center for Jewish Education, talked about building community one Jew at a time. She said local Jewish thought-leaders are mistaken if they think Jews aren’t interested in Judaism;  in the 2010 Greater Baltimore Jewish Community Study, 91 percent of respondents said Judaism was important to them. In contrast, 46 percent said our local Jewish organizations are remote and not relevant.
“A focus on membership,” said Snyder, “is an obstacle to engagement.”
She called on audience members to create new outlets and to shift their thinking to being engagement professionals that “create community connections and empower others to create meaningful Jewish lives.”
She said there should be less focus on programming and more on relationships.
“Respect the journey. Be inclusive. Collaborate.”
Will Schneider, the executive director of Slingshot, an organization that strengthens innovation in Jewish life by developing next-generation funders and developing resources to leverage their impact in the Jewish community, posed a further challenge. In his five-minute talk, he called on Jewish Baltimore to lead the national field in putting “relevancy on the map.”
He said in Jewish Baltimore, led by organizations such as The Associated: Jewish Community of Baltimore, Baltimore is community-focused. He said Jewish Baltimore is more worried about the success of the community as a whole over any one Jewish organization. And that, he said, is what keeps the community strong.
But Schneider noted that innovation need to be driven — not drive you. And, innovation does not mean use of technology, though sometimes that is a factor. Innovation is grappling with concerns in Jewish life such as identity, community, social justice and coming up with new and inspiring strategies and projects.
Perhaps the most poignant piece of the BJLA Talks half-hour was a speech by “Mindy,” the Modern Orthodox mother of a son who came out of the closet. Mindy is a founder of JQ Baltimore, a group for Jewish parents and other family members of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning people.
Mindy started her talk with one word, bold and brazen across the projector screen: Suicide. She said many Jewish LGBTQ people consider suicide because being gay is a shanda in the Jewish community. This, she said, has to stop.
She admitted that she was shocked when her 19-year-old son delivered the news of his preference for men. All of her dreams for him were instantly crushed. She was forced to re-focus. It changed her life, she said.
But what she was most struck by was that there were no resources for parents like her in the Jewish community. That is why she started one.
And that was really the message: “I took action. I felt a surge of empowerment.”
Quoting the Sage Hillel, “In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man,” Mindy encouraged the crowd that if they see a need for action, “you should act.”

Thursday, April 25, 2013

"Time For Modern Orthodox Leaders To Speak Out On Kotel Proposal" by Rabbi Yitz Greenberg

4/24/13 The Jewish Week- Now that Natan Sharansky is going public with his proposal to resolve the Kotel conflict, it is time for the leadership of Modern Orthodoxy to speak out.
The message should not be only support for Sharansky’s Solomonic proposal but to dissociate from the policies and tactics practiced by the haredi Western Wall Foundation.
Modern Orthodox’s leadership was held back by fear that if they criticized the authorities at the Wall, the Women of the Wall would get their way and Modern Orthodoxy would be accused internally of having enabled a victory of liberal Judaism over Orthodox religious practice. Now that Sharansky has proposed a way in which justice is done but there are no losers, the Modern Orthodox establishment should strongly support the plan — and separate itself from the current Kotel leadership.

"Door Is Wide Open For Gay Jews To Be Leaders" - by Stuart Kurlander

Stuart Kurlander
4/23/13, The Jewish Week- For years I have been an active volunteer for many local and national Jewish organizations. Locally, I have worked hard to climb the ladder of involvement and become our federation’s president. It is only now I can truly find the words to describe a frustrating problem that, from years of experience, I now have the clarity and vision to express.
I am the first gay president our federation has ever had in a volunteer capacity. Arguably, I am one of the first gay men across the country to be president of a major Jewish organization. I say this with humility but also because I have learned many lessons from this vantage point about advocacy.
There are too few gay and lesbian lay leaders and professionals in senior positions of Jewish institutional leadership. Many believe that this is because the world isn’t ready or willing to accept us in such roles. My experience has shown me that this is simply not the situation today. It is often a perpetuated myth, one of several, that I want to question today because it is one of many assumptions that we cannot afford to nurture if the voice of serious gay and lesbian potential leaders is to be heard. We can be our own biggest stumbling block, and my diagnosis of the problem lies with three central myths.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"The Stranger Within Your Gates: Answering Questions about Bais Abraham’s Recent Eshel Shabbat" by Rabbi Hyim Shafner

On a recent Shabbat, Bais Abraham hosted speakers from Eshel  (www.eshelonline.org),  a national organization building communities of support, learning, and inclusion for Orthodox lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Jews.  The three speakers were LGBT Orthodox individuals, two of whom came to observance later in life and one of whom grew up Chassidic.  They each shared their personal journey of what it is like for them to be LGBT in the Orthodox community today.  A recent Orthodox rabbinic effort to show compassion and support for LGBT Orthodox members of the Jewish family is reflected in the Statement of Principals signed by over 200 Orthodox rabbis.  It can be found athttp://statementofprinciplesnya.blogspot.com/ .

