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Category Archives: Queer Jewish Leaders

An Orthodox Gay First?

Orthodox-ordained Rabbi Steve Greenberg presiding at same-sex wedding of Yoni Bock and Ron Kaplan in Washington, DC synagogue, 10 November 2011 (photo: Roee Ruttenberg)

Orthodox-ordained Rabbi Steve Greenberg presiding at same-sex wedding of Yoni Bock and Ron Kaplan in Washington, DC synagogue, 10 November 2011 (photo: Roee Ruttenberg)

Yasher Koach to chatanim (חתנים or grooms) Yoni Bock and Ron Kaplan!

Standing in matching kittle’s (קיטלנים or traditionally white linen robes that Ashkenazim are known to be buried in after wearing it to their wedding as well as annually on Yom Kippur to signify purity, holiness and new beginnings) and orange kippah’s (כִּפוֹת or platter-shaped head caps worn for respect) the two men stood under the chupah (a symbol of the home that the couple will build together) in Washington D.C. holding hands.

I understand from the blogsphere that many in the Orthodox tradition are dismissing the wedding as both of the grooms are men. Although no one has asked me my opinion on the matter here it is: of course it counts. The grooms were married in Washington D.C. by Rabbi Steven Greenberg, author of the 2004 groundbreaking book Wrestling with God & Men: Homosexuality in the Jewish Tradition. 

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Posted by on November 15, 2011 in Queer Jewish Leaders

 

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Queer Jewish Students are invited to Washington D.C. for Leadership Conference

National Union of Jewish LGBTQ Students Conference will begin on Feb 17, 2012 at the American University Hillel, Kay Spiritual Life Center • 4400 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, DC! Participate in the annual gathering of queer Jewish students by recommending a leader to attend!

Participating student leaders from Universities across North America began calling this annual gathering a conference of the National Union of Jewish LGBTQQI Students. Naturally, an abbreviation written as NUJLS followed this long-winded title, giving us the name of the conference that we still use today, NUJLS (pronounced "NuJoules" (nüjau(-ə)ls)).

In the fall of 1998 the Office of Student Life at the University of Oregon received a notice in the mail about a student leadership conference aimed at empowering GLBT Jewish leaders. The Dean who received the memo called our local Jewish Student Union, LGBT Alliance and Hillel House to recruit someone to represent the University of Oregon at this conference called NUJLS. I was nominated, grant dollars were dispersed, I flew to Texas, met a dozen new friends and learned about Jewish community leadership. Just like that my career, as I write about in this blog, discovered its roots.

From my perspective one of the many barriers that people experience into the organized Jewish community was eliminated for me. Representing the University of Oregon as a Gay Jewish leader, gave me the opportunity as a young person to easily navigate into the depths of what our Jewish community has to offer.

Each Spring since 1997, Queer Jewish University-level students, as well as our steadfast LGBT allies, have joined together on a selected University campus to learn from each other for a weekend Shabbaton affectionately called NUJLS. Each year NUJLS features speakers, text study, and workshops on topics such as Judaism and queerness, activism, relationships, ethics, coming out, and time to talk about our differing views on how students think about Israel. NUJLS provides an opportunity for student leaders from Universities across North America to build community, network and become more familiar with Jewish life.

This February at American University in Washington D.C. students will be able to hear from galvanizing speakers, share shabbat meals and participate in leadership workshops all the while fostering in the next generation of connected and inspired LGBT Jewish leaders.

As an alumni of NUJLS and now a proud board member I am asking my networks to help me spread the word on campuses and in your greater communities about NUJLS. Learn more!

 

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LGBT Book Readings at the Jewish Community Library

Keep Your Wives Away from Them: Orthodox Women, Unorthodox Desires, A presentation by Miryam Kabakov will be held on Thursday, November 17 at 7pm.

Reconciling queerness with religion has always been an enormous challenge. When the religion is Orthodox Judaism, the task is even more daunting. The anthology Keep Your Wives Away from Them, edited by Miryam Kabakov, takes on that challenge by giving voice to lesbian, bisexual and transgender Jewish women who were once silenced—and effectively rendered invisible—by their faith. It tells the story of those who have come out, who are still closeted, living double lives, or struggling to maintain an integrated "single life" in relationship to traditional Judaism.

