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Nov 18 2014

How My Jewish Grandma Came to Embrace My Gay Marriage

By at 11:03 am

How My Jewish Grandma Came to Embrace Me, Wife and All

My Jewish grandmother is stereotypical—and proud of it. She’s short, round, warm. She loves to bake (or, as she puts it, “to potchke in the kitchen”) and to play bridge and Mah-Jongg with her friends. She finds nachas in her family. Perhaps above all else, she’s desperate for great-grandchildren.

So when she found out that I was gay, her first response to me was a despondent, “You’re not one of those, are you?” Then she sobbed. And for a while, she would only say, “We’ll see,” when invited to meet my partner.

My partner, now wife, wasn’t upset by any of this; her parents had her quite late, so her mother is of the same generation as my grandmother, and thus Fi is experienced with the quirks and prejudices some elderly people can have. She kept me calm by reminding me that it would take a while for my grandmother to absorb this news, and that we had to understand that it’s painful for people to give up on the dreams and expectations they have for their relatives. And, if the worst happened and Grandma never came around, well, that would be dreadfully sad, but we reside in another country and could just go on with our lives as we liked. She felt sure we’d get through this together, as we had gotten through many other things. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 8 2014

Yes, You Can Be Orthodox & Be Friends With Gay People

By at 9:52 am

Rainbow-kippah

When my generation, the Baby Boomers, was fighting for civil rights, for “women’s liberation” and to end the war in Viet Nam, it would have occurred to almost no one that the next frontier would be gay rights.

Who even knew what “homosexual” meant? Who could imagine that the “fag tag” on the back of our shirts contained what would one day be considered a pejorative? Who thought twice about using “gay” as a rhyme for a word ending in “ay” in poems and songs in our Modern Orthodox schools and camps? Who gave a thought to the “sexual orientation” of the two somewhat nebbishy guys in our group of friends?

The whole thing was just not on our radar at all. It was totally irrelevant to me and to anyone I knew. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 7 2014

Since Marrying Another Woman, I’ve Lost My Father but Gained Something Else

By at 10:34 am
father-in-law

The author’s father-in-law and daughter.

I got married earlier this year and my father was not at my wedding. Five years ago, when I came out to him as a lesbian, he told me that he still loved me but that he thought my relationship was wrong.

Why? Because, “the Bible says it’s wrong.” My Christian father, who’s left aside some of the Ten Commandments in favor of others, had latched onto my gay relationship as the unforgiveable “sin.”

He said he would love for me to visit and stay at his house, but that my fiancé was not welcome, because he found it to be “too much” for him. When our daughter was born he didn’t acknowledge her. My brother reports that my father doesn’t think of her as his granddaughter, and believes that she isn’t really my daughter, anyway, because my wife was the one who carried her. He only acknowledges my older daughter from my previous (heterosexual) marriage. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 12 2014

How Being the Rabbi’s Gay Son Taught Me to Be a Good Dad

By at 4:53 pm

raj-castro-pic-(1)

I was 2 years old when everything changed. My father, who was not yet 30, was a rabbi at a synagogue in Budapest. After multiple harassments, he decided with my mother that America would be a much better place to practice freedom of religion and raise a family. My parents told family and friends that we were vacationing in Yugoslavia when, in fact, we had no intention of ever going back. It was 1972 and we were escaping communist Hungary, the threat of imprisonment looming over my parents’ shoulders.

We arrived in the United States a few months later, settling in Brooklyn, New York, where my father would learn English and audition as an assistant rabbi at a Reform synagogue. For our part, my sister and I went with the flow, assimilating into American culture. We spent most days like those of our classmates at the Jewish day school we attended. Other days were different, after all, we were the immigrant rabbi’s kids.

The author and his family arriving in America.

The author and his family arriving in America.

 

Being the rabbi’s son seemed normal, maybe privileged at times. In some ways, I felt like a child star with a couple hundred fans. My father’s congregants doted on me as if I were their own. I attributed this affection as kindness, and probably much of it was. As I grew older, I recognized that part of this behavior was their way to get closer to my father. In some cases, it was to satisfy their natural curiosity about the “Man of God,” who is also a family man, their spiritual leader, marital counselor, and advisor.

Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 26 2013

Kid-Dish: Jewish Celebrities Tweet About DOMA Edition

By at 1:45 pm

This week’s Kid-Dish is brought to you by Jewish celebrities on Twitter reacting to the news that DOMA has been ruled unconstitutional. Enjoy!


joan rivers tweets about doma

bethenny frankel tweets doma

michael ian black tweets about doma Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 29 2013

Friday Night: Closer to Freedom than Ever

By at 9:46 am

matzah equality gay marriage passoverI was standing on my front step, shaking out the hallway rug as part of my Passover cleaning, when the thought suddenly appeared in my mind, in large bold letters that erased everything else I had been thinking about.

“I am so lucky to have my own home to clean.”

The intensity of my gratitude in that moment surprised me. I hadn’t been thinking about the many blessings of my life, as I try to do on a regular basis. Quite the opposite: I was silently bemoaning the challenges of the holiday, as I have done every year since we started observing Passover more seriously. The cleaning is laborious, the dietary restrictions increasingly challenging as my daughter’s range of acceptable foods becomes smaller and smaller. To be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure why I kept with it year after year–probably because it is important to my husband, and because I want our daughters to grow up in a home that is Jewish in more than name and mezuzah in the doorway.  Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 28 2011

New York, Jews, and Same Sex Marriage

By at 11:04 am

Something important (and wonderful!) has happened in Kveller’s home state of New York, and I think it needs to be acknowledged here.

Same-sex marriage has been legalized.

By now you’ve all probably read the news, and hopefully you’re rejoicing along with me. As a citizen of Massachusetts (which legalized gay marriage in 2004), I’m wondering what took them so long. As a Jewish mother, I couldn’t be more pleased.

The Jewish position on gay and lesbian rights is, not surprisingly, incredibly diverse. Although the Torah condemns male homosexual sex, it doesn’t comment on lesbian sex. The American Jewish community has dealt with this information in a variety of ways. The Cliff Notes version is that the Reform and Reconstructionist denominations ordain gay and lesbian Rabbis, and both movements allow Rabbis to officiate at same-sex marriages and commitment ceremonies. The Orthodox movement believes that all homosexual behavior is forbidden by Jewish law, and only affirms marriages between a man and a woman. The Conservative movement is somewhere in between. Although the Conservative Rabbinical schools will accept gay and lesbian students, the movement has essentially delegated much of the decision-making regarding gay and lesbian weddings to the congregation or individual Rabbi.

I get it. It’s not easy to reconcile these modern questions with traditional Judaism. I understand why the Conservative movement has decided to hang out on the fence (although I disagree). As for me, when I decided to make Judaism a central part of my life, I knew that I had to do so in a way that would not conflict with my values. I knew I could never embrace a belief system that would reject my family members, friends, and my (at that point in time) unborn children. I was fortunate to find a thriving Reconstructionist congregation; one that neither blindly accepts not rejects traditional Jewish law, but really struggles with it.

I have to say that I haven’t struggled much with this particular issue. Although I care deeply about what Judaism has to say, and I do believe the Torah to be a holy document, I’m not a halachic Jew (nor do I aspire to be one, precisely because of issues such as this one). I believe that equality is a human right and a civil right, and I’m sorry to say that I think that our ancestors who wrote the Torah way back when just got it wrong on this one.

Furthermore, as a Jewish mother, the bottom line is this: If I’m going to be a part of a Jewish community, or any community, it must be one that will accept me, my family, and especially my children, for exactly who they are, and whoever they will become. That’s the bottom line.

So, a hearty bravo to you, New York (and to Massachusetts, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington DC), for doing the right thing. To the rest of the country: it’s time to step up. And to the Jewish community, I say this: even if you can’t accept gay and lesbian equality yet, struggle with it. (That’s what Jews do, isn’t it?) Move beyond the words of the Torah, and spend some time on this one. The Jewish community will be stronger and more vibrant once we accept and embrace all Jews, regardless of who they love.

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