Over the past two weeks, I received many questions about our Shabbat program from people from different parts of the Orthodox and general Jewish communities.  Here are some of the questions and my responses:

Q. Why don’t you just keep quiet about this? If someone is gay, let them sit in shul like anyone else.  Why should we bring this out into the open and discuss it? 
To remain silent is to reject people.  We tend to demonize and stigmatize what we do not know.  Individuals who fall prey to social stigmas are forced to feel like outsiders because no one will talk about their issues.  Such individuals keep their conditions hidden but the cost will be that they do not feel part of the community.  They will hear loud and clear what people implicitly feel, that they are flawed.  In addition, there will be no forum or opportunity in which to educate others in the community about the suffering of the stigmatized individuals, thus there is no possibility for sensitivity to their experiences. This can result in a feeling of rejection, and psychological, if not actual, aloneness.   When we ignore the challenges of people in our community and ignore our own conscious or unconscious rejection of them, we cannot expect them to feel included, and we cannot love them as ourselves.  This is the case for LGBT Orthodox Jews.

Q. How can you feature something that is a violation of Jewish law?
Halacha (Jewish law) is, of course, of central importance to us as Orthodox Jews.  Our Shabbat program, however, was not designed to focus on halacha.  That is something that  that every Orthodox LGBT person discusses privately with his or her rabbi.  Our program was about moving toward a culture in which LGBT Jews do not have to feel excluded from the Orthodox community.  It was to find a place of compassion and inclusion, so LGBT Orthodox Jews do not feel like outsiders, which historically has led to losing them entirely to Yiddishkeit, or worse. 
Before we judge anyone who is LGBT or condemn them in the abstract, we owe it to ourselves to humanize this topic and hear real people tell their very real stories, or else we may violate the saying in  Pirkey Avot, Al tidan es chavero ad shetagia li’mikomo.  Do not judge another person until you have been in their place.  Many would like to pretend that there are no LGBT people in our midst, but the weekend not only showed us that they are members of our community, but also underscored that they are our neighbors, our children, our brothers, our sisters, and our friends.  They are in the stories presented to us, devout individuals who truly value Torah and mitzvot.

Q. Rabbi, does having this panel serve any religious purpose for those of us who are not LGBT?  What can the rest of us learn from this about our own avodat Hashem (service to God)?
I found it inspiring that when faced with something that would make it so difficult to be observant and to remain within the Orthodox community–a community with little sensitivity to the feelings of those who are gay–they choose, despite feeling alienated, to remain in the community.  Their love for Torah, for mitzvot, for Hashem and for the Jewish People is so strong that though it would be much easier to leave Orthodoxy, they do not.   Among other things, we can learn from LGBT Orthodox Jews about commitment to Torah even in very difficult circumstances. 

Q. If someone LGBT wants to be in our community, do you expect us to accept them?  To give them aliyot?
In many shuls, even people who violate weighty mitzvot of various types between humans and G-d and between humans and other humans, are welcomed.  Why should we treat the LGBT Jews any differently?  Indeed it could be argued that not keeping kosher or other important mitzvot is a choice, and LGBT, as we now know, is not a choice.  If it were, the vast majority of Orthodox LGBT people would choose not to be LGBT.  With regard to people who are transgender, the halachic question arises with regard to whether to give them aliyot and where they should sit in shul.  There are various opinions among poskim as to the status of the gender of transgender people, depending upon where in the process of transition they are.

Monday, April 22, 2013

"Should We Forgive?" by Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

Torah Portion: Acharei Mot-Kedoshim, 5773
Shmuel Herzfeld

Usually I like to give positive Divrei Torah that hopefully will inspire us to come closer to Hashem. 

Today, unfortunately I feel the need to share a painful story that will hopefully be a guide and reference point for others in their life.

There has been a story in the media lately that I am connected with.

