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Aug 20 2014

Why This Dad Smothers His Daughter with Love

By at 10:07 am

bubbles

Although I’m not a mother nor a daughter myself, I enjoyed Jordana Horn’s recent review of “The Jewish Daughter Diaries” in her post, “Do Jewish Moms Smother Their Kids With Too Much Love?” While some of the book’s authors’ have their gripes with overbearing, meddlesome mothers, I’d like to repeat Horn’s statement that you can never love a child too much.

My mother says I was a very sensitive child. She guesses that it was because I was gay. That might very well be true, but I do know that my parents’ response to my sensitivity wasn’t right. In their attempt to help me develop thicker skin, they didn’t kiss or hug me, or tell me that they loved me.

And I felt unloved. 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 →

Feb 6 2014

Here’s to the Three Jewish American Male Figure Skaters at the Sochi Olympics

By at 5:04 pm
Charlie White with ice dancing partner Meryl Davis

Charlie White with ice dancing partner Meryl Davis

 

First, I was a figure skating fan, then I was a figure skating TV researcher/producer, then I was a figure skating mystery novelist, and currently I’m a hodge-podge of all the above.

I am referencing my C.V. in order to explain why, while I don’t know the total number of Jews on Team USA for the Sochi Olympics, I do know that there are three of them in the figure skating delegation: two-time World Ice Dancing Champion and defending Olympic silver medalist Charlie White, singles skater Jason Brown, and pairs skater Simon Shnapir. (Ladies’ singles skater Gracie Gold is, alas, not Jewish, despite the name.)

That’s right, the US is being represented at the Olympics by three nice, Jewish boys. The latter actually emigrated from Moscow as a toddler.

It stands to reason. Figure skating is a huge sport in Russia. It’s a huge sport in America, too. But, primarily for girls. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 23 2013

The One Thing I Didn’t Expect My Son to be Surprised By

By at 10:13 am

kippa

Sometimes I forget that we live in a particular sort of liberal bubble here in our “Happy Valley.” And there are other times when it couldn’t be clearer.

The other day I turned on the television so my son could watch an episode of his beloved Wild Kratts. But, since it takes our sort-of-old TV a few seconds to actually turn on once you press the button (and since I’m horribly impatient), I popped into the kitchen to grab a snack while my son waited eagerly on the couch.

When I came back into the living room I found my son engrossed in whatever he was playing. I crossed my fingers that it was mildly appropriate, but with two other adults living in the house (my husband and my brother) it’s always a crapshoot as to what channel was last viewed. Upon a first, quick glance, it didn’t seem to be anything too offensive. I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry is a comedy starring Adam Sandler and Kevin James. I haven’t watched the whole thing but the general plot is that these two firefighter buddies end up getting married for insurance benefits (OK, so actually kind of offensive). Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 17 2013

Let’s Get Real About Jewish LGBT Families

By at 11:45 am

the purim superhero

Yesterday, we announced the launch of The Purim Superhero, the first LGBT-inclusive Jewish children’s book in English. Today, one mother reflects on initial reactions to the book.

The other day, Kveller’s partner site MyJewishLearning.com posted on their Facebook page about a new children’s book coming out that focuses on Purim. According to the write-up, Elisabeth Kushner’s The Purim Superhero is “the sweet story of a boy named Nate who has a Purim dilemma: he loves aliens and really wants to wear an alien costume for Purim, but his friends are all dressing as superheroes, and he wants to fit in. With the help of his two dads, he makes a surprising decision.” Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 10 2012

The Newest Gay Jewish Blog on the Block

By at 3:01 pm

keshet blog myjewishlearningOur friends over at MyJewishLearning have just launched a new blog in partnership with Keshet, a national grassroots organization that works for the full inclusion and equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Jews in all facets of Jewish life–synagogues, Hebrew schools, day schools, youth groups, summer camps, social service organizations, and other communal agencies.

We encourage you all to check it out. Up on the blog now is an amazing tale of being gay at Jewish summer camp. In it, Scott McGrath writes:

I remember feeling like camp – and my camp world – should have been the place more than any to give me solace and support during that difficult time in my life when I was coming out. The vivid memories of all the homophobic comments, jokes and pranks we played, however, negated any sense of safety this community had once given me.

Read the rest of the piece here, and then be sure to keep Keshet on your list of blogs to keep your eye on.

Jul 9 2012

Good Thing Kids Are Less Judgmental Than Adults

By at 2:46 pm

rainbow glassesAs beautifully stated in Jordana’s recent post, Anderson Cooper’s coming out made me think about “the rights of others to live and love as they will.” I was raised about as socially conservative as they get, attending a glaringly white high school and having never met a Jew.

Thankfully, when I was 8 my mother gave into my relentless nagging and agreed to drive me into the city for theater classes where I was able to thrive amongst the spirit and diversity offered there. The director was brilliant, charismatic, patient and loved working with children. He was also often accompanied to rehearsals by his partner. It never occurred to me, even as a pre-teen, that the director having a boyfriend was any less desirable than him loving a woman. I have no idea how my impressionable and incredibly naïve youth was somehow free of sexual judgment. It was almost as if I was born with rainbow-colored glasses and thankfully, no one–at least no one whose opinion I modeled or valued–ever did anything to change that. For this I am incredibly grateful. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 3 2012

The One Thing I Actually Learned From Anderson Cooper’s Coming Out

By at 3:20 pm

anderson cooper is gayFor those of you who missed it yesterday, Anderson Cooper is gay. In other news, I am carbon based.

I don’t know too many people who were shocked by the “revelation” that CNN anchor Anderson Cooper is gay. I immediately penned an Onion-esque headline: “Anderson Cooper Comes Out As Gay: One Person On Planet Surprised.” Also, I firmly believe that sexuality is part and parcel of who a person is, and that each person should embrace and be happy with who they are. In short, good for him.

Both of these statements, of course, perhaps reflect the fact that I live in a comparatively liberal, Jewish, nebbishy Northeastern US bubble. I’m sure that in many places, Cooper’s revelation that he is gay was shocking and perhaps upsetting–but those worlds and Facebook feeds are far from my own. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 15 2012

Interview with Interesting Dudes: Rabbi Steve Greenberg

By at 10:44 am
rabbi steve greenberg

From left to right: Rabbi Steve, Amalia, and his husband, also Steve.

Steve Greenberg is the first gay Orthodox rabbi, which seemed reason enough for us to want to talk to him. Read on to hear about his challenging journey to become a rabbi, father, and activist in the gay Orthodox community.

Did you always want to be an Orthodox rabbi, ever since you were a little boy?

Well, I can’t say when I wanted to become a rabbi but it was probably a growing interest from my late teens. I became “frum” (religiously observant) when I was 15. I accidentally met an Orthodox rabbi who invited me to his house for lunch and he invited me to study with him every Shabbat, “over tea and oranges.” I was charmed and said yes. I was totally enraptured by the Jewish learning and became a valued member of his community in a year. I was probably thinking about becoming a rabbi when I chose to attend Yeshiva University following high school. But my first clear memories are when I was learning in Israel at a Hesder Yeshiva and spoke to Rabbi Amital about the idea. By that time I was 20 years old.

How did you and your husband go about having a daughter? 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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