As a bisexual and trans* person I am often asked about the "mythical" bi & transphobia within the straight and LG(b)(t)*Q communities. It usually takes an incredulous tone, and sometimes the question itself can be laced with the same animus that it purports to detest. Sometimes I get to educate about religious plurality, gender diversity and sexuality all in one interview, and I like those.
I got asked to do an interview with David Perry on 10 Percent and really felt heard and appreciated in all my uniqueness. I think as a rabbi I would bring my educator stance to all that I touch and really make a difference in the way that people interact with each other. One thing I always like to do when educating is be positive, it helps to diffuse the tension inherent in the conversation itself.
*(b)(t), let's face it, we have internalized bi and transphobia as well, and who better to direct it at, than your fellow out group member.
My teacher, Rabbah Emily Aviva said once that when Jewish leadership selects the next generation, they choose people that look like the former generation.
To create a rabbinate that reflects trans* experience, one must send trans* people to rabbinical schools! Chag Pesach Sameach :)
ALEPH has modalities that the Ordination Path likes to use, because the program is only for Ordination, not a graduate school. The Ordination Path that I would be working on could possibly look a lot like this:
Some things that have led me to this path and sustained me throughout, 1. Flexibility, there isn't a rabbinic program anywhere in sight in the Bay Area and the GTU/ALEPH combo is a good one; 2. Like the HUC, RRC or JTS I will earn a Masters level degree while studying for the rabbinate; 3. The GTU/Center for Jewish Studies is an affiliate of ALEPH, and the member schools are as well, therefore all my credits will be counted towards the ALEPH Ordination Path; 4. Both programs will keep me in the vicinity of San Francisco, so my family doesn't have to pick up and move (far) away for school, and then not be able to return, which we probably wouldn't be able to do even if I found a job in the area; 5. The last grad school I attended, was great, but this is the GTU, I feel like I am on another planet. I have dreamt about walking the holy hill as a student for a long while, and now I AM; 6. This path feels solid, now that I am better prepared for grad school, and have a lot more confidence about the trajectory of my life and work within the framework of the rabbinate. See the academic statement of purpose that got me into the GTU below, and you may find out a little more about me and my work.
My Academic Statement of Purpose (GTU)
I would like to pursue the Common MA in Jewish Studies at CJS, working with Naomi Seidman as advisor, in order to serve as leader and educator to the community residing at the intersection of Jewish practice, variant gender-identity, and alternative sexuality. I have already established myself as a lay leader and educator within the queer Jewish community here in the Bay Area by teaching at Congregation Sha'ar Zahav's religious school, Beit Sefer Phyllis Mintzer; writing homilies for Jewish Mosaic's Torah Queeries project; and contributing to the Lambda Literary Award-winning anthology, Balancing on the Mechitza: Transgender in Jewish Community, an essay on trans identities intersecting with ancient ritual: "Hatifat Dam Brit" (Extracting a Drop of Blood).
My objective for pursuing graduate study is to analyze present-day interpreters of Jewish texts currently used to reflect on non-binary gender and sexual identities in Torah, Nevi'im, Ketuvim and Talmud. By focusing on those texts currently in use in lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and polyamorous communities, I hope to provide further relevant analyses to assist in modeling more inclusive present-day Jewish communities. I intend to analyze the interpretive methods of contemporary LGBT scholars who have worked with these texts to evaluate their methods according to traditional and modern interpretive schema. My goal is to determine the "toolbox" of present-day interpretive methods; to see if the hermeneutics employed by modern scholars have changed from those used by traditional scholars; and, if so, how, and to what effect.
While pursuing full time employment to support a growing family, I was able to take courses at Hebrew College in Biblical Hebrew, Jewish history and Jewish philosophy. I began to seriously consider attending graduate school after starting to teach at Sha'ar Zahav, which required me to perform research along the lines of what I propose here, in developing curricular materials for my students. I realized I enjoyed the work, and felt called to focus my study on critical analyses of textual interpretations leveraged by LGBT religious leaders in educational contexts. The Gender-Neutral Torah, edited by Batya Kalis was particularly formative for me as I contemplated this decision. My study with ALEPH toward the Jewish Renewal Rabbinate (application in progress), has been a critical step toward finding my voice as a Jewish scholar. Through studying various texts and liturgical forms with ALEPH, I was able to see beyond traditional interpretations to find more gender-neutral exegetical techniques. My hope is that I can continue my study through ALEPH in conjunction with the GTU and receive both my MA and ALEPH Rabbinical Smicha.###Click here to find out how to Help Send Martin to ALEPH
Wow, 5 people have taken a communal idea for a fundraising page to the $251 mark! That is 8.37% of my total goal of $3,000. A hearty thank you to Betty Blue (double chai), Donna Fein (5x chai), Linda Howard (chai), Casey Shapiro (double chai) and Kathryn Page (triple chai). Let's keep the momentum going and remember, that every drop in the bucket counts.