The story involves one of the most prominent rabbis in America. This rabbi was even named by Newsweek as one of the top fifty rabbis in America. He was for a while the head of the Beth Din of America, the central rabbinical court of the Modern Orthodox world. He is a law professor and an expert on ethics and Jewish law.

But he did something that everyone acknowledges is wrong.

He created a false identity in order to promote his own work and infiltrate a different rabbinic list serve where using a false identity he spread hurtful things, gained confidential information, undermined the positions of those who he ideologically disagreed with, and attacked people harshly. 

On this rabbinic list serve I was one of the people he attacked most prominently.

"I Am No Abomination:Rewritten Bar Mitzvah Speech, 30 years later" by Amichai Lau-Lavie

 4/18/13- I grew up Orthodox in Israel. By the time of my bar mitzvah—in April 1982—I was living in New York City, a sweet kid in a polyester suit. A little on the chubby side, perhaps. My dark blond mop of hair covered a pimpled forehead.  

Being Orthodox had its advantages. Chanting my bar mitzvah portion was no problem. I rattled it off with ease. The problem was the speech. There was so much I wanted to say, but my English wasn’t good enough, and anyway, my speech had been written for me by my uncle, a renowned rabbi, who gave me a tired presentation expounding on the laws of charity.
Thirty years on, I would like to think that if the choice had been mine, and I had been able to summon the courage, this is the speech I would have delivered at the Fifth Avenue Synagogue in Manhattan.

"Orthodox Rabbis Split on Anti-Gay Bullying Law in Canadian City of Winnepeg- Should Religious Schools Promote Tolerance for Gays?"

JTA 4/18/13- An anti-bullying bill in Manitoba has Winnipeg’s two leading Orthodox rabbis split over how much schools should do to accommodate students who support gay rights.
One part of Bill 18, proposed last December, requires any school that receives provincial funding to allow students to create a gay-straight alliance club.
Fearing that Christian schools will be forced to accept such clubs, many Christian leaders in Manitoba have opposed the bill. But in the case of the province’s Jewish community, the two leading Orthodox rabbis have landed on opposite sides of the debate.
“The Torah rejects homosexuality,” Rabbi Avrohom Altein, the longtime head of Chabad Lubavitch in Winnipeg, told the Canadian Jewish News. “Religious schools should not be forced to accept a gay rights group.”

"Chabad's Do Nothing, Feel Good Judaism" - Failed Messiah

4/22/13 "…On the other hand, the personal approach of Chabad to Jewish outreach—often combined with glitzy, high-profile, one-time events—has a major negative: It is built on absolutely minimal expectations. Its message seems to be: We will love you, but we won’t require anything of you. On this point, somewhat bizarrely, the Orthodox and the non-Orthodox critics seem to agree. The Orthodox critics ask Chabad rabbis: Why don’t you expect Jews to become Orthodox? The non-Orthodox ask: Why don’t you expect anything at all?…"

"Haredi Slumlords And The Rise Of Antisemitism In NYC" - Failed Messiah

4/21/13 "I hear a lot of anti-Semitic comments from tenants based on their experiences with landlords, the only visibly Jewish people with whom they have contact. (I was raised in the Reconstructionist movement, and I’m not visibly Jewish.) Sometimes I get a call from a tenant who tells me 'a Jew is in the building,' presumably meaning that a speculator has come around in hopes of purchasing it."
Elise Goldin, a tenant organizer with the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, in New York City, writes in the Forward about the ever more frequent occurrence of haredi (almost always hasidic) slumlords who own and mismanage some of the city's worst apartment buildings:

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

"Meet Openly Gay, Half-Arab, Half-Jewish Activist Omar Sharif Jr."

Sharif left Egypt in January 2011 during the revolution and moved to California.
Omar Sharif
4/8/13 by Lulu Ramadan (SFGN)- It was less than a year ago that Omar Sharif, Jr. came out as an openly gay, half-Arab, half-Jewish man in the aftermath of the Egyptian revolution.
Well-known as the grandson of Golden Globe award winner, Omar Sharif, the 29-year-old wrote an open letter to the press published in The Advocate where he officially came out to the world despite his fear of the consequences.
“I write this article in fear. Fear for my country, fear for my family, and fear for myself,” he wrote. “And so I hesitantly confess: I am Egyptian, I am half Jewish, and I am gay.”
Sharif left Egypt in January 2011 during the revolution and moved to California. In March 2012, he voiced his disappointment in the Egyptian government for not promoting a more tolerant culture, and not supporting the rights of gays and lesbians even following the uprising.