On Tuesday, December 13 at 7pm join Noach Dzmura, editor of Balancing on the Mechitza: Transgender in Jewish Community along with contributors Chav Doherty, Martin Rawlings-Fein, Jhos Singer, and Max Strassfeld in conversation.

How can transgender people live pious Jewish lives when many of their significant life choices might be considered “un-kosher”? How might parenting be complicated, or perhaps, enhanced, when one parent has changed sex? How does it feel to be in “men only” ritual space when you were once defined by your community as female? Balancing on the Mechitza is an anthology by activists, theologians, and scholars, both transgender and non-transgender allies, who share their interpretation of Jewish texts about ambiguous bodies, as well as their sacred and secular stories

                                                                                                                                     

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

                                                                                                                                                               Both readings are free and open to the public at the San Francisco Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE) Jewish Community Library. The library is located at 1835 Ellis Street, San Francisco, 94115, between Scott and Pierce on the campus of the Jewish Community High School. There is free garage parking at the entrance on Pierce Street between Ellis and Eddy. For more information contact Allison at (415) 567-3327, ext 703 or ajgreen@bjesf.org.

 

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Dr. Frank Kameny, Jewish Gay Rights Pioneer, Dies At 86

Dr. Frank Kameny lived many of his 86-years as an out activist, leader and hero. It is with only a blessed form of irony that he left us today, on National Coming Out Day. May Frank’s memory be for a blessing. To understand our LGBT American history please get to know a bit more about his story. Our history and our civil rights seemed to be paired perfectly with Frank Kameny’s once radical notion that we have a right in this country to stand up for, “First Class Citizenship for Homosexuals.” Right on, brother.

Some of Frank Kameny's z"l donated picket signs and buttons are on display as part of an exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum where they are on loan from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Some of Frank Kameny's z"l donated picket signs and buttons are on display as part of an exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum where they are on loan from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. The signs read, "First Class Citizenship for Homosexuals" and "Discrimination Against Homosexuals Is As Immoral As Discrimination Against Negros and Jews."

Dr. Frank Kameny marching with the Mattachine Society of Washington D.C. in 1970

Dr. Frank Kameny z"l marching with the Mattachine Society of Washington D.C.

First coined by US Politcal candidate Frank Kameny z"l in 1968, someone else added the word "so" to the original graffiti. Perhaps a reflection of that person's opinion on how far gays have come since 1968... Thank you Frank.

First coined by US Politcal candidate Frank Kameny z"l in 1968, someone else added the word "so" to the original graffiti. Perhaps a reflection of that person's opinion on how far gays have come since 1968... Thank you Frank.

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2011 in Politica, Queer Jewish Leaders

 

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Outing Rabbi Eger

In November 2008 Rabbi Eger was named one of the FORWARD FIFTY by the national Jewish newspaper the Jewish Daily Forward as one of the 50 most influential Jewish leaders of the year along with Rahm Emmanuel, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Sarah Silverman. In 2010 Rabbi Eger was named by the Jewish Daily Forward as one of the Sisterhood 50. One of the fifty most influential women rabbis in America. Now she is listed as October 11, 2011 Coming Out Day LGBT leader.

Rabbi Denise Eger believes that activism is an important part of her rabbinate. She is now the historical leader recognized for the 2011 Coming Out Day. Mazel Tov, Rabbi Eger!

In California, we are fortunate that we have become the first state in the nation to require public schools to add lessons about our gay and trans history to social studies classes. Yet, this only happened after Governor Jerry Brown signed this landmark bill a few months ago created by LGBT Jewish leader Mark Leno (learn more).

Therefore because our LGBT history is not being taught and talked about much, the month of October has become LGBT History Month. The goal of this month is to send a consistent message about the vital importance of recognizing and exploring the role of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in American history.