My teacher, Rabbah Emily Aviva said once that when Jewish leadership selects the next generation, they choose people that look like the former generation. To create a rabbinate that reflects trans* experience, one must send trans* people to rabbinical schools! Chag Pesach Sameach :)
As some of you know, I have been pursuing my calling to the rabbinate. My struggle to find an appropriate place to attend seminary has been a very long winding road. Let's face it, as a rainbow tzitzit and tefillin wearing traditional, yet queerly non-traditional Jewish man, I have looked for a place that would embrace me wholeheartedly. As a trans person, I have been heartened by the admission of several trans people to various rabbinical schools across the country. Yet, I just couldn't find the place where I fit, like the missing piece from a Shel Silverstein poem, I found my fit with ALEPH. http://www.gofundme.com/2ed8bc"The ALEPH Rabbinic Program
is a non-denominational, highly decentralized program of learning which offers structured guidance and mentorship in pursuing the rigorous studies and practica which can culminate in rabbinic ordination." Check it out, it was life changing for my world view. As you can see, It is a solid organization that has an ordination program that is blend of traditional, with a progressive stand on social issues of today.
After taking a Siddur class at ALEPH, I was transported to a place of complete acceptance, where the more traditional parts of my practice and my firm standing on progressive social issues could be woven together like a colorful tapestry. I would love to study more fully, and attend the ALEPH Kallah in the first week of July of this year and at the Smicha Week, which I have been invited to as a prospective student, which is held at the same site the second week of July.
These two weeks would allow me to spend time with the teachers, become better acquainted with the program, and other students. The only thing stopping me is that I am struggling financially because I may lose my job at the mid year mark. My family says that I am free to go to the bi-yearly retreat, and be well on my way toward my ordination within this non-denominational program, if I can come up with the money to pay for the retreat costs.
That is where you all come in, help me raise the money to offset the retreat costs and send me to ALEPH. http://www.gofundme.com/2ed8bcThe Kallah/Smicha Week Cost:
Optional but highly recommended attendance at:
KALLAH (June/July in odd-numbered years) approx $1000 Travel Expenses
(covers room & board plus 2 courses)Required attendance at:
Intensive Study Week (June/July) $1800 (covers room & board plus 2 courses)
(a.k.a. Smicha Week) Travel Expenses
I will be eternally grateful and send you lots of love!
Congregation Sha'ar Zahav's
seder is back for its eighth year. Those that celebrate Pesach
with the Sha'ar Zahav community, will be led by Cantor Sharon Bernstein
, CSZ's congregational cantor and a talented Yiddish performer andShoshana Levenberg
, an award winning story teller.
Sha'ar Zahav is an historically LGBTQ congregation, built up within the LGBTQJewish
community over the last 36 years. The congregation has overcome initially being ignored by the larger Jewish community, which wouldn't even post the ads about the burgeoning synagogue in the late seventies. Today's Jewish community looks much different, with LGBTQ Jews in leadership, and Jewish organizations like Keshet
, lights, and A Wider Bridge
creating space through education and advocacy.
When asked about what to expect at the seder, Cantor Bernstein gushed about Pesach Bingo for the "young 'uns," and how Levenberg has put together some amazing commentaries and readings. The Haggadah,Let Us Begin
, was written and published communally in 1996, by the many hands of the congregation, as just one of many firsts including Siddur Sha'ar Zahav
. Sarah Haber, the volunteer coordinator for the seder, chimed in about the wonderfully hamish
, slang for cozy and homey, nature of the seder, which she described as a "friendly, accessible and spirited experience."
If interested, print out the registration/information form
and return it to the Sha'ar Zahav office: fax 415-861-6081, email@example.com
, or by mail.
Date: Tuesday, March 26
Time: 6:00 pm
Place: Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, 290 Dolores St (@16th St), San Francisco
Cost: Adult Non-members $30, 12 & under is free
Details here: http://shaarzahav.org/node/2741
Thank you all for remembering with us tonight. It means a lot to me personally that you have all come out in support of our collective community.
This Shabbat’s portion is Va-yetzei
, Hebrew for “and he left,” and he, Jacob, did leave Beer-sheba, and set out for Charan, which on a good day would be a 500 mile walk. Jacob, of course, at nightfall made a bed and slept, and then according to the Jewish Publication Society’s translation, “He had a dream; a stairway was set on the ground and its top reached to the sky, and angels of God were going up and down on it.”