"LGBT TRIP TO ISRAEL 2013" - October 30 – November 9, 2013 "A Wider Bridge"


"Yom Ha’Atzmaut and LGBT People" by Arthur Slepian of "A Wider Bridge"

4/16/13- Today, Israel’s 65th Independence Day, it is appropriate that we stop and take pride in the many strengths of this young nation, and what its existence and growth has meant for Jewish people not only in Israel but around the world; 2013 offers much for LGBT people to take pride in compared with 1948. 
Today marks the end of a three week period on the Jewish calendar that begins with Passover, in which we tell the Biblical story of our people’s exodus from bondage in Egypt, and ends with Yom Haatzmaut, on which this year we mark the 65th anniversary of the establishment of the modern state of Israel.  We mark these two connected episodes of liberation, an ancient miracle and a modern one.   The creation of the free and independent state of Israel is perhaps the most profound miracle of the 20th century, the reconnection of the Jewish people with our historical roots.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Event: "Growing up gay in an Orthodox World"- April 24th at Queens College Hillel

"Winnipeg prepares to host the World Conference of GLBT Jews" - Haaretz

Jay Michaelson- Author of"God vs. Gay" 

The conference organizers have lined up a top-flight array of speakers, including the transgender memoirist and poet Joy Ladin and Jay Michaelson.

4/14/13 by Mira Sucharov- With the debate about same-sex marriage in the U.S. making headlines this month, one Jewish community in a midsize Canadian city is getting set to welcome the World Conference of GLBT Jews this summer. From July 5-7, gay, lesbian and transgender Jews and their supporters will gather in Winnipeg to discuss current issues connected to holding those dual identities.
By coincidence, Winnipeg is one of my two hometowns, and I am keenly aware of the apparent tension between tradition and progressiveness that represents the city of 680,000, including 12,000 Jews. A longstanding tight-knit, geographically isolated Jewish community with a strong commitment to Jewish institutional expressions, Jewish literacy, and Jewish continuity, an atmosphere like that can pose particular challenges for those who perceive themselves as different.

VIDEO: "Kenneth Weishuhn, Gay Iowa Teen, Commits Suicide After Allegedly Receiving Death Threats" - Huff Post

4/17/13 A gay Iowa teen has taken his own life after friends and family say that classmates sent him death threats on his cell phone and made him the subject of a Facebook hate group.
As KTIV is reporting, 14-year-old Kenneth Weishuhn Jr. began to be teased and bullied by classmates at South O'Brien High School after he came out earlier this year. "People that were originally his friends, they kind of turned on him," sister Kayla Weishuhn, a sophomore, is quoted as saying. "A lot of people, they either joined in or they were too scared to say anything."
The anti-gay teasing reportedly also continued online, where classmates created a hate group against gays and added Kenneth's friends as members, and got even worse when the freshman started receiving death threats from students on his phone.
Weishuhn’s mother Jeannie Chambers said her son told her, "Mom, you don’t know how it feels to be hated."

Op-ed: "To You There, in the Closet" by Assi Azar

Assi Azar- Israeli TV personality

I have decided to write to you. I don’t know why; maybe because today I am “celebrating’’ 10 years out of my own private closet. Whatever the reason, I wrote this. I hope you will read it to the end.

Despite it being 10 years ago, I remember so clearly what life was like in the closet. You’re walking down the street. Good-looking guys go past, but you can’t look at them — in case you reveal your truth.
 And you go out with girls, and it’s not that bad at all. Some of them have their suspicions, but you do everything that you can to hide it. You even overplay your masculinity in order to convince her. It’s not hard to deceive a girl who is in love with you.

And you start to confuse yourself with your own lies. You think that because you actually managed to sleep with her, that maybe, perhaps, surely you are not really gay.

And if you marry her and have a baby with her, that’s it! You’re not really gay.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Women of The Wall: "Compromise Is Proposed on Western Wall Praying"- JPost by Isabel Kershner

4/9/13 JERUSALEM — Natan Sharansky, the chairman of the Jewish Agency, outlined new ideas on Tuesday for making the Western Wall a place where all Jews could pray comfortably, after tensions over rituals there peaked in recent months and caused discord between the Israeli authorities and Jewish leaders abroad.
Mr. Sharansky’s proposal involves expanding and improving the areas accessible for prayer at the wall to include the southern section known as Robinson’s Arch which, under his plan, would be open for Jews wishing to pray in a less Orthodox, more egalitarian style 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The main prayer section, which is now divided into men’s and women’s sections, would remain the domain of more traditional worshippers.

