Role Model for a Gay Jewish Man10 October 2013
By Seth Morrison, October 2013
After many years of repressing my sexuality, I met a wonderful Rabbi, Leila Gal Berner, who is both female and a proud Lesbian. She helped me accept myself and guided me in finding a therapist to begin the coming out process. Having Rabbi Leila as a role model was a key element in overcoming my fears.
Since that time I have attended services and worked on Jewish Community projects with many Rabbis, male and female, gay and straight. This diversity creates a community where each of us can feel comfortable being ourselves.
Seth Morrison is a long time Jewish peace activist volunteering for a number of organizations. He serves on the NIF Leadership Council for Washington, DC.
Free to Be10 October 2013
By Dove Weissman, October 2013
Born in the early 70s, I am a product of the women's liberation movement. I was dressed in baby bell-bottom blue jeans, if anything, and I was always told that I can be and do anything. The lyrics of Harry Belafonte and Marlo Thomas on "Free to be You and Me" informed my perspective of what it is to be a woman, (mother or not).
"Some mommies are ranchers, or poetry makers
Or doctors or teachers, or cleaners or bakers
Some mommies drive taxis, or sing on TV
Yeah, mommies can be almost anything they want to be."
You get the point. As a 3rd generation American Jew, the commitment to Jewish values such as tzedakah and acts of kindness were strongly encouraged, but religious practice was more a byproduct of belonging to a Reform congregation where Jewish community was strengthened.
I recently participated in a service at the Kotel with Women of the Wall. In addition to the WOW activists, religious women praying nearby, police, and onlookers, was my 13 year old daughter, my mother, her women's lib activist friends, and my soon to be in-laws, who are secular Israeli kibbutzniks. Standing there, I felt the complexity and immensity of the moment, all the struggles that made it possible for us to be there, together. Such places of power and spiritual significance usually help us transcend our human divisions. Yet in Israel, the transcendent and mundane are continually engaged in a magnetic dance of duality.
There is still much work to be done to overcome the inequities of gender, class and race, yet I feel hopeful that my daughter's generation will evolve society to be even more just. After all, they are standing on the shoulders of some mighty strong giants.
Dove is a citizen of the earth, mother, friend, sister, daughter, lover, artist, health and wellness enthusiast, and occasional writer.
The Birth of a Nation10 October 2013
By Rabbi Joel Schwab, October 2013
I finally understood the Exodus from Egypt the day I heard a woman rabbi explain the entire process as the act of childbirth. The increasing pains of labor ("You must go and get the straw yourselves...."), the breaking of the water ("The waters were split...."), the narrow passage (the root of "Mitzraim" as "tzar"="narrow"), the emergence on the other side and the joy that engendered ("Miriam...took a timbrel...and all the women went out after her in dance...") gave birth to a new nation. The metaphor had such great power because it came from a teacher who had herself given birth. It was then that I knew how important the perspective of women would be for us to truly understand our Torah.
Ordained from JTS in 1976. Rabbi for 31 years at Temple Sinai, Middletown, NY.
Women at the Torah10 October 2013
By A man from Houston, TX, October 2013
One of the great thrills of my life occurred when I was President of a rather small Conservative congregation about 30 years ago. During that period women not only were called up to the Torah but they read from it and carried it. An unheard of activity in Conservatism at that time. I think that it is the norm today.
Singing my Way through the Sacred '70s10 October 2013
By Fran Gordon, October 2013
As a ten year old girl in my Conservative synagogue in Akron, Ohio, I was introduced to singing liturgical text in a children's choir and I haven't stopped singing since. The prayers and stories of Our People form the core of my repertoire. I delight in sharing the pure joy of Jewish singing with many others who form the Jewish choral movement. Of course, I chant Haftarah often in my kehillah in Beachwood, OH, will also read Torah on occasion and will lead Tefillah on a moment's notice. In other words, singing is a core component not just of my Jewish identity, but of my soul.
In 1975, I was the second woman to serve as President of CRUSY (Conservative movement youth group’s central region). Although I was the "leader," under our Jewish law at the time, women were not allowed to read from our text or lead tefillah. Since my graduation from high school, the Masorti/Middle movement embraced feminism, opening the doors to full female participation in public ritual life. Fortunately, I live in a community that allowed me to develop all of the skills denied me as a youth.
Armed with my adult Jewish literacy and the seeds of my early feminism from the "secular '70s," I blossomed into full-blown activism on Rosh Chodesh Av 5770, the beginning of the "sacred '70's." On that historic day, an Israeli policeman told me to sing softer at the Kotel; that same policeman arrested Anat Hoffman for carrying a Torah away from the Kotel. As I witnessed this blatant violation of religious rights I found my voice and reclaimed my role as a Jewish leader. As in my youth AND just as the Levites during the Days of Old, I rely on music to help express myself as I advocate for religious freedom and gender equality in the State of Israel. I thank Women of the Wall for claiming that certain time and that certain place, allowing us to raise our voice in prayer as we simultaneously support the modern Jewish democracy movement.
Fran Gordon is an artist/activist with homes in Beachwood, OH and Jerusalem. In collaboration with a group of noted composers, Fran has written "Sacred Rights, Sacred Song" and through the non-profit SRSS Project, works with Jewish communities to produce Concerts of Concern. Fran is a graduate of the University of Michigan where she majored in political science and has a law degree from Boston University. Fran's Israel activism is rooted in her UJA Cabinet experiences, her Wexner Heritage Foundation experiences and most especially her Partnership 2000 experiences. Fran thanks her friends and family in Israel for teaching her so much about Israel's civil society.