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Oct 15 2014

The Catholic School Teacher Who Made Me Want to Raise My Kids Jewish

By at 9:36 am

school-girls-skirts

I’ll never forget the first roll call in fourth grade at the St. Fabian School.

“Levey, Hilary? [Pause] Really?!”

Yes, really. My father, who gifted me his last name, is clearly a Member of the Tribe (Levite, natch). But my parents decided to baptize and raise me as a Roman Catholic, like my mother. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 13 2014

Talking with Camp JRF, the Jewish Camp That Takes Inclusion Seriously

By at 10:00 am
via Camp JRF Website

Rabbi Isaac Saposnik via Camp JRF Website

 

Rabbi Isaac Saposnik is the Executive Director of Camp JRF, a Reconstructionist sleepaway camp in the Pocono Mountains. Recently, Camp JRF initiated a big push toward inclusion with a capital “I.” Now that campers have returned to school and their parents eagerly fill out forms to sign them up for next summer, Rabbi Saposnik had some time to chat with me about camp, diversity in the American Jewish community, and the importance of asking questions.

What makes Camp JRF different from other Jewish sleepaway camps?

The Reconstructionist movement has always been inclusive, so welcoming gay campers and staff, LGBTQ parents, campers from interfaith families, campers from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, and physical abilities, is obvious for us. But this year, we took a step back to re-examine our practices because there’s a difference between saying we’re inclusive and actually being inclusive. We want our camp community to reflect the tapestry of the modern Jewish community.  Read the rest of this entry →

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 18 2014

Win a Free Copy of “The Kissing Bandit” Book & Reversible Puppet

By at 11:15 am

Kissing

“The Kissing Bandit” is an indie children’s book that celebrates the importance of positive affection between parents and kids. The brainchild of Jewish dads Jason Menayan and Aaron Dence, “The Kissing Bandit” started as a kickstarter campaign and eventually became an interactive story about the dapper Professor Roade who magically transforms into colorful bandit Edora, and a hand-made reversible puppet to go with it. This week Jason and Aaron will be giving away a book and puppet set to three lucky winners (enter the raffle below).

Meanwhile, we sat down with Jason to talk about his inspiration for the book and what he kvells about. 

1. What was the inspiration for “The Kissing Bandit”? 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 →

Jul 8 2014

How My Wedding Made Me Feel More Jewish and More Gay

By at 12:36 pm

gay jewish wedding

So, a rabbi, a Hindu doctor, and two lesbians walk into a country club…

It’s not the start of a joke, but a few years ago people would have been laughing at the idea that this was the start of a wedding story.

My relationship began just a few days before Prop 8 passed in California (I had only been in heterosexual relationships up until that point). I remember driving on the freeway in Los Angeles and hearing the news that the proposition had unexpectedly passed and that gay marriage, which had been legal for four months in California, was now illegal. I wasn’t anywhere near ready to be married at that point, but I remember thinking to myself for the first time in my life: so, this is what bigotry feels like. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 19 2014

Why I Bring My Kids to the Boston Pride Parade

By at 12:40 pm

Pride-Parade

“Bloody Mary party at 11 o’ clock!” a voice chirruped from the float to our left.

Lilah, skipping along beside me in her bobbing ponytail and little purple Keens, pulled on my arm. “Mommy, what’s a Bloody Mary party?”

One of the women behind us laughed and I turned to smile at her. “They always learn something new at Pride,” I said. 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 10 2014

When One Daughter is Jewish and the Other is Not

By at 10:40 am

one-Jewish-child

A lot has changed since I had my first child: I got divorced, converted to Judaism, and most recently, got re-married. My wife is also Jewish. We have a daughter together who is Jewish, and she is being raised Jewish. So far, so good, right?

But this is my second marriage and I have a fabulous daughter from my first marriage. While I do share custody with my ex-husband, my first daughter lives with me the majority of the time. And she is not Jewish.

When converting, I did a lot of reading about the commitment as a Jewish parent of raising your children to be observant Jews. You teach them or you have them taught at religious school about the history, the culture, and the religion of Judaism. Read the rest of this entry →

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