Video: "Rep. Salmon's Gay Son Struggled With Reparative Therapy" by Michelle Garcia- Advocate

4/9/13- The son of Republican Rep. Matt Salmon said he struggled with his sexual orientation for decades, and even underwent reparative therapy, before telling his parents that he just wanted to live his life as a gay man.
Salmon shared his struggles with reparative therapy, and his decision to vote in favor of a statewide marriage ban at age 18, while he was still reconciling his own sexual orientation. Eventually he told his father that he would drop therapy, and explained that he wanted the same relationship his parents had, but with a man instead of a woman. These days, he said, he and his father are very close.
"My father and I have a great relationship," he said on the local show, Sunday Square Off. "He's one of my close friends, we talk about all sorts of things, and we give each other advice."

"Haredi barbecue on Holocaust day sparks uproar" - by Jeremy Sharon of JPost

4/9/13- A group of haredim who marked Holocaust Remembrance Day by having a barbecue party in Jerusalem’s Gan Sacher aroused anger and opposition from several quarters on Monday.
According to Yediot Ahronot, approximately 200 haredi youths held a barbecue on Sunday night at the same as the Yad Vashem memorial service was taking place.
Yotam Barzani, a news editor for Israel Radio disputed the figures however, saying on his Facebook page that he arrived at the park at 11:05 p.m. and found only 35 people making barbecues.
One youth said they were honoring the memory of Holocaust victims in their own way, Yediot Ahronot reported. Another accused secular people of desecrating the Sabbath and failing to observe the Fast of Gedaliah, one of the six public fasts of the Jewish calendar, which marks the final loss of Jewish independence under the Babylonians.

Audio: "Michael Savage on Jewish Ritual Circumcision Infants Contracting Herpes - metzitzah b'peh"

Video: "Coming Out to My Dad, the Founder of Conversion Therapy" (by Richard Socarides)

Video: "Conversion Therapy" and the horrible story of abuse!

"Why the religious need to stop fighting Gay Marriage" - Pop Chasid

4/9/13- Ever since I wrote a blog post about gay marriage, one question has been roiling my brain.
What would I do if my child was gay and they wanted to get married?
It was comparatively easy to talk about being gay on a societal level, and even to speak about my own experiences with it.
But what about the one thing that really matters: how would I deal with a situation if it was in my face, planted there, unable for me to avoid by writing a blog post and then running for the hills?
And there’s always one answer I keep coming back to.
What would I do if my child was gay?  If this child wanted to get married?
I wouldn’t do a thing.
I wouldn’t fight it, argue, get upset.  None of that.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Video: "MTV Holocaust Commercial- history repeats"

"Last gay Jewish Holocaust survivor dies"- Jerusalem Post

Gad Beck and his sister as children
Photo: Courtesy of Judith Kessler
6/25/12 BERLIN – Gad Beck, an anti-Nazi Zionist resistance fighter and the last known gay Jewish survivor of the Holocaust, died on Sunday in Berlin. He passed away in a senior citizens' home six days before his 89th birthday, which would have been on June 30.

Beck was a pioneering gay activist and educator in a severely anti-homosexual, repressive post-World War II German society. He was famous for his witty, lively style of speaking.

On a German talk show, he said, “The Americans in New York called me a great hero. I said no... I’m really a little hero.”

Perhaps the single most important experience that shaped his life was the wartime effort to rescue his boyfriend. Beck donned a Hitler Youth uniform and entered a deportation center to free his Jewish lover Manfred Lewin, who had declined to separate himself from his family.

The Nazis would later deport the entire Lewin family to Auschwitz, where they were murdered.

Speaking about his life as a gay Jew, Beck invoked a line frequently cited about homosexuality: “God doesn’t punish for a life of love.”

He was featured in the film The Life of Gad Beck and the documentary Paragraph 175. (The notorious Paragraph 175 of the German Penal Code outlawed homosexuality before Adolf Hitler became chancellor in 1933, and the Nazi party radically intensified the enforcement of the anti-gay law, including deportations to extermination camps.) “Only Steven Spielberg can film my life – forgive me, forgive me,” Beck quipped.

He had immigrated to Israel in 1947. After his return to Germany in 1979, the first post-Holocaust head of Berlin’s Jewish community, Heinz Galinski, appointed Beck director of the Jewish Adult Education Center in Berlin.

