Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Recently, a new "wave" of Orthodox Judaism has come to light in my life, something that I know a lot of people are going to take issue with, but is still worth mentioning. I just would like to remind everyone to try and open their minds, as I have always done, and remember- live and let live- no one person, group or community has the right to judge another.

Halachic Orthodoxy is how I grew up.  Communities where everyone in it were assumed to be Orthodox by practice, keeping the law to Orthodox standards, and while some may be more strict than others, everyone belongs to one synagogue and is more or less on the same practicing religious level. Recently, however, I've noticed some things in a number of communities throughout the country, that has led me to come up with another category of Orthodoxy- communal Orthodoxy. In communal Orthodoxy, many grew up practicing Halachic Orthodoxy and some haven't, but everyone- whatever level of practicing they uphold- belong in this community.  It is an Orthodox community, but everyone has the right to uphold whatever standards of Orthodoxy they may or may not practice.

I know, "if people do this, it's not an Orthodox community". Or, "that's traditional, that's not Orthodox", or, "you can't pick and choose in Orthodox Judaism". And you may be right according to your own personal definitions of Orthodoxy, or your community's definition of Orthodoxy, but there are many people in an increasingly diverse world, that disagree. And there are many community's that are more and more willing to accept people in their doors, even if it's never expected of them to uphold Orthodox practices.  There's such a thing as Orthodox values, without upholding every letter of the law, or just wanting to be part of an Orthodox community without necessarily upholding every practice or Halacha that generic Orthodox communities have subscribed to or come to expect from their members.

And I'll tell you why I prefer these "communal" Orthodox communities, and it's not just because they should obviously be more accepting of LGBTQ members. It's because in general, most members of Orthodox communities are not upholding every letter of the law- but instead they go to synagogue and interact with so many others on the most superficial of levels, just pretending that they're all the same level of practicing Orthodox Jews. Instead, in some newer communities, I find that no one assumes anything about their friends, no one has the right to judge, and everyone is open to everyone else. Regardless of what specific laws they may or may not keep.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Struggle, pt. III

I've grown. I'll admit it and I'm proud of it. I've grown so much over the past few years, and as this post marks my second year of the blog, I'll admit that things have changed; that I've changed, that the community has changed, that life got a lot better. And I am extremely thankful for the love and support of those around me.

But it's not over. The struggle isn't over because I've found a semblance of peace and happiness. Because sometimes, I still feel off. Sometimes, I still feel out of place. I feel alone. Not because I am alone, but because I live in a community that sometimes makes me feel alone. It's not that I want acceptance- I have that. It's not that I want a relationship- I have one. But when it comes down to it, the Orthodox Jewish community is a heterocentric hub with 2000 years of tradition. Almost always, men will marry women in Orthodox communities. Shabbat tables will discuss the latest boy-girl couples and engagements and weddings. And I can't change that. But I also can't change who I am. Am I selfish for expecting everyone to help me feel comfortable? Perhaps. But no matter how much my straight friends love me, I will always feel different. No matter how much of a place I have in my community, I will never feel like I fully belong.

There are times when I get hugs from my friends and wonder- will they hug their children if one day their kids come out of the closet? There's so much more growth and work to be done because in reality, while my community has accepted me, have they accepted homosexuality? The answer is obviously no. And the answer probably will be no for a long time, and that's a really hard fact for me to face. That's another aspect of feeling alone, that I am alone in being accepted, that there are so few Orthodox gay Jews out there who are happy and comfortable in their communities.

I was warned about this years ago, when gay friends told me I would never be able to stay in the community I love so much. I was warned that I would feel out of place or rejected. Thank God I didn't. And I don't. I know my friends love me and my community loves me. But that doesn't help me feel like everyone else, because I will never be like everyone else. There are neighborhoods and communities out there where majority of the population is gay, or it's 50/50, and that's when someone doesn't feel alone. But when someone goes against their society's created standard for "normal" (ie- being Frum and gay), they will feel alone.  And that's part of the dissonance, discomfort and disparity of being gay in a Frum community.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Coming Out Day

Today is National Coming Out Day. A day where activists and LGBT organizations all across the country urge those who are suffering or struggling, fearful of insecurity and rejection, to come out. I wish everyone a happy coming out day- for those who feel it applies to them. I have always said that I never advocate someone coming out unless they feel it's the best thing for them to do.

With that in mind, I now want to mention that many people don't come out- not because of fear of rejection or fear of the unknown, but because of the stigma associated with it. So many people assume that "coming out" means they suddenly need to act a certain way, behave a certain way, dress a certain way and march in their local Pride Parade. This does not have to be the truth. Coming out doesn't mean any of that. Coming out simply means acknowledging who you are, and understanding that part of you or all of you is same-sex attracted. That's all it means. Where you go from there is your choice. Whether you act differently, dress differently, is all a personal choice.

Many people become "different" when they come out because they are finally letting out a side of them that had been suppressed for so long, which is why they act so "gay".  But just because you come out does not mean you have to do that. Someone who comes out can be the same person they were before, and nothing has to be any different unless you want it to be. Many people will admit to being homosexual but are so scared of being "gay".  There doesn't have to be this difference. The more we stigmatize and develop a rift between these two categories, the worse off the LGBT community will be by dividing itself and limiting its numbers.

Being gay, or being homosexual, should be one in the same. Many people I know simply come come out as queer- a label many straight people subscribe to as well, just to avoid socially constructed labels of being "straight" or "gay". So happy coming out day- whoever you are- straight, gay, or homosexual. And remember- a label doesn't have to change who you are.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

High Holidays

My New Year's Resolution- to blog more consistently. I've been pretty good about posting four times a month, but I really want to try and get consistent with one blog post each week.

Anyway, on to the fun stuff. This holiday season causes a lot of trouble for a lot of people. A lot of people don't know how to face God on these days because of all the sins they've committed and because they haven't spoken with the Almighty in a while, and because aince we were little, at least my friends and I, were taught to be in fear of these days. Dread the long prayers, be fearful that God will slam his book shut and seal us in the Book of... notlife (is it the book of death? I don't think that was ever explained to me). This year, more than ever, I take the perspective of - what kind of religion is this? That taught us to fear our lives on it's holiest day? That taught us to pray and cry that all be forgiven for we are terrible people? No one is perfect, no Jew, no person, no one is perfect and no one is perfectly evil. So why do we sit there in shame and fear?

On Rosh Hashana- the day is simply about God. Acknowledging the divine presence in our lives, if we choose to do so, and remind ourselves and the Lord that we believe in the divine presence in our lives, whether or not we speak to God every day or whether or not we follow every law that Judaism prescribes for us.  On Yom Kippur, I have learned to acknowledge my wrongs, my shortcomings and the like. But I have also come to believe that God knows all these things I've done, God knows the inner workings of my heart, what I believe and what I do not believe, what I feel badly about and what I don't think was so terrible. And in Yom Kippur prayers I look for areas of my life that I'm not so proud of, things that need improvement, and places I can do better. And saying these things out loud, or silently to God, helps my introspective and growing process.

So on Rosh Hashanah I renew my connection to HaShem- I believe in the Almighty's existence and that I respect and understand God's presence in my life and in the world. and on Yom Kippur I look at my own actions and behaviors. Where I find fault, I admit them and think about how to improve them. Where I find good, I am thankful that there are areas of my life that don't need improving. And when I think about being gay and religious, I simply say "I'm doing the best I can". 

It Gets Better- Gay Orthodox Jews