Role Model for a Gay Jewish Man

10 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.


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  1. Thanks for your wonderful comments Becky. What I like about the UC Berkeley demonstration scene in the play is that it turns so quickly from moral clarity to immoral clarity. That turn makes for good drama, but it also illustrates the slippery slope of the mob. And the mob dominates our airwaves, pushing us to take a stand on one side or another without subtlety or nuance, when we all know in our hearts that life is not so black and white. I think there is a real issue on the Left when we blindly embrace the cause of the underdog without simultaneously demanding an adherence to the broad charter of the Left: rule of law, equality for men and women, religious pluralism, racial equality, economic equality, etc. So as progressive Jews, we find ourselves conflicted because we stand against Palestinian discrimination but then we hear racist jibes from the Arab world and we wonder, what the hell?! This issue is even further complicated by the fact that Israel defines itself as a “Jewish State” (read Peter Beinart’s recent piece in Ha’artez re defining what a “Jewish State” actually means:… and so Arabs throughout the Middle East see Israel’s actions as “Jewish” actions. State policy is interpreted as “Jewish” policy. And quickly it’s “those Jews” that are oppressing Palestinians, not the Israeli government. Very confusing! At the end of the day I feel it’s our role on the Left to remain vigilant in our demand for equality, freedom and justice for ALL human beings, ourselves included. And that we challenge our brothers and sisters on the Left to do a more thorough job of upholding these principles across racial, economic and national lines. It’s too easy to let fear rule the day and jump in the stream with the mob. We need to be willing to be individuals. To do our research and to think for ourselves. If Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had succumbed to mob thinking, where do you think the Civil Rights Movement would have led?

  2. I saw Wrestling Jerusalem for the first time this past weekend and I haven’t quite been able to stop thinking about it. For me the most interesting element of your play, Aaron, was how you captured this very specific aspect of being Israeli – where there is bravado as a first layer, and underneath the bravado is a world of reactions to the realities that people living there face. It took me some time to understand this – I lived in Israel for 8 years – and this aspect permeates the psyche. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen it captured so subtly and articulately as in your play – particularly with the character at the Dead Sea. Thanks for a stellar performance.

  3. Libby, I can’t imagine a better response than from someone like you, an activist with 8 years of rolled-up sleeves in Israel and Palestine. Your comment, of course, is referring to the Sabra, the prickly on the outside and tender on the inside archetypal Israeli. But the truth is that we are all tender beings, no matter how hard an exterior we project to the outside world. We walk around day in and day out both protecting ourselves against our perceived threats and trying to sooth our softer selves. At the same time! But it’s old hat. We do it reactively and don’t even notice. It’s how we survive such a crazy world. One of the most wonderful things about the art form of theatre is that we can explore these paradoxes, these simultaneous truths of life, in condensed and heightened format, live in a room with our community. And this dramatic encounter can, if we’re lucky, create an experience where maybe we wake up. To the paradox, to other truths. Or see them in a new light. Thanks for your good words. I’m so pleased the play touched you.

  4. Four of us attended the last show. What an extraordinary performance. You were uncanningly real even as you were two characters interacting with each othter.

    There were two portions that “triggered” me. The first was the Sproul Plaza demonstration and the second was the IDF officer explaination.

    1) I have been to many demonstation and too oftern they are hijacked in the same way you portrayed the Sproul Plaza demonstration. Two example are a demonstration opposed to the U.S. going to war against Iraq and the second was an Occupy demonstation against the hype-income disparity. In both cases, it became an anti-Israel ocupation of the West Bank which morpthed into anti-Semitism.

    2) Because I hold the IDF to a higher ethical level than any other military, when the IDF officer knew what we being done was unethical but rationalized his continuing because the next IDF officer would like be worse, I found his rationalization discusting. Yes, you nailed it. HIs behavior was real, his rationalization was real. But I believe the ethical thing to do would be to resign and try to bring what the IDF was doing in the “occupied territories” to the Israeli public’s attention.

    One thought: Besides a tour, a DVD, I would also suggest approaching HBO. HBO would a perfect venue.

    You were simply brillant,
    Lloyd Morgan
    Berkeley, CA
    510 841-4362

  5. We’re opening the show this week at Intersection for the Arts for a 3 week run, October 8 – 26, 2014. Info:

    After this summer’s terrible war in Gaza, I was moved to revisit the script and write new material that better reflects the moment. This is something I’ve resisted doing over the years as I’ve been working on the piece. I couldn’t possible stay up-to-date with “current events” in Israel/Palestine or I’d never leave my desk and the play would have to change every few weeks! But this summer felt like a shift in the conflict that needed to be addressed. The Left is further marginalized in Israel, the status quo seems to feel more and more out of touch with reality and the current government seems to have no plan to end the stasis.

    I’ve written two new characters and made adjustments to other parts of the play which necessitated me cutting material. I already miss some things I’ve cut, but I’ve learned over and over again that to craft a good work of art, you can’t keep everything. It’s a great opportunity to be able to return to the text after time away. And a pleasure to return to the performance. It’s all deepening. I feel that the piece has more strength to it now. And it certainly now speaks to this moment with more vigor.

    I’m looking forward to post-show conversations. It’s clear that there is much wrestling going on for people who care about Israel and Palestine and the play opens up the conversation in a useful way. Daniel Sokatch and I will be discussing Art & Activism on Saturday Oct. 11 and Israeli playwright Boaz Gaon and I will be discussing the issue of Competing Cultural Narratives on Oct. 9. There are more conversations being planned as well.

    And we will keep the conversation going here on line. Hope to hear from you.

  6. First off, I’d like to say that this is an excellent piece of theatre which I saw on the closing night at the last SF run and that I’d strongly recommend anyone to see.
    My concern was only with the couple of words that opened the work “It’s complicated.” My heart sank a bit when I heard those as I have heard them too often from defenders of Israel’s actions when responding to criticism of disproportionate military action or illegal settlement expansion. “It’s complicated” is a common analysis that leads to paralysis, especially among ordinary folk who detect injustice is being perpetrated.
    The work powerfully evoked Arab as well as Israeli voices, but to me the frame was clearly that of an American Jewish man who is feeling complicated emotions like guilt. I totally respect the integrity of the work that emphasized a personal embodied experience of historical and political forces.
    I would suggest the voice of the Palestinian presented in the piece, whose ancestral land had been stolen for Israeli settlements, would not say the situation was quite so complicated. Even though Australian aboriginals and native Americans fought against the theft of their land, we do not say the injustice they suffered was complicated. It was simply wrong. Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has recently responded to the recognition of the state of Palestine in this rather patronizing manner: “The Swedish government needs to understand that relations in the Middle East are more complicated than a piece of furniture from Ikea that you assemble at home.” I think a growing number of governments and people around the world have buying the narrative that Israel’s relationship to Palestine is too complicated for anyone but Israelis to understand.
    Sure the solution is complicated but a good start is to stop the simple and glaring injustices that Israel perpetrates against the Palestinians. Until they do, I would encourage Aaron Davidman (and all other artists) to respect the cultural boycott of Israel and not consider taking the show to Tel Aviv or elsewhere in Israel. BDS is a blunt instrument, but, as proven in South Africa, it can help change a mindset and political framework built on the discrimination so clearly portrayed in Wrestling Jerusalem.

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