"Gay Orthodox Jews to gather and discuss challenges they face" by Tim Townsend

4/5/13- When Hyim Shafner first started working as the campus rabbi for St. Louis Hillel at Washington University in the mid-1990s, he was approached by a male student with an unusual request.
“I’m having trouble meeting guys, rabbi,” Shafner remembers the student saying. “Can you fix me up with a nice Jewish boy?”
Suddenly Shafner’s days at the Orthodox Yeshiva University in New York “felt very far away,” he said.
But moments like that at the university got Shafner, now the rabbi at Bais Abraham Congregation in University City, to begin thinking more seriously about the special problems faced by homosexual Orthodox Jews.
“Jews are not a very big people,” he said. “I think of Judaism as a family, and it’s a shame someone has to leave Orthodoxy — their faith that they value — because they don’t feel like they can find a place in the family.”
As a way to introduce St. Louis’ Orthodox Jewish community to the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender — or LGBT — community, Bais Abraham and the Jewish Community Center of St. Louis will host a weekend of events April 12 to 14 designed to support Orthodox LGBT Jews.
The event was organized by Eshel, an organization that tries to create understanding for LGBT Jews in traditional Jewish communities. Eshel is bringing in three speakers to discuss what it’s like to be LGBT and Orthodox. The organization has held similar events in New York, Los Angeles and Washington, but next weekend’s event will be the first time it has brought a program like this to the Midwest.
“A lot of people are very curious about this topic,” said Aviva Buck-Yael, a member of Bais Abraham and an Eshel board member. “In most places, we have surprising turn outs. ... They want to know why people wish to stay in the Orthodox community when they’re LGBT. They want to find out how they make that work.”
Orthodox Judaism accepts homosexuals as members of the community as long as they are celibate. But, according to traditional Orthodox rabbis, a sexually active member of the LGBT community would be acting in a way that’s inconsistent with traditional Orthodox practices, and could not properly call himself or herself an Orthodox Jew.
“It’s a hard thing, theologically, for people to deal with,” said Shafner. “But what if someone is born allergic to matzo — it’s the same thing theologically. God commanded them to eat matzo on Passover, but they can’t do it. ... Some Orthodox are driving to synagogue on Saturday, but you don’t find an uproar over that.”

Powerful Music Video: "Same Love" by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

"LGBT and observant" by Ellen Futterman

4/3/13-Elissa Kaplan says deciding 10 years ago to tell her two oldest children, then ages 9 and 11, that she was gay still stands as the “scariest decision” of her life. It not only resulted in her children knowing, but also, quite unexpectedly, the head of their yeshiva.
“My coming out process was very painful because I was so worried about rejection. Telling the children was emotionally tumultuous for everyone, including me,” said Kaplan, now 50, a psychologist living in central New Jersey. “But it all settled down fairly quickly and worked out just fine in the end.”
Part of what made the decision so scary is that Kaplan is an Orthodox Jew. Her commitment to Torah observance and her relationship to God are tantamount, and she didn’t want to compromise either by coming out. Historically, strict Orthodox have not been welcoming to the Jewish lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender (LGBT) community, but that seems to be changing among Modern Orthodox congregations such as Bais Abraham in University City.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Daily Show Video: Defending Your Wife - The Perils of Gay Marriage Conservative Supreme Court justices argue the need for more gay marriage beta testing before rendering a verdict.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Music Video: Yaakov Shwekey - Cry No More, ירושלים Jerusalem

Making an “LGBT-Aliyah” by Brian Schaefer (Haaretz)

Gay and lesbian young immigrants from around the world are flocking to these shores to celebrate and explore both their Zionist and sexual identities. 

“One of the first questions my mom asked when I said I was going to make aliyah was, ‘Is it because of the gay community?’” says Sam, 25, originally from Rochester, New York, who moved here almost two years ago. “My answer was no.”

"Is There an Orthodox War Against Modern Orthodoxy?" by Professor Shaul Magid

Link to the article Is There an Orthodox War Against Modern Orthodoxy? Reading Flipping Out? Myth or Fact: The Impact of the "Year in Israel”

Book Recommendation: "Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why: The Science of Sexual Orientation" by Simon LeVay

Release date: September 2012
Book Description: What causes a child to grow up gay or straight? In this book, neuroscientist Simon LeVay summarizes a wealth of scientific evidence that points to one inescapable conclusion: Sexual orientation results primarily from an interaction between genes, sex hormones, and the cells of the developing body and brain. 

