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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 →

Apr 28 2014

Television Has Come A Long Way to Represent Queer Families Like Mine

By at 12:29 pm

ellen-portia

Last fall, I watched a reality show on MTV (whose target population is, of course, adolescents) called “Generation Cryo,” in which a lesbian couple’s daughter went on a search for her sperm donor and her biological half-siblings. Not only was I fascinated at learning how this impacted the different children and how a parent could best support them, but I was so moved at the realization that “donor kids” around the country could see themselves, their families, and their experiences reflected on a TV show. And their peers could be exposed to such an alternative family structure and begin to see it as not so abnormal, opening up opportunities for conversation and disclosure.

My wife and I are also watching “The Fosters,” which appeals to me both as a queer woman and as a social worker in foster care. It amazes me that there can be a show on ABC Family, targeting middle school and high school kids, showing a blended family with same-sex parents, not to mention the real complexity of co-parenting with an ex-husband, incorporating teens in foster care into the family unit, and wanting biological parenthood for the partner who has never given birth. The network doesn’t shy away from the real details of this, either. The parents do not act like friends or roommates. There is just as much physical affection, cues that sex is about to happen, and fighting as would be included in any other family TV show. The show even delves into some areas that are specific to queer couples, such as the tendency to stay friends with exes and the jealousy that can create for the current partner. They have it right on.

But this isn’t just about me seeing ourselves reflected on TV (though it’s ridiculously validating, I admit!). It’s about the exposure for people to whom this type of family and life is otherwise foreign. 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 →

Feb 5 2013

Free Stuff Alert: The Purim Superhero Picture Book

By at 4:20 pm

the purim superheroLast month, we co-sponsored the launch of The Purim Superhero by Elizabeth Kushner, winner of Keshet’s National Book-Writing Contest. The picture book is the first ever LGBT-inclusive Jewish kids’ book published in English, and it tells the super cute story of a little boy named Nate.

Nate 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. What will he do? With the help of his two dads he makes a surprising decision. 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 →

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