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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.

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Nov 10 2011

Occupy Childhood

By at 1:57 pm

Ronia occupies Philly.

A month or so ago, I attended a panel on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement at a synagogue in Brooklyn. My daughter Ronia, 3, was in tow.

Dubious of the deserted childcare facilities on a weekday evening, Ronia scanned the room. She spotted the seven people on stage, waiting to begin their confab. She turned to me and asked, “Are we going to have a chance to go up there and speak?”

I was touched. Three years old and she had not learned the sometimes arbitrary routes by which some people speak and others listen.

When that forum took place, Occupy Wall Street was a curiosity less then a week old. Its major results at that point were inspiring critiques from established activist groups about how they were doing it wrong. But when it took off, I knew I had to be part of it. Having spent some time at Occupy Wall Street, I very much wanted Philly to have a similarly strong Jewish presence. I plugged in the best way I knew how, organizing the “Jewish stuff,” starting with the Kol Nidre services. Read the rest of this entry →

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