LeVay helped create this field in 1991 with a much-publicized study in Science, where he reported on a difference in the brain structure between gay and straight men. Since then, an entire scientific discipline has sprung up around the quest for a biological explanation of sexual orientation. In this book, LeVay provides a clear explanation of where the science stands today, taking the reader on a whirlwind tour of laboratories that specialize in genetics, endocrinology, neuroscience, cognitive psychology, evolutionary psychology, and family demographics. He describes, for instance, how researchers have manipulated the sex hormone levels of animals during development, causing them to mate preferentially with animals of their own gender. LeVay also reports on the prevalence of homosexual behavior among wild animals, ranging from Graylag geese to the Bonobo chimpanzee. 

Although many details remain unresolved, the general conclusion is quite clear: A person's sexual orientation arises in large part from biological processes that are already underway before birth.  

"Priest vs. Gay controversy at George Washington University"- Students speak up

"The Fight For Love at George Washington University" by Blake Bergen and V. Rev. Damian J. Legacy, CSC- 4/5/13 Huffington Post
The case for religious freedom has been debated ad nauseam since its inception and ratification into law in December 1791.

There are some who believe it to be the "First, Most Cherished Freedom" as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops proclaimed in their response to President Obama's HHS Mandate. It is often used to defend unpopular or outrageous beliefs held in the name of religion- and invoked as a trump card in any disagreement over inflammatory comments or actions. 

Indeed, we have both frequently evoked our right to free exercise of speech and religion to gently remind those who disagree with us that the benefit of First Amendment protections is the dialogue that results from conflicting points of view. 

However, what is unacceptable in all cases is the use of the First Amendment as a means to attack, discriminate, and dehumanize another person and/or group of persons; discrimination and vitriol wrapped in a veil of faith is still vitriol. After all the Bill of Rights was meant to supplement the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, not replace them. Regardless of any amendment, the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all citizens remain the foundation of our free society.

As a result of lacking University policy this age old debate has been unfolding on the campus of the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. for the last several weeks and students have had enough. The Archdiocese of Washington assigned a Roman Catholic priest, Greg Shaffer, to the Newman Catholic Student Center at GW. He has a long history of inflammatory comments towards LGBT people in his homilies and fostering a homophobic atmosphere amongst Catholics, and continued his persecution of the LGBT Community last week. 

While normally a sense of professional respect is observed - as neither of us are Roman Catholic priests- the idea that the Newman Center is entitled to do and believe as it pleases was violated when comments were published on his personal blog and in the student newspaper saying:
"Every single rational person knows that sexual relationships between persons of the same sex are unnatural and immoral. They know it in their hearts," Shaffer wrote. "And, yet, they go against what their hearts tell them when they try to argue for same-sex relationships and 'gay marriage.'"
While this is simply a taste of the language and sentiments that permeate the Newman Catholic Student Center, the atmosphere spreads to affect those who do not even identify with the center, faith, or seek Father Greg for spiritual advice in the wider University community.

Friday, April 5, 2013

"Sephardi treasures surveyed"- The Jewish Standard

A photograph of Sephardic Jews in
southern Europe collected by ASF
4-5-13 by Daniel Santacruz Somewhere in New Jersey there is a collector who owns a rich collection of correspondence — about 800 pieces, mostly written in Ladino — that originated in Vienna and the Ottoman Empire between 1840 and 1940.
Almost all of the correspondence comes from merchants, but not all of it deals exclusively with business matters. Some is about family issues. The collector, whose name has not been made public, was discovered during a survey conducted by the New York-based American Sephardi Federation.
The survey was aimed at finding archival collections held in synagogues, state archives, or cultural organizations, or by individuals, in six Mid-Atlantic and New England states, related to Sephardic, Mizrachi and Bukharian Jews. Another objective of the survey, whose results were released recently, was to set the basis for collaboration with institutions on projects that will increase the accessibility of key documents about those communities.
The history of Sephardic and Mizrachi Jews in the United States hasn’t been well understood, according to Randy Belinfante, librarian and archivist at the ASF’s National Sephardic Library. “American Jews, in general, are unaware of Sephardic history,” he said. “Even the American Historical Society, which has a large collection of Jewish material, is unfamiliar with Sephardim, as are many Jews in New York City, where a large community of Syrian Jews live.”