This was one of my favorite passages when I was a kid, I was an imaginative one, and I always pictured a giant escalator, like the one at the mall. With angels going up and down, chatting all the way like I did with my own friends. When this portion turned out to be the one for tonight, I thought about this imagery and imagined what I would write. Would I focus on the ladder to heaven motif that has long been attached to all forms of art and literature. Or would I focus on the angels, such a small part of the Parsha, but so very important.
As a trans person, I would like to think that angels are among us every day, from the moment we wake up, to the time we make our beds. I would like to think that angels are not bound by place and space, but transcend limits and boundaries. In essence, angels are a lot like trans folk.
The Hebrew word for angel, "mal'ach
," means messenger and that is what they do for G!d. They are in essence an anthropomorphized human face of a G!d that we cannot see with the naked eye. When Jacob sees the angels traveling up and down the ladder he knows that this is a moment within sacred time and space that needs to be recognized. A touch point in space and place, and he says "Surely the Lord is in this place; and I did not know it." And he was afraid, and said, "This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” These touch points in our lives are numerous. I can’t count how many times I have felt the presence of G!d and angels in a holy space.
Back in 2007 while boarding a plane returning from a Transgender Leadership Summit
in LA, I happened to sit down next to an angel. Her name was Alexis Rivera and she was both a force of nature and a fierce trans woman. We talked for quite awhile about our lives, our families, and we talked about next steps in our activism after the amazing summit. She was flying to San Francisco to work at the Transgender Law Center, and I was returning home to my various trans related commitments. It was a friendship born, and an amazing bridge between our cultures and communities was built that afternoon. When she passed away last year I remember recounting this feeling to a room of her family and friends at her memorial, and watching people’s heads nod in affirmation of what I already knew. That it is possible that angels also come in human form, because messengers don’t always travel by ladder, sometimes they travel by plane through SFO.
There is some debate among the great Jewish philosophers such as Nachmanides
asking whether the angels that the Torah describes as appearing actually assumed a visible physical form, i.e. as humans, or Maimonides
asking if they appeared in the course of a spiritual vision or prophecy—in which the angels appeared as physical beings. In my view both opinions are valid and worthy of praise, in my own trans theology, we are all angels, G!d’s messengers touching others lives and creating ripples that change people whom we may have not even met yet.
There are people that I did not know that shaped my transition from female-to-male medically, hormonally, and spiritually. In each instance I was lost and without direction, and some part of their writing, or presence was a mirror of my very soul, and became, for me, that holy space and place. In fact, during the Trans Religious Summit at the beginning of this month, I was at a reading for Balancing on the Mechitza
, when I felt like that ladder had descended from heaven and there were angels among us at the Oakland JCC. All of that love, understanding, and those people pushing for further understanding was palpable.
Do angels still appear to us, of course the do. In the form of amazing people who impress upon us that we must strive for a better understanding of it all. You may not know it, but you are a very special angel to someone. The people that you have touched probably don’t know how to tell you, or maybe they do not recognize it quite yet, and like Jacob will wake up and find their voice to declare the time and place of your meeting holy. The people that we will remember tonight also created ripples, and touched people who may not have known them personally.
In a moment, I will ask those of you in with cards to stand up and read the names and information about those trans people ripped from our communities. We read these names as a remembrance for those who knew them, and those who were touched by their lives. This Trans Remembrance Shabbat has been around almost as long at the TDoR itself, fostered by people within the Sha’ar Zahav community
, and codified in our Siddur Sha’ar Zahav
This community itself has made those ripples in sacred time and space to create and foster this trans community. To me that is one of the reasons that I love this Sha'ar Zahav community so much, and one of the reasons that I stay here in the Bay Area. Let us all listen to the messages from the angels that G!d sends to let us know that which is needed.
Through listening to Alexis
, and others that G!d sends, I am constantly transformed into a better person, a better father, and a fierce advocate for equal rights. All our struggles should be bound up together in any society that strives to be just, and freedom and justice without equality are hollow gestures. These are the lessons learned from Alexis, and all of my messengers, because the angels in my life are as numerous as the stars themselves.
Ken yehi ratzon, may it be G!d's will.
David Dunn Bauer
Avi Goldberg & Will Garcia
Choosing to be Chosen
"Choosing to be Chosen" is a film which delves into the thoughts of those who are converts to Judaism and identify as all segments of the LGBTQ communities. The participants of this project come from across the boundaries of familial, socioeconomic, ethnic and racial backgrounds to give insight into the process of conversion. "Choosing to be Chosen" takes a look into the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, genderqueer and gendergifted Jews by Choice to find the intersection between Jewish and queer identity.