Starting in 2006, a nonprofit group called Equality Forum has promoted 1 of 31 chosen LGBT History Month Hero’s or Icons each day in October. Throughout the short history of this tradition 18 Jewish leaders have been recognized. These LGBT Jewish Icons are: Susan Sontag z”l*, Annie LeibovitzLeonard Bernstein z”l, Larry KramerLowell SelvinBarney FrankDavid GeffenHarvey Milk z”l, Maurice SendakLeslie FeinbergSuze OrmanJoan NestleMagnus Hirschfeld z”l, Allen Ginsberg z”l, Tony KushnerHarvey FiersteinStephen Sondheim and Aaron Copland z”l.

This year marks the 6th Anniversary of this work by the Equality Forum and today is the unveiling of the 19th Jewish LGBT leader to be listed. Today, on Coming Out Day, which falls annually on October 11, Los Angeles based Rabbi Denise Eger has been chosen as the LGBT hero or icon of the day. Her bio and story can be seen here.

Mazel Tov, Rabbi Eger! Thank you for being an inspiration to so many people throughout both our Jewish and LGBT worlds!

A selection of the 19 LGBT Jewish icons that have been honored and recognized by Equality Forum among the 186 LGBT Icons choosen since 2006.

In 2006, Equality Forum began providing content, promotion and resources for LGBT History Month. Now, LGBT History Month celebrates the achievements of 31 lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender Icons. This is a selection of the 19 LGBT Jewish icons that have been honored and recognized by Equality Forum among the 186 LGBT Icons choosen since 2006.

* There are several traditional Jewish honorifics for the dead which are used interchangeably when naming and speaking of the deceased. The most common honorific is translated from the Hebrew into English to mean, of blessed memory. In Hebrew this honorific is written זיכרונה לברכהזיכרונו לברכה  (Hebrew transliteration is zikhrono livrakha/zikhronah livrakha). As seen frequently on this blog the use of this honor is further abbreviated to the first two letters of the Hebrew transliteration words, z”l or the first two letters of the Hebrew wordsז״ל

 

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gays have kids too

During these days between the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur, Jews are told to reflect on what really matters to us. So here it goes, one thing that really matters to me is continually bringing the stories and realities of everyday LGBT Jewish leaders into the mainstream. Many LGBT folks don’t always have the big life concepts mapped out for them. By the way, when I write “them”, I do mean me as well.

I often look to the experiences of my family to help me navigate this world but a few things don’t always translate. Some translations on expectations and roles get lost on me. Not so much because of discrimination any more, but more often the nuance of difference. I work to find community and friendships with other LGBT Jewish leaders, in part because they model one of the many ways that I might too have a healthy same-sex relationship, how to raise children, how to present the gender identity that works for me, or how to juggle the demands of chosen family versus biological family.

Something else that matters to me is a love of democracy and the drama of politics. So when I saw this ad yesterday, pairing my love of politics with a story that brings a local queer Jewish family into the mainstream – I had to link to it. So in honor of speaking out to what matters to me during the Jewish High Holiday’s as well as embracing October as LGBT History Month please take a look at this 33 second ad featuring our LGBT lives having mainstream visibility. The ad features a gay and Jewish former city supervisor, Bevan Dufty running for mayor of San Francisco, proudly introducing himself in his most important identity role: a father.

Related Stories

  • AutostraddleBevan Dufty Reminds Us Gay Candidates Have Kids Too (link)
  • I Want to be a (Gay) Dad, Celebrating LGB Parents (link)
  • Queer Landia, Gay SF Hopeful features Daughter in New Ad (link)
  • Towlroad, Gay SF Mayoral Hopeful Bevan Dufty Features Daughter (link)
  • The Stir, Gay Candidate for Mayor ‘Exploits’ Kid By Admitting She Exists (link)
  • David Mixner Blog, Impressions (link)
  • Politco, Ben Smith’s Frontiers of Gay Politics (link)
  • Gay Politcs, Bevan Dufty in Someplace New (link)
  • San Francisco Bay Guardian, Bevan Dufty loves MUNI (link)
 
