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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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This is a gender neutral restroom.

We speak about removing barriers for people often at my work in the organized Jewish community. These barriers we speak about can often mean finances but they can easily be much simpler and much more tangible. These barriers can be a physical or mental block that keeps someone in the margins not able to get access to what our Jewish community has to offer.

Here is a barrier that we don’t speak about a lot in the organized Jewish community: restrooms. Many people have no safe places to go to the bathroom. It is true! Ever wonder about the gender of that long-haired person in the men’s room or that short-haired person in the woman’s room? Imagine the looks that they get each time they simply have to go to the bathroom because their gender presentation does not fit the mold of other people around them. Many people avoid public bathrooms altogether because these looks can quickly turn into harassment.

This is the gender neutral restroom sign we posted this past week at the San Francisco based Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund.

A copy of the sign that you can see in this blog is now hanging on our third floor outside of a restroom that was once reserved solely for use by men. A few years ago we put up a sign that simply said “gender neutral” but guests in our building kept referring to it as the “transgender bathroom.” This awkward phrasing that was being used started to create an even more isolating experience for both guests and employees. So together with two of my colleagues we were able to craft this updated sign.

I don’t always know how to honor each one of our community’s micro successes in the LGBT inclusion work that I do. We do not even know yet if this new sign can be seen as a success. I simply hope that this sign and story can present an opportunity to shape the way we can see things differently as a community.

I am aware that we need to share these moments of change to help other communities take similar steps towards greater inclusion. So if you have a suggestion on a success that you have experienced, please share it!

If you are looking for more gender neutral bathroom resources take a look here:

  • Safe2pee – a collective of like-minded activists offering resources to find safe places to use the bathroom and activism to promote gender free public restrooms
  • Toilet Training – a documentary video and collaboration between transgender videomaker Tara Mateik and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. Using the stories of people who have been harassed, arrested or beaten for trying to use bathrooms, Toilet Training focuses on bathroom access in public space, in schools, and at work.
  • Toilet Training Toolkit – a companion toolkit full of useful facts and talking points about trans equality and bathroom access
  • Peeing in Peace – a resource guide created by the Transgender Law Center combining basic information about how someone can protect themselves with common sense steps that can be taken to change the way in which an employer, school administrator, business owner, or government official handles bathroom access issues
  • West Coast LGBT Training Institute for the Jewish Community – The purpose of the training is to make sure that LGBT youth, families, and staff are safe and affirmed in all Jewish educational and community settings. Participants will be trained and given the tools and guidance to replicate the trainings in their own communities.
 
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Posted by on October 24, 2011 in Jewish Bay Area, LGBT Alliance

 

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although we live with hope we still plan on walking next year too

Margee and Kate walking with the Jewish Community Team

This summer marks thirty years of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic and according to the SF Chronicle, more than 28,840 San Franciscans have been diagnosed with AIDS, and it has claimed the lives of more than 19,000 San Franciscans.

The walk itself was gorgeous as thousands of people hiked the 6.2 mile route under a ironic mix of both sunny and overcast skies.

Although our local community is strong and learning how to thrive and live within this epidemic we still need to walk to raise awareness, walk to celebrate those who live with the disease, walk to remember those whom we have lost and walk to find a cure.

This summer our Jewish Community AIDS Walk Team, organized by the San Francisco based Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund, was just one of the nearly 1,000 teams that helped raise over $3 million for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

Keep walking.

Together our Jewish Community team was able to raise over $3,000. Our collective donation will be dispersed by the San Francisco AIDS Foundation as grants to strengthen HIV prevention efforts as well as for advocacy, medical care, housing and social services programs for people living with or at risk for HIV/AIDS.

Jewish community leader, Bevan Dufty always attends the San Francisco AIDS Walk.

Thank you to those who were able to show up this year and spend a wonderful day in the sun for a good cause! I received a commitment from the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund to help organize our Jewish community to walk together again in 2012 (details) so save the date to join us again.

In the meantime, take a look at more of our photos on facebook and take a look at our video of the great time we had together:

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2011 in Jewish Bay Area

 

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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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Frameline Opens Tonight with a host of LGBT Queer Jewish filmmakers to support!

How does this happen? Each year Frameline jumps into the middle of the best month of the year with some of the hotest and most incredible films and on the day of the opening night I am hustling to buy tickets before everything sells out.  As I need to be organized about which films to see, I created a list. Some of the films I am opting to see this year are made by Jewish LGBT local leaders and friends and some of the films I am opting to see are simply themed around the complexity of queer Jewish identities.