Video: Magic Johnson opens up about his gay son to TMZ

Magic Johnson and his wife, Cookie, have known “for a long, long time” that their 20-year-old son E.J. is gay. Now, after a TMZ video this week showed E.J. holding hands on a Los Angeles street with his boyfriend, it is public knowledge, too.

“It’s interesting when you’re his parents. We finally had to sit down and talk about it,”Magic Johnson told TMZ of the long-ago decision to have The Talk with E.J. “I told him, ‘Look, I’m going to love you regardless. Just let me know: Are you or aren’t you?’ Finally, he said, ‘Yes, I am.’”
E.J., Magic estimated, must have been “12-13-14″ years old at the time. “It was a hard conversation only because he was so young. What do you say to tell him at that age, what do you say to him?” Magic Johnson said. “…I told him, ‘We are here to support you, man. We are going to love you no matter who you are or what you do. We just want you to love yourself and make sure that you have all the information.’” Taken from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/early-lead/wp/2013/04/04/magic-johnson-opens-up-about-his-gay-son-video/

"Gay Orthodox rabbi offers message of inclusion" by Sharon Chisvin

Rabbi Steve Greenberg
3/23/13- Steven Greenberg decided to become a religiously observant Jew when he was about 15 years old, and decided to become an Orthodox rabbi when he was 20.
Those were relatively quick decisions to make.
The decision to come out as a gay Orthodox rabbi took a little longer.
Greenberg finally took that step 16 years after being ordained at Yeshiva University's theological seminary, coming out in an article he wrote for the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv. At the time, Greenberg was working at CLAL, the New York-based National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, where he is now director of diversity projects and a senior teaching fellow.
"I finally decided to say the truth," he said. "I realized that God knows me as I am and loves me."
Since coming out, Greenberg has become widely known as the first openly gay Orthodox rabbi.
He spoke about that unique status, as well as several other topics, when he was in Winnipeg recently as a guest of the University of Manitoba Judaic studies program, local synagogues and Limmud. Limmud is the city's annual Jewish learning and cultural conference.
Ben Baader, co-ordinator of the U of M Judaic studies program, helped arrange for Greenberg's visit. He was familiar with the rabbi from his involvement with Eshel, an organization established to help Orthodox LGBT Jews maintain their observance and connect to welcoming and accepting religious communities. Greenberg is a director of the organization.
"He is an important scholarly voice on issues of sexuality and Judaism," Baader said.
Greenberg's university talks reflected that expertise, examining rabbinic interpretations of the sex and sexuality found in the Bible and same-sex love in traditional Jewish culture.
At the Limmud gathering, he spoke about the search for a unique marital ritual for gay Jews, and homosexuality and Halacha. Halacha is the collective body of religious laws.
Baader also arranged for the rabbi to speak during the Sabbath at congregation Herzlia -- Adas Yeshurun, a local Orthodox synagogue.
"The rabbi's talk was less about the theological or Jewish legal perspective and more about how to create a more welcoming community," said Rabbi Ari Ellis, Herzlia's spiritual leader.
"We were thrilled to have the rabbi come and those who came learned a lot from his personal stories and challenges."
Greenberg writes and speaks extensively about his experiences as an Orthodox gay rabbi, and is constantly challenging Jewish communities and congregations across North America to become more hospitable, inclusive and accepting of GLBT community members.
He did this most eloquently in his book, Wrestling with God and Men: Homosexuality in the Jewish Tradition, and in the 2001 award-winning documentary film, Trembling Before God.
In that film, which recounts the spiritual and emotional challenges confronted by Orthodox Jewish homosexual men and women, Greenberg expands eloquently on the personal angst he felt every time he read Leviticus 18:22. That verse, which has traditionally been interpreted as a prohibition against sexual relations between men, is read on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish religion.
"I realized that my willingness to be vulnerable to the text required the text to be vulnerable to me and everybody like me," Greenberg said in the film. "I realized the people who decide what this verse means had never heard my story, never heard our stories, and if they did they would no longer be so certain about what that verse means."
Greenberg became a rabbi because of his love of Torah study and his desire to impart the Torah's wisdom to contemporary Jews.
By standing up and speaking out as an openly gay Orthodox rabbi, he does that on a constant basis. He may be imparting the Torah's wisdom in a way the ancient rabbis could not have imagined, but he does it in a way that inspires GLBT observant Jews to remain comfortable in their orthodoxy, and accepted and embraced by their congregations and communities.

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