Gay and God-Fearing

Guest blogger Talia bat Pessi is a teenage Femidox (feminist Orthodox) pro-Israel Jew. Her work has appeared in over 40 publications, including the Jewish Week, Ms. Magazine blog, Jerusalem Post, Girl w/ Pen!, Jewish Press, and FBomb. She’s not quite sure how she manages to find spare time, but when she does, she enjoys going to rock concerts, fuzzying with her rescue dog, eating (a lot), messing around in Photoshop, and procrastinating on the Internet.

As well as being a feminist, I am an Orthodox Jew. While I had always been active in gay rights advocacy through my feminism, I never really thought about how Orthodox individuals who are LGBT+ grapple with their sexuality. I recently did some research into this. Considering that the religious right, including the mainstream Orthodox Jewish community, is known for its anti-gay stance, it may seem surprising that there are observant Jews who also identify as LGBT+. However, they do exist.

Over the past two decades, observant LGBT+ Jews have organized in order to petition for increased recognition and inclusion within the Orthodox Jewish community. In 1994, the Gay and Lesbian Yeshiva Day School Alumni Association (GLYDSA) was established as a social group for Orthodox gay and lesbian Jews. Jewish Queer Youth (JQY) was created in 2001 by observant Jewish undergraduates who “were looking for other people in similar ­situations that could understand and relate to each other’s struggles” about sexuality, according to the JQY website.

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A Faithful Feminist

Inspired by Merle Hoffman’s new book Intimate Wars, we’re sharing some of our own most memorable pro-choice/social justice personal actions this month. If you’d like to contribute, let us know!

I am a believer. If I had to name my religion, it would be “Judaism-Islam.” As the believers of both religions believe in One God, my heart stays indivisible. It is a paradox. I cannot choose between these two religions, the two principals of my family (in which there are also devout but very tolerant Catholics). In recent months I have attended evangelical churches in France, not to convert myself, but to study the Gospel and Scriptures that I know very little about. I accompany my best friend, who is an evangelist.

Hold a Dialogue With Believers
Thus, in recent months my feminist “action” has taken place with people I meet in evangelical churches. I have learned a lot from them; they are very warm people. I listen and ask them what they think about the low status of women. Women find it normal: “woman is a help for man,” “with gentleness and patience, a woman can get everything from her husband.” But I cannot talk openly about feminism – if I do, my friend may be removed. So I ask questions, I ask them their opinions. And that makes us think together. [Read more...]

William Saletan, George Carlin, and the Decency of Chickens

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William Saletan recently took on the topic of fetal development and abortion over at Slate. In “Abortion Forever?” he argued that fetal development matters, particularly in the (very rare, he admits) cases of late-term abortion. The differences between an eight-week and a 28-week fetus matter, he says, because “the capacities that make a newborn more significant than a zygote—cognition, interaction, viability—don’t materialize overnight. They develop over many weeks. At some point, they make abortion too much like infanticide.”

Saletan continues this line of reasoning by pointing out that neural development continues for the first three years of life.  He then asks, “[i]f a woman feels that eight, 18, or 28 weeks after birth isn’t too late for her, shouldn’t we trust her judgment?” Sounds like someone’s been reading Unwind!

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Why Last Night Was Different

My family’s been fractured for years now, and the youngest of us still on speaking terms have been grown-ups for even longer, so like many empty-nested Jewish families, our holiday gatherings of late have had a certain post-observant, Diasporic ennui about them. We did our time in temple, in Hebrew School, and reclined our way through interminable Seders with gasbag uncles and diva sisters who couldn’t let the “Four Questions” solo gig go to the rightful singer without a fight. (Full disclosure: the diva sister was me, but mine was not the hogging that triggered the infamous inter-familial Seder fist-fight.)

Then our family had kids. Okay, my brother and sister-in-law had them, technically, but they’re ours in the all-important spoiling and non-diaper-changing senses. Suddenly, holiday dinners felt different. Someone was looking. An impressionable someone. And we started wondering what kind of crazy mispachah we looked like.

For my parents, the focus was on the Judaism. Their grandchildren wouldn’t be getting a formal religious education of any kind, just whatever stereo in-house Chanukah/Christmas, Passover/Easter celebrations their parents and their parents’ respective families of origin could cobble together. I was interested in the Judaism, too, but my Judaism has been inseparable from my feminism since the day I learned my temple didn’t let Bat Mitzvah girls face the ark like the boys did.

So last week when my mother said she was studying up on ways to make the Seder more accessible and child-friendly, I was supportive. [Read more...]