So if you are like me and you want to attend at least a few of the 200+ films at the the oldest and largest GLBT Film Festival in the world, we need to get on it and purchase our tickets today. So, just in case you want a cheat sheet to Frameline, here is mine…

Films based in Jewish Identity

Films Directed and/or Produced by local LGBT Jewish leaders
  • Celebrating the Life of Del Martin - San Francisco, 2011, 57 Min. Directed by Debra Chasnoff. Shown on Friday, June 17, 11:30 AM at the Castro Theatre.   
  • Blink – San Francisco, 2010, 8 Min. directed by Yoni Klein and Alka Joshi. Shown on Tuesday, June 21, 1:30 PM at the Castro Theatre within The Grove.
  • The Grove – San Francisco, 2011 62 Min. Directed and Produced by Andy Abrahams Wilson. Shown on Tuesday, June 21, 1:30 PM at the Castro Theatre 
  • Still Around -San Francisco, 2011, 85 Min. a feature length compilation of 15 short films produced by Marc Smolowitz. Shown on Friday, June 24, 1:15 PM at the Castro Theatre.
  • GillianSan Francisco, 2010, 11 Min. Directed by Martin Rawlings-Fein. Shown on Wednesday, June 22, 7:00 PM at the Victoria Theatre within Transtastic!
  • Spiral Transition – San Francisco, 2010, 6 min. Directed by Ewan Duarte. Shown on Wednesday, June 22, 7:00 PM at the Victoria Theatre within Transtastic!
  • Genderbusters – San Francisco, 2010, 6 min. Directed by Sam Berliner. Shown twice! Wednesday, June 22, 7:00 PM at the Victoria Theatre within Transtastic! and Friday, June 24, 4:00 PM at the Castro Theatre within Dyke Delights.
  • Perception – San Francisco, 2010, 2 min. Directed by Sam Berliner. Shown on Thursday, June 23, 11:00 AM at the Castro Theatre within Queertoons.
  • We Who Are Sexy: The Whirlwind History of Transgender Images in Cinema – Live on-stage conversation and film clip presentation, 90 min. with film historians Jenni Olson and Susan Stryker on Sunday, June 19, 2:00 PM at the Victoria Theatre.
Debra Chasnoff

There's just one day left before the World Premiere of Debra Chasnoff’s latest film, Celebrating the Life of Del Martin on Friday, June 17 at 11:30am at the Castro Theater.

Coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the first reported AIDS cases, local filmmaker Andy Abrahams Wilson will be screening his new work, The Grove. His film which gives a history on the AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park shown at Frameline on June 21 at 1:30pm at the Castro Theater.

Israeli filmmaker Tomer Heymann will be speaking after showing his film The Queen Has No Crown on Saturday evening, June 18 at the Roxie Theater 6:30pm.

Marc Smolowitz is one of the local filmmakers who produced Still Around - a feature length compilation of 15 short films shown on Friday, June 24, 1:15 PM at the Castro Theatre.

Marc Smolowitz is one of the local filmmakers who produced Still Around. This feature length compilation of 15 short films will be shown on Friday, June 24, 1:15 PM at the Castro Theatre.

Martin Rawlings-Fein is another local filmmaker who will show a film at Frameline this year. His short film, Gillian will be shown on Wednesday, June 22, 7:00 PM at the Victoria Theatre within Transtastic!

Martin Rawlings-Fein is another local filmmaker who will show a film at Frameline this year. His short film, Gillian will be shown on Wednesday, June 22, 7:00 PM at the Victoria Theatre within Transtastic!

Yoni Klein and Alka Joshi

Local filmmakers Yoni Klein and Alka Joshi created Blink an 8 minute short that will be shown on Tuesday, June 21, 1:30 PM at the Castro Theatre within The Grove.

 

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Have you started to celebrate LGBT Pride month yet? Here is my top ten moments that I look forward to each year in San Francisco.

Since I was a teenager I have made San Francisco Pride month an annual rite of passage that I won’t skip for anything. Here are my top 10 annual favorite Pride moments that I can hardly wait to enjoy again this year:
  1. Not being the only person in the audience falling in love with each amazing performance at Fresh Meat Festival of transgender and queer performance…  (don’t miss this!)Fresh Meat Productions creates, presents and tours transgender and queer performance, dance and media arts.
  2. Seeing as many films made by my Jewish queer friends as possible at Frameline… ( we have a few more comp tickets let me know if you want one)One of my favorite colleagues at Pride with her Rabbi
  3. Submerging my entire body in sunscreen and still getting a suntan at Civic Center at our Jewish Pride booth… (keep me company at our booth!)Our annual Jewish community booth
  4. Giving my aunts, uncles and parents huge hugs when I run into them randomly having their own fun at Pride without me even asking them to be there to support me…my amazing family enjoying Pride together
  5. Standing on stage to introduce an Israeli LGBT Film or Gay Jewish Director and feeling awe-struck by the beautiful people in the crowd there to see another incredible LGBT film…me doing what i love to do - organizing loudly at pride
  6. Waving hello to the thousands of participants of the annual Trans March from the windows above where they are marching at Congregation Sha’ar Zahav during our Annual Kabbalat Shabbat Pride ServiceTrans Marchers
  7. Enjoying what always seems to be the very best day of San Francisco weather with clear blue sunny skies amongst the thousands of rowdy hot hipsters at the Dyke Rally and Marchdyke march and rally is always an incredible people watching experience at the very least!
  8. Letting everything hang-out and dancing in the streets at the best street party of the year with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence on Pink Saturday…Pink Saturday in the Castro
  9. Being overwhelmed and overbooked by the sheer amount of options to celebrate Pride Jewishly!Rabbi's Marching in the 2009 Pride Parade
  10. Taking the morning off work to just catch-up on sleep the day after the Frameline closing night film and party…  Seeing everyone at the Castro Theatre, Victoria or Roxie during Frameline each year is the best!
 

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