Why I’m So Vocal About LGBT Equality

A few weeks ago I was sitting in the cafeteria with a friend from university who accused me of posting on Facebook only about calculus. “That’s not true!” I protested, “There are plenty of posts about same-sex marriage!” “Oh,” he said, “I didn’t know you were – like that.” “Like what?” I asked, and he just giggled and couldn’t answer me. I’m not gay. I guess that’s why it’s confusing that every other post is somehow related to the topic.

I’m not gay. I’m bi. (That’s the B in LGBT.) Which means I also date guys, so it’s easy to just assume that I’m straight. This is a phenomenon we refer to as bisexual erasure.

Recently people have been asking me why I post so often about LGBTQ rights. Each time I struggle with finding an appropriate answer, so I hope this blog post will do it justice.

My knee-jerk reaction is to just say, some of my best friends are gay. It’s true. And I see what they go through, I hear their cry, and that’s what drives me to write. The suffering my friends endure at the hands of their own community is unimaginable.

I’m going to be cliché and tie it down to the upcoming holiday. On Passover (which starts Monday night) we are supposed to acknowledge that we were once slaves and show gratitude for our freedom. The Jews have a long history of being tortured and enslaved. We know what it’s like to have to hide our identity, to practice in secret, to be forced to convert. We dip parsley in salt water as a symbol of the tears we shed under these circumstances. And since the tradition is all about asking questions, here’s mine: Why do we do this to people? Why are gay and lesbians in the orthodox community forced to hide their identity, or try to “convert?”

Even though I wear jeans, it’s obvious that I grew up in a religious community. So often I’ve encountered accusations like, “Why do you block the roads on Saturday?” (although obviously I have never done any such thing). We can’t avoid being judged, but I don’t want people to think that I’m hateful and homophobic just because I grew up religious. As Jews (and as human beings), it is our responsibility to make justice where we see injustice. Forcing someone to try to change their sexual orientation, to marry a person they are not attracted to, or isolate them from the community because of who they are is doing them an injustice. The holiday of passover is about opening our doors to those who are hungry and including those who are left out. It’s about giving freedom to those who are in slavery, because we once were slaves and we remember what it was like. What better place to start than with our own friends and family? We are supposed to view ourselves each as a slave who was set free. So let’s take action and give that freedom to our gay and lesbian friends.

!לשנה הבאה בני חורין


What I Saw Today in Jerusalem #6

A two way street in my neighborhood,

Left lane blocked by a tractor,

Right lane by a pile of freshly cut palm branches.

Hero or Sidekick?

I think Yom Kippur is about Superheroes.

I hate Yom Kippur. I hate fasting, I can never concentrate when I’m hungry, so before this abysmal day begins I’m going to share some thoughts while my mind is still awake.

On this day we do two things which do not come naturally to humans: fasting and forgiving. Forgiveness is the hardest thing in the whole universe. It is a brutal confronation with our mortality and vulnerability. It’s a sacrifice we make to maintain connections that are important to us. Sometimes we can be too forgiving and suffer from that as well. And yet we take an entire day and devote it to this terrifying act.

Fasting is torture. I was told once that it’s good for your body, that it gets better with practice. Still, I spend all year praying I’ll get a stomach virus on Yom Kippur so I won’t have an appetite because I would rather be sick than hungry. The fact that we willingly do not eat for an entire day is, in my opinion, superhuman. It shows that we have powers above our instincts and basic human needs. We have the ability to connect to something greater – the spirit – a place where we are strong enough to not need physical satisfactions. That is our superpower. The ability to conquer ourselves.

With that in mind, the last step is to take these powers we have and use them to triumph over our greatest enemy – our doubt in ourselves. On this day we have to act in the face of fear and forgive ourselves for being human. Only then can we rise to our full potential and save the world.

“Triumph begins with try and ends with Umph!” – Happy Feet

Fun fasting everyone!


Clean As You Go

One of the things I enjoy when I’m upset is baking. It’s distracting and fun, and the end product is a tasty edible thing. But baking is incredibly messy – when the muffins are in the oven you have goo all over the counters and floors, you’re covered in flour, ingredients are scattered about the kitchen and dishes piled to the sky. After being on my feet for an hour preparing the batter, cleaning up is not an exciting prospect. Over time I’ve learned  that the trick is to clean as you go. That way, when you’re done baking, only the muffin pan is left to clean, and it’s not such a big deal.

It’s so much harder to leave the mess for the end. Who feels like washing a huge pile of dishes at 11:00pm after a long day and a baking project? Now imagine your siblings left their dinner dishes as well. Now you have to clean up your mess and all these extra things you weren’t counting on. 

Adorable Chocolate Chip CookiesHuman relationships are kind of like baking. It takes a lot of work, it can be rewarding but also messy. And just like baking, it’s hard to clean up huge relationship messes. I think it makes more sense to “clean as you go” – meaning, if you mess things up, fix them immediately instead of putting it off and waiting for the pile to grow. This is probably what most of us do with people we care about.

We have a beautiful tradition in Judaism: just before the high holidays, we have an entire month designated to forgiveness. The month of Elul, the one we are currently in, +we  forgive those who have wronged us in the hope that God will do the same for us. However, along with this beautiful tradition is a very odd one. In the first grade we learn to ask forgiveness from everyone, and it comes down to sending notes saying, “I’m sorry if I hurt you! <3” to all of your classmates, or even posting a facebook status, “If I hurt anyone, please forgive me! Mwa.” It’s shallow and meaningless, and I think it’s comparable to cleaning up all the other people’s dishes. Why are we cleaning up messes we didn’t make? (Even though it may seem like a nice thing to do.) Some people say it’s because we are not always aware when we hurt someone’s feelings, but I think that’s ignorant. If you hurt someone, you should know it. And if there’s someone you might have hurt, you’ll know who that person is. But there’s no need to text your roommate’s best friend just because it’s Elul.

I believe in “Clean As You Go.” I think we should be apologizing to each other all year long – when we mess things up. If we leave it until the month of Elul, we lose sight of what’s important and get so overwhelmed by the magnitude of the mess that we just throw apologies everywhere, hoping that the one or two people we really need to make amends with will be satisfied by that. Most likely, they won’t be.

Elul doesn’t mean apologize to everyone. Elul means if you’re holding a grudge, it’s time to let go.