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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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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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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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Providing a Jewish community weekend for LGBTQ parents & their children to learn, explore, & play in the beauty of the Sierra Mountains!

Keshet LGBTQ Family Camp Providing community for LGBTQ parents & their children to learn, explore, & play in the beauty of the Sierra Mountains! During one incredible weekend each summer dozens of families from across the globe gather together at Camp Tawonga for what is called, Keshet LGBTQ Family Camp. Keshet, meaning rainbow in Hebrew, provides an opportunity for families that somewhat resemble each other to have fun hiking, creating arts and crafts, and partaking in workshops (learn more).

Single-headed families, blended-families, co-parenting families, interfaith families that identify somewhere along the of Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay and Trans spectrum find themselves returning each summer.  Last summer at Keshet I brought my own model of queer family to Keshet. I brought my god-niece because I want to be sure that she grows up experiencing the joy and normalcy of other queer families like ours.Holding my god-niece at Pride

This year’s Keshet LGBTQ Weekend is August 25-28 and due to the generosity of the donors to our Jewish Community Federation’s LGBT Alliance, Camp Tawonga is able to offer 10% off every families Keshet program fees to those who register by June 30. This discount will not affect any additional financial assistance applications or decisions. Additionally, our Jewish Community Federation provides needs-based scholarships for Jewish children who live in the San Francisco Bay Area to attend a qualified family specialty camp (learn more). Please help me spread the word about these great financial assistance programs and I look forward to seeing each of you and yours along the river this summer at Keshet!

 

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Honor the memory and birthday of one of our most globally recognized San Francisco Gay Jewish leaders with your own messages of hope!

Come Out! Come Out! Wherever you are!  Come Out! Come Out! Wherever you are and celebrate the 2nd Annual Harvey Milk Day this weekend! Harvey Milk, the New York born and raised son of Jewish immigrants became the first openly gay man elected to a major public office in 1978. Sadly, within a few months of his San Francisco election he was assassinated (more). Harvey’s memory is now being remembered, celebrated and honored globally each year on his birthday as a day of action. Celebrate by telling your story and taking action. Celebrate by suggesting more LGBT Jewish hero’s to honor with the Hineini Visibility Project.  Learn more about Harvey Milk and how to honor his memory…

 Harvey Milk Facebook Profile Picture Campaign

Change your Facebook profile picture to this 1953-54 US Navy photo provided here for download from the Harvey Milk Foundation

 

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