 

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sweetness follows

we of course, all witnessed the seas of political activists empowered to change their worlds this past year. as we approach the jewish high holidays this evening, i stop for a moment to revisit some of the more local advances and news that i witnessed this past year.

overall folks within my community seemed to mostly agree with natalie portman in not wanting anything to do with john galliano. we wrestled through a few of the more challenging conversations with courtesy from tony kushner’s views on israel to ballot measures seeking to outlaw circumcision. we saw the demise of don’t ask don’t tell celebrated in the streets and hardly had time to pay attention to a new state law created by jewish gay leader, mark leno that requires lgbt history be taught in california textbooks. within a more hyper-local perspective we celebrated everything out and proud about gertrude stein, marched to honor 30-years of AIDS activism, watched allen ginsberg howl on-screen and sang our good-byes to both elizabeth taylor and debbie friedman.

still thinking locally, it has been a great year for many of our outstanding lgbt jewish leaders to shine. just to name two of the many deserving leaders, roberta achtenberg, was appointed as the first lesbian to the federal civil rights post and bevan dufty, whom if elected in november, would be san francisco’s first gay (and possibly third jewish) mayor. while we still can’t beat the reputation of states like new york that decided everyone can get hitched there this year we did just learn that our dear city of san francisco did not loose first place in hosting the highest concentration of gay and lesbian couples over the past decade.

at my synagogue, congregation sha’ar zahav, i participated with 40 other members in the year of civil discourse and learned together through the training how to disagree with people i respect but don’t always want to listen to. on a even more personal note i moved once again back into the castro.

as i am approaching my own sense of sweetness on this last day of the Jewish month of elul 5771, i pause to remember that not everyone’s life is so full of honey right now. this morning i watched with sadness as alyssa rodemeyer, the sister of jamey rodemeyer, discussed the continued bullying of her late brother after he took his own life this last week at the age of 14. it made me realize that we still have a lot of work to do together. i look forward to seeing what sweetness we can create together in community in 5772.

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Gay Ugandan refugee finds home in Jewish Bay Area

Avi Rose

Yasher Koach and Todah Rabah to Avi Rose & Jewish Family and Children Services of the East Bay as well as all of those that were involved.

Do you remember when a few Americans got involved in launching a political movement to eliminate homosexuality in Uganda? How about when The Rachel Maddow Show covered this anti-gay hysteria with the catchy title, “Uganda Be Kidding Me“? Do you remember learning about the murder of David Kato after a Ugandan media outlet published his name and photograph along with 99 additional Ugandan leaders with the corresponding title, “Top 100 Homosexuals – Hang Them”? (read more)

It was within this mishigas that Bay Area LGBT Jewish community leader, Avi Rose with Jewish Family and Children’s Services of the East Bay (JFCS) began to take action. Now, Danny Dyson, a Ugandan refugee who gained asylum status based on all of this anti-gay persecution, is living here in the Bay Area.

What’s next? Gay refugees settling in our community from Iran? Yes! I understand more LGBT folks will be joining us from both Iran and Uganda soon thanks again to Avi Rose, JFCS, a few philanthropists and the Direction of Neil Grungras with the Organization for Refuge Asylum and Migration (ORAM). These amazing leaders and advocates truly help make our Jewish community shine…

 
 

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finding the community that works for you

san francisco is the home of the third largest metropolitan jewish community in north america and within this number are approximately 36,000 lgbt queer self-identified jews. i get asked a lot about how to find “the” queer jewish community. meaning to many that are asking, “where is the community? you know, the one that distinctly pulses with fabulous people sort of like me?”

i don’t have a definitive answer but it seems folks generally want to know where to physically find the queer jews that they want to hang-out with, to date, to fall in love with, to have a family with, to network with, to simply know who and where they are…  so far, in my relatively short time in the bay area, it seems that the community is made up several intersecting times. each time seeming to intersect within a microcosm of a few respected and connected people. these people also seem to make the time to show-up, often bravely alone, at events or activities that seem to share similar themes and values to them.

so this is one of the reasons why i am constantly populating our queer jewish community calendar with ways that queer jewish folks (and their family and friends) can get involved and get connected to the community.  so take a look and match your interests with the events listed (film festivals, israel travel, active-activism like the aids walk, family camping weekends, foodie conferences, art exhibitions…) and find the community of queer jews that works for you.

 

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Volunteers are my personal hero’s and further, they are serious superstars! Thank you for your help.

The view inside our Jewish Community Outreach booth at Pride this summer.

For the past several years my work has allowed me to partner with several organizations at our two-day Jewish Community Outreach booth at San Francisco Pride.

Lisa Finkelstein the Director of the LGBT Alliance holding a young girl on her lap while coloring at the Contemporary Jewish Museum's table.

Four Jewish Community professionals stopped by our booth during their fun times at Pride. Take a look at more photos of these friends on our facebook page.

The partners we choose is based on their continuous efforts in distinguishing themselves as partners in the work of celebrating our diverse LGBT Jewish community.

Thank you to the Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM) and Be’chol Lashon, meaning In Every Tongue in Hebrew, who contributed as primary partners to the San Francisco Pride Jewish Community outreach booth.

Johnny, our Contemporary Jewish Museum volunteer, proudly holds up the Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas paper doll cutouts that provided a fun activity for kids of all ages to work with.

Four ladies stop by the Jewish Community booth. Take a look at more of the photos on our Facebook page!

A next huge thank you to the professional partners of Kol TzedekKeshetNehirimA Wider BridgeNUJLS and Congregation Sha’ar Zahav for making this year such a success.Two women smile in front of the Gertrude Stein backdrop.

An additional thank you needs to be extended to Sierra Gonzalez, the Marketing & Audience Strategy Associate at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), for loaning us the Backdrop depicting Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas’s Salon at their famous 27 Rue de Fleur apartment in Paris taken in 1934.

This woman stopped by proudly wearing her Exiles shirt. The Exiles meets below where the Mission Minyan gathers on Friday evenings inside the Women's Building. The Exiles are a non-profit educational group for women who have a positive personal interest in BDSM between women in San Francisco. The group provides educational events where women with all levels of experience will have a safe place to meet, explore and share information about safety, play techniques and resources, and connect with the leather community locally.

These three Cheer LA folks stopped by to see one of our incredible leaders. The woman in the center of this photo is the sister of Erik Ludwig, the Chief Operating Officer of the Institute for Jewish & Community Research (IJCR) and Bechol Lashon. Cheer LA is committed to helping organizations who are working so hard on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic.

A young woman at our SF Pride booth loves taking a shot in front of the SFMOMA backdrop of the photo of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas’s home at 27 Rue de Fleur in Paris, 1934. Thanks again to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Inside Gertrude Stein's Salon at San Francisco Pride 2011

For our volunteers, staff and selfless-schlepps alike please feel just one more huge thank you. These folks are superstars in my heart: Adar Schneider, Amy Rabbino, Ariel Chasnoff, Daniel Sanson, Dakota Hunter, Daryl Carr, David Zeeman, Dr. Donny Inbar, Erik Ludwig, Esther Gibian Fishman, Glen So, Harriett Hardy, Johnny Sun, Josh Weisman, Kevin Johnson, Leah Greenberg, Marissa, Maxwell Kopeikin, Melanie Samay, Rachel Levinson, Zach Ruleymeyer, Rabbi David Baur and Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder.

Diane Tobin

Lastly, a very sincere deep thanks needs to be saved for Diane Tobin. Diane, who is the Director of Be’chol Lashon, modeled exceptional community partnership, friendship and professionalism.

Volunteer and Staff Stars of Pride 2011

אַ דאַנק. Thank you. তোমাকে ধন্যবাদ. 谢谢. salamat. Thank you. σας ευχαριστώ. Mèsi poutèt ou. תודה. Dankie. شكرا. Terima kasih. ありがとう. با تشکر از شما. 감사합니다. Muchas gracias. آپ کا شکریہ. 

 

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